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26. Harry Truman - Truman Doctrine
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States:
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 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, peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy
occupation, and bitter internal strife.
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. Eightyfive percent 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
selfsustaining 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 frontiers 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 authority of the
government throughout Greek territory. Greece must
have assistance if it is to become a selfsupporting and selfrespecting democracy. The United States must supply this 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
31st. 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
selfsupporting, 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 eightyfive
percent 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 tolerance
Greek's [sic] neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey, as an
independent and economically sound state, is clearly no less important
to the freedomloving 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 additional
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 Middle East. The British government has informed
us that, owing to its own difficulties, it can no longer extend financial or economic aid to Turkey. 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 upon 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
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 political processes.
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
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 countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to
maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war.
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 and independence.
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 East.
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 authorized.
If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for the 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 world peace. The assistance
that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts to little more than 1 tenth of 1 percent
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 their freedoms. If we falter
in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world.
And we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation.
Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events.
I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely.