Foreign Policy Doctrine

For your reading of this speech, explain the foreign policy doctrine that Truman outlines. Why does he commit the United States to providing assistance to Greece and Turkey? What specific U.S. national interests does he believe are connected to these two countries? According to Truman, what role should the United States play in the world today, and why?


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Note: On March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman presented this address before a
joint session of Congress. His message, known as the Truman Doctrine, asked Congress
for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Turkey and Greece.
Assignment: Please answer the following questions after reading this excerpt from Harry
Truman’s speech. Your answers must be typed, spell-checked, and in complete sentences
and must be at least 2-3 pages.
1) For your reading of this speech, explain the foreign policy doctrine that Truman
outlines. Why does he commit the United States to providing assistance to Greece and
Turkey? What specific U.S. national interests does he believe are connected to these two
countries? According to Truman, what role should the United States play in the world
today, and why?
The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance
before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the national security of this
country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I wish to present to you at
this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey.
The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial
and economic assistance. Preliminary reports from the American Economic Mission now
in Greece and reports from the American Ambassador in Greece corroborate the
statement of the Greek Government that assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a
free nation. I do not believe that the American people and the Congress wish to turn a
deaf ear to the appeal of the Greek Government.
Greece is not a rich country. Lack of sufficient natural resources has always forced the
Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this industrious and
peace-loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy occupation, and bitter
internal strife.
When forces of liberation entered Greece they found that the retreating Germans had
destroyed virtually all the railways, roads, port facilities, communications and merchant
marine. More than a thousand villages had been burned. Eighty-five per cent of the
children were tubercular. Livestock, poultry and draft animals had almost disappeared.
Inflation had wiped out practically all savings. As a result of these tragic conditions, a
military minority, exploiting human want and misery, was able to create political chaos
which, until now, has made economic recovery impossible.
Greece is today without funds to finance the importation of those goods which are
essential to bare subsistence. Under these circumstances the people of Greece cannot make
progress in solving their problems of reconstruction. Greece is in desperate need of
financial and economic assistance to enable it to resume purchases of food, clothing, fuel
and seeds. These are indispensable for the subsistence of its people and are obtainable only
from abroad. Greece must have help to import the goods necessary to restore internal
order and security so essential for economic and political recovery.
The Greek Government has also asked for the assistance of experienced American
administrators, economists and technicians to insure that the financial and other aid given
to Greece shall be used effectively in creating a stable and self-sustaining economy and in
improving its public administration.
The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several
thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the Government’s authority at a
number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries. A commission appointed by
the United Nations Security Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in
northern Greece and alleged border violations along the frontier between Greece on the
one hand and Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia on the other.
Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek Army
is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore the
authority of the Government throughout Greek territory.
Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting
democracy. The United States must supply that assistance. We have already extended to
Greece certain types of relief and economic aid but these are inadequate. There is no other
country to which democratic Greece can turn. No other nation is willing and able to
provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek Government.
The British Government, which has been helping Greece, can give no further financial or
economic aid after March. Great Britain finds itself under the necessity of reducing or
liquidating its commitments in several parts of the world, including Greece.
We have considered how the United Nations might assist in this crisis. But the situation is
an urgent one requiring immediate action, and the United Nations and its related
organizations are not in a position to extend help of the kind that is required.
It is important to note that the Greek Government has asked for our aid in utilizing
effectively the financial and other assistance we may give to Greece, and in improving
public administration. It is of the utmost importance that we supervise the use of any funds
made available to Greece, in such a manner that each dollar spent will count toward
making Greece self-supporting, and will help to build an economy in which a healthy
democracy can flourish.
No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its
defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.
The Government of Greece is not perfect. Nevertheless it represents 85 per cent of the
members of the Greek parliament who were chosen in an election last year. Foreign
observers, including 692 Americans, considered this election to be a fair expression of the
views of the Greek people.
The Greek Government has been operating in an atmosphere of chaos and extremism. It
has made mistakes. The extension of aid by this country does not mean that the United
States condones everything that the Greek Government has done or will do. We have
condemned in the past, and we condemn now, extremist measures of the Right or the Left.
We have in the past advised tolerance, and we advise tolerance now.
Greece’s neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey as an
independent and economically sound State is clearly no less important to the freedomloving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. The circumstances in which Turkey
finds itself today are considerably different from those of Greece. Turkey has been spared
the disasters that have beset Greece. And during the war, the United States and Great
Britain furnished Turkey with material aid.
Nevertheless, Turkey now needs our support. Since the war Turkey has sought financial
assistance from Great Britain and the United States for the purpose of effecting that
modernization necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity. That integrity is
essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East. The British Government has
informed us that, owing to its own difficulties, it can no longer extend financial or
economic aid to Turkey. As in the case of Greece, if Turkey is to have the assistance it
needs, the United States must supply it. We are the only country able to provide that help.
I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance
to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time. One of
the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of
conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from
coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory
was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other
To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has
taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations. The United Nations is designed to
make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize
our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free people to maintain their free
institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose
upon them totalitarian regimes.
This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples,
by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and
hence the security of the United States. The peoples of a number of countries of the world
have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The
Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and
intimidation in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must
also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.
At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between
alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based
upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative
government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and
religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the
will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression,
a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are
resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that
we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that
our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to
economic stability and orderly political processes.
The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in
the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as
coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent
nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles
of the Charter of the United Nations.
It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek
nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the
control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate
and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.
Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent State would have a profound
effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties
to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war.
It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled so long against
overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they sacrificed so much. Collapse of
free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for
the world. Discouragement and possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring
peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence. Should we fail to aid Greece
and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far-reaching to the West as well as to the
East. We must take immediate and resolute action.
I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in
the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these
funds, l have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which
would be furnished to Greece out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the
Congress authorize for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated
by the war.
In addition to funds, I ask the Congress to authorize the detail of American civilian and
military personnel to Greece and Turkey, at the request of those countries, to assist in the
tasks of reconstruction, and for the purpose of supervising the use of such financial and
material assistance as may be furnished. I recommend that authority also be provided for
the instruction and training of selected Greek and Turkish personnel.
Finally, I ask that the Congress provide authority which will permit the speediest and most
effective use, in terms of needed commodities, supplies and equipment, of such funds as
may be authorized. If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for purposes
indicated in this message, I shall not hesitate to bring the situation before the Congress.
On this subject the executive and legislative branches of the Government must work
This is a serious course upon which we embark. I would not recommend it except that the
alternative is much more serious. The United States contributed $341,000,000,000 toward
winning World War II. This is an investment in world freedom and world peace. The
assistance that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts to little more than
one-tenth of one per cent of this investment. It is only common sense that we should
safeguard this investment and make sure that it was not in vain.
The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow
in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people
for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive. The free peoples of the world look
to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may
endanger the peace of the world and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own
Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events. I am
confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely.