The policy of containment

A diplomat named George Kennan saw it coming. In his influential 1947 paper "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," he maintained that Russian policy, whether under the tsar or the Communist Party, is relentlessly expansionistic but cautious, and he recommended a policy of firm and vigilant containment. The United States followed Kennan's policy.


Question: What was George Kennan's 1947 policy recommendation?

Answer: Kennan recommended a policy of firm containment of Soviet Communist expansion.

The Berlin Airlift

As Cold War tensions rose, the Soviets cut off Western ground access to the West's part of Berlin by closing the road that ran across the Soviet governed part of Germany. The Americans responded with a giant airlift of supplies that kept Berlin alive for almost a year until the Soviets relented and allowed ground access again. The Berlin Airlift (1949) landed a plane every minute, using some of the same aircraft that had recently been trying to kill Berliners.

The Truman Doctrine

President Truman got Congress to approve loans to Greece and Turkey to counter Soviet moves to turn those countries Communist. He launched the Truman Doctrine (1947) of containing Communism by supporting non-Communist countries with money and arms if necessary.

The Marshall Plan

The U.S. supplied a huge financial support package to Europe through the Marshall Plan (1947), which lent billions of dollars to rebuild Western Europe. It worked. The total amount of money the U.S. lent former friends and foes alike over the six years before and during the Plan equaled fully 10 percent of everything produced in the U.S. for a year (the U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP). By the end of the 1950s, Western European economies were well on the way to recovery, and the region had begun plans for establishing the European Community. The Marshall Plan helped keep Western Europe on the U.S. side following the war.

Truman also threw American support behind the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, over the heated objection of the Arabs who lived there.

The National Security Act and NATO

America's anti-Communist international position led to the creation of super agencies to help fight the Cold War. The National Security Act (1947) established the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which brought together top military leaders, and the National Security Council, which brought together intelligence information gathered by the new Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The next year, Congress reinstituted the peacetime draft, and in 1949, the nation swallowed hard and entered into the very kind of "entangling alliance" George Washington had warned about.

With the birth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (1949), the U.S. allied itself with Western European nations and pledged to respond to an attack on any one of them as an attack on all. NATO kept a wary eye on the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact treaty allies, the Soviet satellite countries. The Warsaw Pact was the Soviet equivalent of NATO, made up of Eastern European nations under the control of Moscow.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >