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What is the Truman Doctrine?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Truman Doctrine refers to an address given by then United States (US) President Harry S. Truman to the members of the joint Congress on 12 March 1947. This address outlined the general stance that the US would maintain throughout much of the Cold War regarding relations with the Soviet Union and the power struggles throughout Europe and Asia. Through the Truman Doctrine, the US established a stance regarding foreign powers in which aid would be given to other countries both financially and militarily to oppose the spread of communism and Soviet power.

Much of the foreign policy of America following the establishment of the Truman Doctrine adhered to the principals laid out in the speech, despite the fact that the address was intended to refer to a specific incident. At the time that President Truman gave the speech, Greece and Turkey were both potentially at risk to fall to greater communist influence or direct Soviet control. The Truman Doctrine was established to give aid to both countries, to help them fight off foreign influence, despite the fact that it would be just another form of foreign influence. Though others had voiced concerns over the increasing influence of the Soviet Union throughout Europe, the Truman Doctrine established those concerns and America’s stance on them at a presidential level.

The structure of the Truman Doctrine relies on the assumption that American ideas regarding freedom and democracy are superior to or preferential over communist philosophies and increases in Soviet power. Though the Truman Doctrine primarily focused on Greece and Turkey, this type of perspective regarding America’s involvement in global politics led to a great deal of behavior and foreign policy that colored the view of other countries regarding America. Prior to the two World Wars, American expansionism was primarily kept to regions in close geographical proximity to the US.

Following the Second World War and the establishment of the Cold War, the US suddenly found itself the most powerful country in the world. Relatively untouched by the ravages of war that left much of Europe in ruin, the US continued to thrive and move forward without having to rebuild. While this brought numerous advantages, it also brought new pressures to have a global presence, and the relations with the Soviet Union regarding control over foreign regions was typically the greatest concern of political leaders in America at that time. The Truman Doctrine established the groundwork for a pattern of behavior typified by the US becoming involved across the world in any region in which the Soviet Union was either trying to gain power or retain control over a region.

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Discussion Comments
By subway11 — On Jan 31, 2011

Mutsy - I think it was different world back then. In 1947, when Truman was President you had Stalin as the leader of the Soviet Union who was ruthless in his attempt to spread communism to other countries.

This animosity continued throughout the Cold War, but it finally ended as a result of President’s Reagan active stance against communism.

He not only provided aid to anti communist forces within Latin America and Afghanistan, but he created an arms race with the Soviet Union that bankrupted the Soviets and caused the economy to collapse and communism to cease right along with it.

The difference between the Truman Doctrine regarding communism and the Reagan Doctrine was that the Reagan Doctrine went a little further and took much more active measures against communism.

President Reagan was not interested in containing communism. His interest remained in destroying communism where ever he could.

He did not trust people that held communist beliefs and realized that they were the enemy.

By mutsy — On Jan 28, 2011

Cupcake15 - It is amazing how communism was viewed as such a threat back then and really throughout most of the Cold War period.

Now our main foreign policy initiatives revolve around fighting terrorism.

The Obama administration really does not care about the expansion of communism. In fact communist leaders like Castro and Chavez have actually praised him for his socialist ideas.

The socialized health care bill was called a miracle by Castro. I think we come a long way from our anti communist past but I don’t think that this is what President Reagan or Truman envisioned.

By cupcake15 — On Jan 26, 2011

The main goal of the Truman Doctrine was to contain communism and not allow it to spread. The United States saw the Soviet Union as a threat with their continued aggression toward the expansion of communism.

The containment policy of the Truman Doctrine offered economic aid to countries that fought back against communism. In 1947, Truman pledged $400 million dollars to help both Greece and Turkey who he felt were the most at risk from falling into communist hands.

Communism was seen as the greatest national security threat and it was a really scary time.

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