How did the Truman Doctrine shape US foreign policy after World War II?

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The Truman Doctrine stated that the US would provide aid for any nation that was under attack from communism. The Truman Doctrine was the first policy statement on containment where the US sought to limit Soviet influence to where it already existed. The United States spent thousands of dollars funding...

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The Truman Doctrine stated that the US would provide aid for any nation that was under attack from communism. The Truman Doctrine was the first policy statement on containment where the US sought to limit Soviet influence to where it already existed. The United States spent thousands of dollars funding anti-communist forces in the Greek civil war after WWII.

After WWII, it appeared as though the US and the Soviet Union were on a collision course. The Soviet Union showed no intention of ever leaving Eastern Europe, and its occupation of East Germany placed the Western sector of Berlin in jeopardy. The United States had already alienated the Soviet Union by creating the Marshall Plan for Western Europe in order to rebuild the region's infrastructure and economy. This money was offered to the Soviet Union as well, but Stalin did not want to join the IMF and World Bank so his bloc was left out. Churchill gave his "Iron Curtain" speech in Independence, Missouri, to wide acclaim. The former allies were clearly drifting apart.

The Truman Doctrine committed the United States to fighting regional conflicts in order to stop leftists from taking power and becoming allies with the Soviet Union. Not only was it the threat of arms, but it also meant undertaking clandestine operations and using money to influence foreign elections away from communist officials such as in Italy and France. The Truman Doctrine was a major shift from US thought after WWI in which the nation did not seek a global leadership role. Under the Truman Doctrine, any nation seeking to stop communists looked to the US for aid. The US sent this aid in the form of money, weapons, and advisers to regimes regardless of their commitment to US democratic and humanitarian ideals.

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The Truman Doctrine (1947) marked the beginning of the Cold War. Before Truman gave his famous speech, there was at least a frail hope that conflict with the Soviet Union could be avoided. The resultant conflict, known as the Cold War, was primarily an ideological one, but it also included economic, political, cultural, and military dimensions.

After Germany surrendered in 1945, the Western powers and the Soviet Union tried to work together in Germany and throughout Europe. But they could not agree on arrangements for Germany and Austria. Specifically, the Soviets wanted to spread communism, and the West wanted nations to embrace capitalism and democracy. Communism appealed to many, even in Western Europe. By 1946, the division of Europe into competing ideological blocs became apparent to Winston Churchill. In his "iron curtain" speech, Churchill decried the split in Europe.

By 1947, both Greece and Turkey were in danger from communist aggression. Greece was in the midst of a civil war between pro-West and pro-Soviet groups. Turkey was being pressured by Moscow to grant it rights to the Dardanelles. President Harry Truman gave a speech in which he pledged to help Greece and Turkey avoid communist domination. Washington then spent $400,000,000 to aid those two countries.

The Truman Doctrine was the implementation of America's strategy for the Cold War: containment. During the subsequent years and decades on the Cold War, America fought to "contain" communism throughout the world. Billions were spent on the Marshall Plan. America fought large wars in Korea and Vietnam. Cuba became a Cold War enemy of the United States. Washington supported unsavory regimes during the Cold War and even overthrew governments it opposed—such as that in Iran.

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The Truman Doctrine was designed to give economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey after World War II ended to help those countries remain noncommunist. The British had been providing aid to these countries but could no longer continue to do so in early 1947. The United States was very concerned about the spread of communism, believing that if communism spread to one country in a region, other countries would also become communist (this is the "domino theory").

The Truman Doctrine led to other American actions designed to prevent the spread of communism. The European Recovery Program was created to give aid to European countries to strengthen their economies so people would be less likely to want to turn to a communist system. The United States spent billions of dollars on this program between 1948 and 1951 to help rebuild the economies of some European countries. The United States, France, and Great Britain worked to coordinate the Berlin Airlift to keep West Berlin from falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. The United States urged the United Nations to assist South Korea in the Korean conflict. The creation of NATO and the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War are other examples of actions influenced or impacted by the Truman Doctrine. After World War II ended, the United States worked to prevent the spread of communism until communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.

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Harry Truman's successful policy of military aid to Greece and Turkey following World War II was key in his decision to make that the cornerstone of US Cold War foreign policy.  From then on, until the end of the Cold War in 1991, we can see a consistent theme with each President of giving military foreign aid to, and forming defensive alliances with, countries facing communist threats.

This doctrine gets us involved in the Chinese Civil War, the Berlin Airlift, NATO, and the Korean War, just on Truman's watch.  But we can see other presidents building on Truman's example with our efforts to contain Cuba, provide military aid in Latin America and Africa, as well as funding insurgencies against Soviet influence, not to mention our long involvement in the Vietnam War.

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