truman doctrine

The Truman Doctrine’s Impact in Cold War Strategy

By the middle of the twentieth century’s fifth decade, the world had been jolted by two catastrophic wars; a seven- year economic disaster and the recognition that weapons of mass destruction existed. Where blood had been spilled through hand to hand combat dating back to trench warfare, the realization that thirty years hence, blood bones and the complete human identity could be vaporized helped create a climate of distrust between former allies. The architects of postwar Europe, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, acting as a triumvirate of supreme commanders, negotiated on behalf of their countries’ interest in redefining the geographic boundaries of Europe. The contrast in nationalistic views exposed by Stalin and Churchill would begin the journey to what became known as the “Cold War”. The strategies utilized by both the United States and Great Britain were designed to thwart the Soviet Union’s attempt to expand puppet Communist regimes over conquered territories. Winston Churchill would write in his memoirs an entry dated May 10th, 1945, “The Soviet menace had already replaced the Nazi foe”. As part of that strategy, a statement of purpose or “doctrine” exposed by President Harry Truman played a role in defining U.S. interests. This paper will explore the impact of Truman’s decree in meeting America’s foreign policy needs.
No one more clearly than Churchill had foreseen the threat to the future of Eastern Europe and the impending Cold War brought about by Russian intervention. Churchill thus directed his energies toward limiting the postwar territorial expansionism of Stalin and his communist cohorts by defining a plan which divided territory among the three allies before the final guns were silenced in an October 1944 meeting with Stalin in Moscow, the proposal to divide up the conquered territory was scripted out on a half sheet of paper. This became known as the “percentage agreement”, in which the Balkan countries of Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland were to be divided either fifty-fifty, seventy five- twenty five, ninety-ten or one hundred to none. As eye witnesses reported, Stalin viewed the paper offered by Churchill, ‘ took this blue pencil and made a large tick on it… It was all settled in no more time than it took to set down”. (Lukacs 58-59). It was fatefully, one of the last agreements Churchill would be able to negotiate singularly with Stalin. The Russian leader, President Roosevelt and later President Harry Truman), would come to understand that Great Britain’s were severe as a result of the war. Not only had they lost their claim to a worldwide Empire, they had also lost their will to fight as a consequence of the six years of turmoil. The impression that Great Britain was tired and weak allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate as if they were the senior partners to the agreements at Yalta and Potsdam. Churchill’s senior military aide, General George Brooke had been traveling with him near the front lines along the Rhine River on March 26th, 1945 when he wrote in his diary of the Prime Minister’s mood, “ I feel he considers a sudden and soldierly death at the front a suitable ending to his famous life… freeing him from the never-ending worries which loom ahead with our Russian friends and others…”(Lukacs 79).

Churchill was by far the more distrustful of Russian expansionism, primarily because it impacted Great Britain’s sphere of influence on the continent. The geographical closeness of Stalin’s essential annexation of Finland posed a political as well as economic threat. As historian Martin Walker states, “[t] here was as yet no clear division between Communists and non-Communists in Europe”(53). The more countries that come under Soviet domination the fewer trading partners and political allies London had to line up against the Russian bear. Communistic governments in Greece, Turkey or Italy would threaten the British sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Consequently, when Churchill delivered his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in Fulton, Missouri on March 7th, 1946, he laid bare the future adversarial relationship between the West, (The United States, Great Britain, France) and the East (The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc nations). The mental imagery generated by the word “enslavement” crystallized the threat