Truman Doctrine is Announced
March 12, 1947
In a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.
In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
On March 12, 1947, Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress to make his case. The world, he declared, faced a choice in the years to come. Nations could adopt a way of life “based upon the will of the majority” and governments that provided “guarantees of individual liberty” or they could face a way of life “based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority.” This latter regime, he indicated, relied upon “terror and oppression.” “The foreign policy and the national security of this country,” he claimed, were involved in the situations confronting Greece and Turkey. Greece, he argued, was “threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists.” It was incumbent upon the United States to support Greece so that it could “become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.” The “freedom-loving” people of Turkey also needed U.S. aid, which was “necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity.” The president declared 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.” Truman requested $400 million in assistance for the two nations. Congress approved his request two months later.