Modern History Sourcebook:
The Truman Doctrine, 1947
PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN
ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS,
MARCH 12, 1947
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United
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
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 militant 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 31. 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 its 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 eighty-five
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
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 freedom-loving 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
The British government has informed us that, owing to its own
difficulties can no longer extend financial or economic aid to
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 nations.
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 peoples 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
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 count
ries in Europe whose
peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain
their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages
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
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
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, I 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
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 together.
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
The assistance that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts
to little more than 1 tenth of 1 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
If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the
world -- and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.
Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement
I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997