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The Us Containment Policy History Essay


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Power extension has always been a subject that fascinated me. There are countless ways in which groups of individuals can maintain interests of their communities and protect them from possible threats. This phenomenon has been known to the humanity ever since the first human got off the tree and straightened up. The more sophisticated tools we started using, the more dangerous the threat has become. First armies were created, followed up by intelligence services and counter-intelligence services investigating threats both foreign and domestic. By means of diplomacy, diversion, espionage, and violence mighty rulers were trying to guarantee national security by influencing the circumstances on different levels - think of Vatican's interference in French politics via Cardinal Richelieu or Charlemagne's orders to execute thousands and convert the others forcefully into Christianity during the Saxon Wars.

This concept remained unchanged for centuries and reached its peak in the 20th century, materializing in three terrifying wars of which one is also known as the Cold War. For me as a person interested in power extension is the latter an episode that cannot be overemphasized. For this reason I decided to devote my PWS to it. However, originally intending to write as much as possible about the Cold War and the mutual American and Russian relations precisely, I had to delimit the subject in order to comply with the quantitative requirements laid upon me. By means of a selection I chose the aspect of the Cold War which I found by far the most interesting, namely the basic assumptions of the post-war American politicians of how to prevent the communism from spreading, also known as the containment policy (derived from contain - to keep something under control), and the political and military actions of the American Administration in which these communism-countering ideas can be recognized.

In my paper, being as a matter of fact a written work of reference based on numerous sources, I will try to answer the question of how successful the containment policy invented and applied by the American policymakers in the years 1945-1949 turned out to be and to what degree it prevented the communism from spreading.

Despite the subject concerns a short period of five years there is much to be written. It is never easy when it comes to explaining political decisions and therefore it is highly necessary to mention the underlying grounds, of which the gradual development led to the measures in question. So will my paper begin with the description of the primary reasons resulting in the introduction of the containment policy.

Having described the latter I will focus on what I personally consider as the core of my work - a summary of deductions concerning the Soviet post-war point of view written down by a high-rank diplomat working in the American Embassy in Moscow. The summary to be found in chapter 3 depicts concisely the direction that was to be given to the American foreign policy in response to the Soviet spreading ambitions.

Theory and planning, however, are often not sufficient to bring the expected change. Real action is also required and so it must be addressed to in my paper in order to make the story complete. Chapter 4 will outline the efforts the US policymakers made as far as the application of the containment policy on the European political arena is considered. A careful and critical reader will find amongst lines the answer on how successful the containment proved to be. The chapter also leaves an open path for those who will attempt to imagine what the current world would look like if there were no communism-countering measures or individuals ready to devote their life to protection of democratic values.

I find it necessary to mention that I wanted this PWS to be a challenge and some sort of test of my language skills since I am not a native speaker of English and my level of it is far from proficiency. I didn't choose the easiest way out which was writing this paper in Dutch - a language I am much more familiar with. Instead I decided to use the opportunity to learn English vocabulary and grammatical constructions which I might not have memorized if I hadn't written it in the way I had.

Before you continue reading I truly want you to know that it is not my intention to lay any idealistic beliefs upon you. On the contrary, I hope my paper will help you understand the past, which is after all necessary in order to live consciously in the present and create a future not based on ignorance of not knowing what the events taking place are caused by. Enjoy your journey back in time!

Chapter 2: What were the primary reasons for the mutual distrust resulting in the introduction of the containment policy?

The first section of this paper will throw some light on the background of the containment policy and, as a matter of fact, The Cold War itself. A proper comprehension of this part is necessary in order to answer the main question.

After the very last tanks ceased firing and the Second World War ended, many realized how terribly destructive the war had been. It had materialized in thousands of destroyed cities and generations of young men who lost their lives in combat, not to mention civilians and their continuous fear for their lives. Many of the survivors were looking brightly at the future which was expected to bring about precious peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, only a few were aware of the threat that was about to arise.

The Teheran Conference

To be fully able to give a constructive answer to the question in the title we have to go back in time to 1943, from November 28 up to December 1 to be precise. The Teheran Summit was the first of the conferences held between all the members of the 'Big Three', giving shape to those that were about to be held within the next years. Allied leaders representing the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union pulled together in the Capital of their ally, Iran, to discuss measures that were necessary to overpower the common enemy.

Apart from setting up a strategy that included synchronized operations to be undertaken from multiple directions, the Big Three agreed that they 'shall seek the cooperation and active participation of all nations, large and small, whose peoples in heart and mind are dedicated, as are our own peoples, to the elimination of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance[1]'. This encouraging press release was definitely an important sign of taking a step forward into creating some kind of an international organization that would avoid imperfections of its predecessor, The League of Nations.

