Four months before publication of "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" and while it circulated within the administration, President Truman launched what became known as the Truman Doctrine. Speaking before Congress on 12 March 1947, he called for a global crusade against encroaching communism and requested $400 million in military and economic aid, as well as military and economic advisers, to halt what he described as communist aggression and subversion in Greece and communist threats to Turkey. The alternatives in beleaguered Greece, he contended, were totalitarianism or freedom. The world was at a critical turning point: the struggle was between the forces of light and darkness, of humanity and evil. America's commitment could turn back the hordes of oppression and guarantee freedom.
Although Truman never explicitly labeled the Soviet Union as the malefactor, his slightly veiled references left no room for doubt. Most policymakers then assumed that Stalin was supporting and planning the revolution in Greece, the intended recipient of most of the American aid. According to the later testimony of Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslavian revolutionary, Stalin opposed the revolution in Greece and tried to stop communist nations from supplying the Greek revolutionaries. Stalin was sometimes a counterrevolutionary, who believed, Djilas wrote, "that the creation of revolutionary centers outside Moscow could endanger its supremacy in world communism." American policymakers were apparently blinded by their own ideology, by their belief that the communist world was then monolithic, and by their conviction that Stalin was an ardent revolutionary and would extend communism whenever possible.
The Truman administration seized the opportunity to declare the Cold War in the Truman Doctrine speech. Until March 1947, partly because of some pro-Soviet attitudes in the United States and fears of a disastrous rift in the Democratic Party, policymakers had wavered publicly on whether the United States could reach an accommodation with the Soviet Union or whether the Russians were an implacable adversary. Resolving his earlier public ambivalence in March, Truman called for a global crusade against communism while limiting his specific legislative requests to Greece and Turkey.
Kennan, then in Washington at the National War College and active in the State Department's planning of the aid program, objected to the tone and ideological content of the message, and to some aspects of the program. Judging that the Turkish problem was one of morale that the Turks themselves could solve, he opposed military aid to Turkey. Truman's message, Kennan believed, went too far in its ideological analysis and in its global promises—the stark portrayal of two opposing ways of life and the open-ended commitment to aid free peoples everywhere. He feared that the Soviet Union might be provoked by the tone and crusading commitment to declare war.
Kennan's anxieties eased when the administration, in presenting its request to Congress, retreated from the promise of a global crusade and limited its commitment to Greece, Turkey, and western Europe. Like most policymakers, Kennan feared the results of a communist victory in Greece and linked that to what later became known as the domino theory: The triumph in Greece would destabilize the Middle East and weaken the morale of western Europe, so that the people there might "trim their sails and even abet" the victory of communism. For Kennan, the commitment to Greece was necessary, reasonable, and desirable; it was within American capabilities; it would halt "our political adversaries"; and its "favorable consequences will carry far beyond the limits of Greece itself." According to Kennan, other European nations, then beset by communist threats internally or near their borders, would gain hope and have confidence in the United States.
Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: