March 12, 1947
In a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress, President Harry Truman outlines a new direction for American foreign policy. In what became known as the Truman Doctrine, the President established that the United States would provide assistance to all democratic nations under threat from totalitarian forces. The Truman Doctrine was most specifically aimed at thwarting the Communist expansion that had been taking place in Eastern Europe and in other regions of the world since the conclusion of World War II.
The President stated, “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…We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes.”
The focus of the President’s address to Congress on March 12th was an appeal to provide $400 million of aid to the Greek and Turkish governments. Truman’s request for aid for Greece and Turkey was approved by Congress and helped stem the spread of Communism into the eastern Mediterranean. The President’s policy of supporting democracies and preventing the spread of Communism also led to Truman’s recognition of the new State of Israel in May 1948.
Eventually, the Truman Doctrine was extended to other regions after the fall of China to Communists in 1949, the Berlin blockade in 1948, and the invasion of Korea in 1950. By 1950, the Truman Doctrine and its policy of containment was also being applied to the Middle East as the United States continued to be deeply interested in protecting access to oil.
The photo shows President Truman addressing Congress on March 12, 1947.
To read more about the Truman Doctrine, including early drafts of the President’s address, the full text of his speech and other background documents, visit the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum site here: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/doctrine/large/index.php