Preventing aggressive tendencies of any sort would be its major goal. Next to the certainty of participation of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom in the project the question of any role that China and France should play came up. Odds enough the Chinese politicians had not been informed about the proposed understanding at that point of time as result of their disability to form a stable government. Thanks to the Churchill's telegram sent to Roosevelt we can surely as shooting state that the British Head of State was more than willing to ignore his early reluctance concerning China if the American president kept pushing on their engagement. As regard to France, it is believed that Roosevelt's strong antipathy towards De Gaulle might have been a factor why France's involvement was not taken seriously at that point of negotiations.

After all, the maintenance of peace by controlling, disarming, preventing from rearming in secret and, if necessary, a blockage against a country and its bombardment seemed to be accepted by each of the Heads of State. A press release saying 'We await the day, when all nations of the world will live peacefully, free of tyranny, according to their national needs and conscience' [1] gave a deceptive impression of a complete cooperation. The question of resetting Polish boundaries, brought up by the Russian delegation (consisting of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Defence Minister Klimentii Voroshilov), wasn't solved so easily. It was to become one of the most difficult discussion points which would dominate the Yalta Conference and caused first dents in the mutual trust between the Soviet Union and the other two allies.

The Yalta Conference

The second meeting of all three members of the Great Alliance was announced in January 1945. It became quite obvious that the issue of boundaries couldn't remain unresolved any longer after the Russian forces had entered on Polish soil nearly a year before on January, 2. The necessary solution was hoped to be found, as stated by Churchill, 'in the worst place in the world' [2] - Crimean Yalta. It must be mentioned that each of the participants of the summit held between February 4 and 11 was in the first place, quite logically, trying to maintain the interests of their own country.

For the sake of this thesis the main bottlenecks connected to prospective mutual relations will be worked out in detail. These three completely different approaches can be summarized as follows:

- Winston Churchill - mainly interested in the European arena and the French role in the occupation of Germany

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt - agreement on the Far East and setting up a sort of organization of united nations

- Marshall Stalin - the Polish question being a matter of great importance for the Soviet Union. Furthermore an interest in becoming a sphere of influence where the Soviet superiority would be accepted.

The compromise about the United Nations came more easily than Roosevelt had ever expected. The deadlock on the voting procedure of the United Nations, about the right of veto to be precise, had been overcome and the number of Soviet republics, which were to participate, had been decreased from sixteen to at least two.

Stalin's postulates narrowed down to the issue of setting the Polish eastern frontiers at the Curzon Line - a demarcation line that was proposed at the Paris Peace Conference as the eastern boundary of Poland excluding the city of Lvov with its huge percentage of Polish citizens.


The extremely complicated negotiations between the three Heads of State and both Polish governments (one in-exile and the second set up by the Russians) led to the adoption of the controversial Curzon Line. Stalin's spreading intentions, except for the plausible argument of necessity to possess one more ice-free harbour, were perfectly described by Marshall Stalin himself to Ernest Evin, the British Foreign Secretary, saying:

'The United Kingdom had India and the Indian Ocean in her sphere of interest; the United States China and Japan; the USSR had nothing'

To guarantee the freedom of elections and establishment of democracy according to Western terms, the Big Three ratified the Joint Declaration on Liberated Europe that promised 'peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems'[4]. Nevertheless, the declaration above mentioned turned out to be completely meaningless as history has shown. Due to its conditional implementation and lack of binding commitments there was no legal force upon signatories to maintain the agreement. However, no violations of the Yalta agreements by Stalin were suspected at this point of time, as stated by Churchill.

'The impression I brought back from the Crimea, and from all my other contacts, is that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honourable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel also that their word is their bond. I know of no government which stands to its obligations, even in its own despite, more solidly than the Russian Soviet Government. I decline absolutely to embark here on a discussion about Russian good faith. It is quite evident that these matters touch the whole future of the world'. [5]

According to Professor Arthur Schlesinger signing the declaration by Stalin was a diplomatic blunder which became obvious just a month after the Big Three gathered in Yalta. The meetings, which were supposed to determine the best Polish democratic leader, eventually proved to be an excellent way for Soviet secret police to reach the prominent members of the former Polish resistance and make them disappear, despite the promised Soviet guarantee of immunity. It didn't take a long time before Churchill's initially credulous account of the agreement transformed into the opposite conviction. By 13 March he sent a telegraph to Roosevelt with a statement that the Heads of State 'were in the presence of a great failure and an utter breakdown of what was settled at Yalta' [6]. Twelve days later the British prime minister described the situation on the West-East border as an iron curtain, which is slowly descending. The following quotation illustrates just how dramatically the developments in the European arena were becoming.

'If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered.'[7]

In the meanwhile the messages exchanged between Stalin and Roosevelt, who were increasingly becoming the two bigger players in the Big Three, were full of mutual accusations of jeopardizing the vulnerable accord.

The Potsdam Conference

The Polish matter reached a dead end. How things developed couldn't be witnessed by Roosevelt, who died on 12 April 1945. His successor, Harry Truman, once vice-president under Roosevelt, was expected to continue the policy towards the Soviet Union initialized by Roosevelt. However, it became obvious from the beginning that the mild approach, continuously applied by his predecessor, wasn't Truman's favourite style of work. The Potsdam Conference, lasting from July 17 to August 2, aside of being a permanent confirmation of previously made agreements, became Truman's first significant opportunity to influence the US-USSR relationship, mainly because of its nuclear undertone. The US president's decision not to fully inform Stalin about the rapid progress concerning the construction of an atomic weapon correctly delineates the prospective Truman's policy of hostility and inscrutability towards The Soviet Union. A mentioning of 'a new weapon of unusual destructive force' [8] did not specially bother Stalin, who was already in 1943 informed about an atomic weapon allegedly built in the West. Russian atomic project did not accelerate until Japan was bombed twice in September 1945. The order, given by Marshal Stalin to Igor Kurchatov, a leading Russian physicist, sounded more or less 'The balance has been destroyed. Provide the bomb' (* No firm evidence of this record has remained until now but the sense of the message is kept unchanged).

Chapter 3: What was the containment policy based on?

In this paragraph I will briefly describe the major political events that gave shape to what is now understood as the containment policy.

President Harry Truman, despite being known of his unyielding personality, lacked experience in foreign affairs and could hardly do without a number of political analysts. These happened to be influenced by the opinions of George F. Kennan (to be seen on the right hand), the prominent USSR specialist in the State Department and the charge d'affaires at the American Embassy in Moscow, whose role in the process of the containment policy coming into life can't be over-emphasized. On February 22, 1946 he sent a long analysis of Soviet post-war outlook to his colleagues in the Capitol in Washington. https://blogs.princeton.edu/mudd/files/mt/images/kennan.jpg

The so-called Long Telegram, of which the most relevant points are summarized below, became one of the major documents that the containment policy was based on.

George F. Kennan [9]

A brief characteristic of the Soviet point of view, according to the propaganda machine

-The geographical and political surrounding of the USSR by capitalistic nations will eventually result in a battle for the economical leadership in the world, which will be also crucial for the fate of socialism/communism and capitalism.

-Any actions, activities and happenings abroad which seem to correspond with the Soviet interests to a certain degree should be supported.

- In the long run the differences between capitalist countries will become too powerful to be overcome in a peaceful manner. No opportunity may be missed to turn the internal conflict into a communistic revolution.

The background of the mentality

- The premises do not represent the point of view of an average Russian. The ordinary citizen, on the contrary to what is stated by the officials, is more than willing to contact the outside world and live peacefully. It must be kept in mind that the party is the villain

- The basic assumptions of the Russian propaganda machine pre-date the World War II, which makes it irrelevant and nothing more than incorrect (spoken in terms of 1940's). The premises are as much as necessary for the Russian party in order to deter Soviet citizens coming in contact with technically and economically more advanced West which might prove the fallibility of the communism/socialism.

Steps that will be undertaken on the official (diplomatic) level

-Increasing the outsiders' perception of strength of the Soviet military arsenal and industrial development as much as social cohesion is a significant part of the national policy. On the other hand attempts will be made to conceal imperfections and weaknesses of the system.

- The efforts to extend Soviet political power will materialize themselves into territorial claims on the official level only after finishing unofficial preparations.

- Soviet participation in international organizations (as United Nations) serves only the pragmatic purposes of expanding the Soviet political influence on the international arena and reducing operational ability of others. United Nations are not seen as an instrument for a stable and peaceful world society based on interests of all nations.

- Even on the official level the Soviet Union will attempt to sabotage the relations between Western states and their (former) colonies in order to clear the path for the Soviet participation in policymaking.

-Soviet politicians, while being abroad, will be urged to follow the strict diplomatic protocol with emphasis laid on good manners in order to increase the impression of the Soviet prestige.

Suspected activities on the unofficial level, i.e. on level for which the Soviet administrations do not take responsibility

I feel obliged to remark on the incredible importance of the following section. The contained statements are these that the Truman Administration (and any other following until the end of 1980's) had mostly to deal with.

Actions on the unofficial level will be first of all directed to foreign organizations, movements, societies and governments that are regarded as susceptible for, what the party asserted, the Russian sense of nationalism and Marx' ideas of equality. The left-wing activists, officially members of Western Labour Parties, were encouraged to work on underground lines and were intensively instructed by politicians in Moscow. A diversity of organizations and associations, such as racial, feministic or religious societies, is highly exposed to penetration. Even the subdivisions of the Orthodox Church located abroad are at risk of being penetrated.

George Kennan states that organizations above mentioned will be solely used in fields of their expertise, e.g. influential orthodox activists would jeopardize any thinkable actions of Protestant politicians. Further explanations follow:

- Increasing industrial and social unrest and stimulation of all possible forms of disunity will result in undermining operational potential of the western states and breaking off the national confidence.

- In countries forced into colonial relationships outstandingly cruel actions will be undertaken to destroy relatively good relations with (former) mother countries. Simultaneously extreme left-wing parties will be preparing for not necessarily legal taking-over of political power.

-Governments obviously not agreeing with the Soviet foreign policy will be kept under pressure in order to cause their eventual removal from office.

- Every imaginable activity will be undertaken in order to provoke the most powerful Western states against each other.

Conclusions for the US Government

Soviet power, not schematic in character, doesn't work by strict plans and doesn't take unnecessary hazards. It is extremely responsive to logic or force and therefore it can easily pull back - and mostly does when facing a strong opposition. So, quoting Kennan, 'if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so'. [9] The next point the author makes has to do with the Western degree of cohesion, firmness and muster. Success of the Soviet Union, as for being the weaker force, depends to some extent on the mentioned factor. Another factor that is relatively easy to deal with is the Soviet propaganda. The destructive and generally negative character of it can be opposed by a sort of intelligent and constructive programmes.

In the conclusion the author states that a calm and unprovoked recognition of the hypothetically dangerous movements must be the government's very first step. Furthermore the public education should play a bigger role. The fear of unknown can be overcome by informing the citizens about the Russian reality. After all it would result in improvement of social cohesion and make the society less vulnerable to threats from both outside and inside. Finally Kennan brings up the significance of formulating a constructive and positive picture of the sort of world the US policy makers would like to see. 'It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.' [10]

The reaction of the Russians wasn't immediate. Nearly seven months later, on September the 27, the Soviet Ambassador to United States, Nikolai Novikov, sent a note to the highest officials of the Soviet Union that was nothing but an analysis of the Kennan's Long Telegram and the US post-war foreign policy towards the Soviet Union in general. These became accessible for outsiders after the publication in Foreign Affairs magazine of the so-called 'X Article' in July 1947, being as a matter of fact an adjusted version of the original analysis of Kennan's. Novikov concluded that the American outlook is predominantly characterized by the drift towards the world's supremacy and as well economical as military leadership. Amongst others he stated that the plans of establishing more than 480 naval bases, American mainland signalize intense intentions of hostility towards the Soviet Union.

By the end of 1946 the political situation between the US and the SU reached its lowest point since the end of the Second World War. Western politicians were little by little abandoning their hope for the cooperation with the Russians and the Kennan's prophecy was slowly becoming the reality. How the US officials reacted and what measures they took in order to deter foreign government representatives from embracing communism will be properly described in the following paragraph.

Chapter 4: What efforts did the US government make to materialize the containment policy and with what result?

The Truman Doctrine

The Truman Administration received multiple signals from its British Ally about the gradually increasing difficulties of His Majesty's Government to provide on-going financial help to Greece and Turkey - the two states the United Kingdom had been supporting for years and which found themselves standing on the edge of a democratic collapse. In an official note dating to February 21, 1947 British informed Washington of their inability to support the mentioned states and requested for a takeover of their economical obligations. Truman's reaction came into history as the Truman Doctrine. In his speech to a joint session of Congress of March 12, he emphasized the moral obligation of the American state to provide assistance to the peoples of Greece and Turkey in order to establish a democracy and restore the authority of the government. In regard to Greece the President stated that the British aid issued in the preceding years wasn't sufficient to supply the weak and not able to operate independently army and fight communist insurgents dislocating the Greek state. Turkey, on the contrary, didn't need financial assistance so desperately at that point of time. Nevertheless due to a historic background of Greece and Turkey being stubborn rivals for decades it was necessary to split the money equally in order to avoid future claims of injustice or, even worse, anti-Western tensions. Truman concluded that the US Government was the only institution in the world able to prevent Greece and Turkey from becoming what the totalitarian states in the period of the Second World War were - regimes of minorities getting their path clear by means of violence and suppression.

I find it interesting to mention that the presidential Congress speech is also known as the 'Truman's containment speech'. Clark Clifford (Truman's advisor), asked in 1972 about the nickname, said: 'we were concerned about preventing Soviet control of larger areas of the world than they already controlled' [11]. Although the word 'containment' wasn't even said once by Truman in his speech, the measures supposed by him concentrated on opposing the activities mentioned in the fourth point of Kennan's Long Telegram - namely the actions of the Soviet party conducted on unofficial level. Greek communist freedom fighters were not powered by Marx's ideals but by Stalin's money and military arsenal. As result of it the most of the $338 million sent by the United States to Greece was spent on military equipment.

The concept of supporting European nations economically, drafted in March 1947 and perfectly outlined by the President Truman in his Congress speech, was just a momentary restoration programme, which had to prevent Greece and Turkey from falling into the hands of communism. How this financial aid, meant only for the time being, transformed into a long-term supportive programme will be depicted in the following section.

Marshall Plan

The Marshall Plan, although originally not intended to be a part of the containment policy as stated in the May 23 report of the Policy Planning Staff, became a significant step forward taken by the American Administration, influence and actions of which were gradually becoming more visible on the international political arena. The Policy Planning Staff (PPS), created by George Kennan at the request of the Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was given the task of, 'taking a long term, strategic view of global trends and framing recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.'[12] In the context of the European Recovery Program, as the so-called Marshall Plan was officially known, it came down to investigating multiple possibilities of supporting financially the European communities in order to solve their war-caused economical problems and bring them to the level of self-sufficiency. To avoid sceptical publicity criticizing Americans for their interventionism in European affairs, aid would be exclusively launched if the formal initiative came from Europe. Besides it was required that the program would evolve on the Old Continent and that its leaders would take the fundamental responsibility for it, while the US would limit themselves to a supportive program of such an undertaking by financial means.

Knowing the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, Kennan and the other members of the PPS didn't want the European Recovery Program (ERP) to be a reason for the further isolation of East from West. Although speculating on Soviet reluctance, the inventors of the Marshall Plan included in their project the participation of the Eastern nations in an early stage. By leaving the door open the American policymakers could verify the Soviet attitude towards the plan, which eventually would give proof of their good or bad faith. Kennan and his co-workers were convinced that this offer would not remain without response, since economical co-operation of Soviet satellite countries with the US would result in weakening of Soviet control in these states.

On June 5 1947 the first signals concerning the Marshall Plan were sent out to the outside world. The Harvard speech of Secretary Marshall, being an announcement of conditions and proposals above mentioned, didn't meet much of approvement at the other side of the Iron Curtain. Already after a couple of multipartite conferences the Soviet delegation under wings of Molotov turned down the negotiations. According to the diary notes of Vincent Auriol, the French president at that time, Molotov said amongst other things that 'the project would divide Europe' [13] which testified the bad faith of the Soviet party. The September speech of Soviet deputy foreign minister Andrei Vyshinsky to the United Nations General Assembly was its final confirmation. He stated that the Marshall Plan was a firm violation of the 11 December 1946 resolution of the United Nation, which declared that distribution of economic resources by a state may not be used as an instrument of political pressure. According to Vishinsky the Russian government saw the European Recovery Project as an attempt to put European states in American sphere of influence and to intervene in their internal affairs. In Soviet opinion the plan would result in splitting Europe into two antagonistic blocs, of which the Western one, led by the United States, would develop a certain hostility towards democratically ruled Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union in particular.

The splitting up of the Russians gave the American politicians an opportunity to give the aid programme a hoped-for direction. As stated by Michael J. Hogan, an adviser to the US Department of State, the Marshall Plan was about to become a protective measure to counter the Soviet threat and serve as an extension of the containment policy [14].

 Unlike Soviet satellite states, which dropped off under pressure of the Soviet Union, the sixteen Western neighbours gathered at a conference in Paris, which lasted from July 12 up to September 22, and was intended to give shape to the financial requests that would be presented to the Americans. Unfortunately due to disunity of the European leaders concerning the final amount that would be asked for and their unwillingness to shift part of political responsibilities to a collectively created international body, which was known as the Committee of European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), Kennan and his Policy Planning Staff did not receive an acceptable report.

There are a huge number of details concerning the Marshall Plan being brought to life, which I would like to work out narrowly. Unfortunately I have to limit myself in order to emphasize the Plan's character as a part of the containment strategy, which is the actual subject of my paper. However it must be remembered that the US policymakers considered the failure above mentioned serious enough to change their approach. Instead of asking they started telling what the Europeans would get which was quite the opposite of what was stated by Marshall in his Harvard speech.

Despite this deadlock both American and European partners agreed on a compromise resolution, which included $ 17 billion of long-term financial aid spread over the period of four subsequent years. What the Congress and the Senate also agreed on, was a transfer of $ 522 million funds meant to be a form of short-term aid. As claimed by President Truman and Secretary Marshall at a conference of congressional leaders the provisory help was necessary, otherwise 'the governments of France and Italy will fall to the Communists and a long-term program of rehabilitation will be impossible of accomplishment'.[15] On December 23 President Truman put his signature under the final version of the Marshall Plan. By this action he validated the product of diplomatic efforts made over the space of several months. This product, however, gave shape to the post-war balance of power in Europe and influenced its politics for decades.

The European Recovery Program was the first milestone of containment policy being materialized in a global political arena. According to George Kennan its character and political influence could be described as the major element of containment - the encouragement of forces opposing communism and supporting development of independency as quickly as possible. The psychological effect of the Marshall Plan, being an affirmation of the superiority of democracy to communism, had become a success even before the first supplies arrived on the Old Continent. Throwing the western Communists into a defensive position had one more significant purpose. A possible take-over of political power in Western Europe would be most likely followed by a connection of Western and Soviet resources, resulting in production capacities by far outranking American's.

Greek crisis

As I have already mentioned Greece became one of the problematic areas the American Administration had to deal with. Funds were sent in order to strengthen the Greek Army significantly, which was considered as not having the ability to face the communist guerrilla forces. Unfortunately this short-time aid did little to break the impasse. A dramatic economical situation and the presence of left-wing insurgents, supported indirectly by the Soviet Union and its satellite states, were gradually becoming an even bigger reason for concern for the Americans, who feared a decline of their political and military interests in the Mediterranean.

After the riots turned into a regular civil war in August 1947, American policymakers started discussing their options. On the one hand plans were made in case of a communist take-over, including training of non-communist guerrillas and relocating the democratic government to Crete, but on the other hand the emphasis was laid on measures which would prevent such tragic developments. A public statement was issued, stating amongst other things that the US government would take all necessary steps in order to secure both political independence and territorial integrity of Greece and Italy.

What the international community wasn't aware of was the question of which measures would, as a matter of fact, be taken if an American intervention couldn't be postponed anymore. Most of the participating US high officials were not willing to send military troops to Greece, because of its complicated consequences. Besides it wasn't clear until when the Americans would remain active in Greece, which was 'one of the worst possible areas in which to fight.' [16]

The debate resulted in a whole variety of steps, which were carried out in order to build up the Greek defensive ability. First of all the American military advisory group, which had already been present in Greece back then, would be extended and given more operative freedom with the restriction that it still could not participate in actual combat. Furthermore an additional financial support was to be handed over to the Greek government.

The resolutions mentioned above, of which a substantial part was set up by the Policy Planning Staff supervised by George Kennan, led to the democratic victory on October 16, 1949. What also should not be forgotten is the significant influence of a Yugoslavian split from the Soviet Union. Since mutual Yugoslavian-Soviet relations grew worse, Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, stopped supporting communists outside his country, which weakened the external arms supply and left Greek rebels with lesser means. All together it prevented a close Greek relationship with the East bloc and proved the upper hand of democracy once again.

Italian crisis

In the years after the Second World War the Italian economy was on the point of collapse. According to a report of the Central Intelligence Group, which was transformed in July 1947 into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a crisis of such a dimension would certainly lead to increased communist activities and eventually a coup. The Italian Christian Democrat prime-minister, Alcide De Gasperi, was fully aware of how unstable the situation was becoming. In June 1946 he dismissed the Communists and left-wing Socialists from the coalition and formed a government with a couple of other minor political parties. This action called up a violent response of the Left, causing riots that forebode the shadow of a civil war over the country.

Thanks to the data collected before accepting Italian participation in the Marshall Plan the Americans were perfectly informed of the communist threat inside Italy. Since American troops were permanently stationed in Italy, the situation there was slightly different from the one in Greece. Therefore it was more evident for the US policymaker to discuss a potential military intervention in case of a communist coup. Odds enough, US troops, which were deployed to Italy as an occupational force, did not withdraw as agreed with Italian officials at an earlier point of time. On the contrary, Americans were requested by the Italian government to extend their mission. In my opinion this military agreement was the base for a future global military alliance based on mutual defence treaties, which is nowadays known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The role that NATO played in the context of the containment policy will be referred to in a later part of my paper.

Instead of taking up arms Italian Communists and Socialists chose the parliamentary way to increase their influence. March 18, 1948, was to become an important day for the whole post-war Europe. If Italy turned Red there would be no way to prevent communism from further spreading. To influence voting in favour of other Western nations CIA agents were dispatched all over the country to carry out a wave of anti-communist propaganda. Covert funding of the Christian Democrats and arms supplies must not be forgotten if speaking of measures taken in the context of the containment policy. De Gasperi smartly turned the elections into a "referendum on communism" [17], which resulted in his overwhelming victory with 48 per cent of the vote.

Wilson D. Miscamble, Director of Graduate Studies and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, made an interesting remark in his book "George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950". If we read between the lines we can conclude that Kennan became gradually convinced of the fact that the American Administration started putting 'a new emphasis on military containment at the expense of the political and economic.'[18] Would this shift be a result of insufficient short-term effects of the purely economical Marshall Plan in the European political arena? In my opinion it was rather a combination of both military and economical measures. On the one hand NATO with its purely military character was just about being set up within the space of several months. On the other hand there was the issue of the Berlin blockage solved in a political-economical manner, which will be also properly described in a later section of my paper. Considering the arguments above one could state that the containment policy was becoming its final and, at the same time, its fullest embodiment in the years 1948-1949.

The blockage of Berlin

Since the division of Germany into four occupation zones many conferences were held in hope to solve the problematic question of a possible merging into one united state. The very first step towards the unification was the creation of an economical and political alliance of the zones being under influence of the Western occupiers. The London conference, held from January up to June 1948, resulted in the formation of a West German government and state.

However, on the other side of the Iron Curtain the agreements achieved in London were interpreted slightly differently. Russians opposed the recent developments, especially their economical aspects resulting in introduction of a separate currency, stating the policies would lead into a further antagonizing of the two idealistic blocs. The first Soviet reaction was to be noticed on April 1, 1948, when Russian officials regularly began to interfere with surface supplies into the Western Berlin using a pretext that the routes were temporarily impassable due to reparations of a bridge near Magdeburg. Railway, road and water traffic into the western part of the city was completely blocked. The only possibility left was the use of the air corridors, which remained open. On June 24, 1948, the full blockage was launched, leaving two million inhabitants of the West Berlin to their own devices since they couldn't count on any further external supplies of food and coal.

The very initial situation was nothing but dramatic. Even though the Americans and Brits tried to make use of the air corridors as efficiently as possible, the airlift had its quantitative limitations. The amount of 3,400-4,500 tons of daily material transport was just about enough to keep West Berliners alive. However, hunger couldn't be spared them. Even the American Military Governor in Germany, General Lucius Clay, who proposed the airborne supplies, was sceptical about the effectiveness of the undertaking. His feelings are perfectly expressed in the statement 'I wouldn't give you that [snap of fingers] for our chances' [19]. Half measures meant above, which barely guaranteed survival, were countered by Russian propaganda, constant and thorough control on the frontiers and sporadic military actions of the Soviet soldiers on the Western territory. The traffic restrictions, as the blockage was called by Russians, transformed into a regular state of siege, proving the correctness of the assumptions made by George Kennan in chapter 3 ("Actions on the official level") of his Long Telegram.

The airlift, however, overcame the highest expectations. The transport capacity increased, reaching 8,000 tons of freight at its peak. This quantity, consisting of coal, foodstuffs and raw material of different kind, equalized the material brought to West Berlin prior to the blockage. The Russians acknowledged their defeat and lifted the blockage on May 12, 1949.

The Berlin blockage in the years 1948-1949 was one of the first actions of the Soviet Union meant to expand their area of influence. The memory of this threat, which would undoubtedly have resulted in territorial claims if not successfully opposed, remained vivid for the majority of West European politicians. It materialized in aspirations for defence treaties of some kind, which will be the subject of the following chapter.


By the end of the 40's the potential Soviet expansion was a vivid subject of conversations of the politically both aware and influential Brits. Some of them recognized its dangers and came to the conclusion that the governmental approach, continuously applied from the beginning of the Anglo-American cooperation with the Soviet Union onwards, didn't give expected results. One of these revisionists, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, came to history as the first to propose an alliance of some kind, backed by money, power and resolute action, which would be a guarantee of West European security.

Neither Bevin in his December 1947 speech, nor Marshall in his relatively positive response of January 1948 mentioned military aspects of such an undertaking. This issue remained a political taboo until March, when Secretary Marshall, with Truman's approval, wrote to the British ambassador in the US informing of the American conditional willingness to participate in North Atlantic defence arrangements. This declaration had a great value for Bevin, who was aware of the meaninglessness of any thinkable alliance, no matter how perfectly organized on the surface, if not military supported by the United Nations. In the course of the negotiations it was agreed on considering 'an armed attack against any one of them [as] an attack upon all of them' [20] and a commitment of a collective response as the starting points.

Canadians, which were requested to join, and their West European partners felt a deep appreciation towards the US Administration for their assistance. For this reason a huge emphasize was laid on keeping Americans as participants and only very little on practical solutions, which would provide a well-substantiated concept of how to materialize the suggested defence agreements. What also can't be forgotten is the indirect influence of the political instability of those days on policymaking. The Czech coup, the blockage of Berlin and fears concerning Italy were most likely the reason for European politicians, who witnessed for themselves what Russians were able to, to accelerate the process of the NATO being set up. Eventually on April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington between the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Canada, the United States, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Island.

This multilateral cooperation became a firm confirmation of the democratic course of the Western Europe. By stationing of NATO troops in the states endangered by communism possible attempts for take-over of power could be prevented, what in my opinion perfectly fits in the framework of the containment policy.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Basing on the preceding the containment policy was clearly an important chapter in history of the 20th century. This product of cooperation of highly skilled analysts and specialists on different fields formed a logical response on what was becoming noticeable on the world political arena ever since the first conference between Stalin and the Western leaders - the systematically growing outlook differences concerning the division of the post-war world. Despite numerous attempts neither of the sides came up with a compromise solution that could be easily accepted by everyone, resulting in what we now describe as the Iron Curtain. This imaginable demarcation line separating West from East deepened the mutual sense of distrust between the two idealistic blocs and led to the invention of protective measures against the new enemy.

The containment policy, being a perfect example of such a measure, certainly contributed to the fact that Europe did not turn Red what can be surely stated on the basis of events taking place in three European countries properly described in chapter 4. The terrifying image of what our current society could look like if there were no airlift in Berlin, CIA operatives in Italy, or short-term financial aid for peoples of Greece should make us realize how important the work of the Policy Planning Staff and George Kennan particularly was in the context of the world becoming a safer place.

On the other hand, we must also keep in mind that there are still places in the world where this incredible transformation is deliberately being delayed by military conflicts and corrupt political leaders. It all causes circumstances in which societies become vulnerable and people hasty react by taking hazardous decisions or fraternizing with mischievous opportunists minding solely their own interests. Despite the communist threat does not exist any longer, there are still forces nourishing such social unrests just in order to eventually take advantage of them, exactly as it's been happening in Mali for months already. We must not forget about these societies being on the verge of economical and social deterioration and we must constructively support their freedom and prosperity wishes, exactly as the American politicians backed up the Old Continent in 1940's. If the containment policy proved to be successful a couple of decades ago, why wouldn't it been given a try right now?

Chapter 6: Bibliography

1. The Teheran Conference, Agreements on War and Peace. (December 1, 1943) http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1943/431201c.html (consulted on August 1)

2. Edmonds, R., (1991), The Big Three, New York/London, W.W. Norton & Company, p.413

3. Russia at War 1941-1945, Churchill on the Question of Poland (no date) http://www.great-victory1945.ru/churchill.htm (consulted on August 15)

4. Declaration of Liberated Europe (no date) http://isc.temple.edu/hist249/declaration_of_liberated_europe_.htm (consulted on August 15)

5. February 28 1945, Churchill Discloses Big 3 Plans For Poland, Defends Good Faith Of Russia, Daytona Beach Morning Journal, p.1

6. Edmonds, R.,(1991) The Big Three, New York/London, W.W. Norton & Company, p.421

7. The Iron Curtain (no date) http://www.faktoider.nu/ironcurtain_eng.html (consulted on August 21)

8. Conversation on the Existence of the Bomb (July 24 1945). http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/library/correspondence/truman-harry/corr_truman_1945-07-24.htm (consulted on September 23)

9. Kennan Diaries Project (December 1, 2010) https://blogs.princeton.edu/mudd/2010/12/kennan-diaries-project/ (consulted on December 31)

10. Kennan, G., The Charge in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State (no date) http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/episode-1/HYPERLINK "http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/episode-1/kennan.htm"kennan.htm (consulted on September 23)

11. What was the Truman Doctrine (no date) http://www.johndclare.net/EC8.htm (consulted on October 25)

12. Policy Planning Staff, Mission Statement (no date) http://www.state.gov/s/p/ (consulted on December 1)

13. Hanhimaki, J.M. & Westad O.A., (2003), The Cold War, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 123

14. Hogan, M.J., (1989), The Marshall Plan: America, Britain and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947-1952, Cambridge University Press, p.53

15. Diary of Admiral William D. Leahy, September 29, 1947, Leahy Papers, Box. 5

16. Minutes of 4th NSC Meeting, December 17, 1947, Truman Papers, PSF, Box 203

17. Miller, E.J., (1986) The United States and Italy, 1940-1950: The Politics and Diplomacy of Stabilization, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, p.248

18. Miscamble, W.D., (1992), George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, p.105

19. Miscamble, W.D., (1992), George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950, New Jersey, Princeton University Press p.122

20. Davidson, E., (1961), The Death and Life of Germany: An Account of American Occupation, New York, p. 202-3

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