The Policy Containment and Globalization in Truman Doctrine

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About this sample


Words: 3124 |

Pages: 7|

16 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

Words: 3124|Pages: 7|16 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Etymology of ‘The Policy of Containment’
  3. The Truman Doctrine
  4. ‘Case Studies’ of the Policy of Containment
  5. The Korean War:
  6. Aftermath: Fall of the Soviet Communism
  7. Conclusion

Ever since the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, where the former ‘Thirteen British Colonies’ declared independence as the United States of America; the American founding fathers laid down a concrete and categorical national policy that was sustained for the first 200 years of the the American history. It was the policy isolationism and non-interventionsim, whereby, the United States avoided alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense and followed retained a localized diplomacy and trade. Although, the United States’ policy of non-interventiosnism side-stepped many potential conflicts, for instance, when Tsar Alexander II put down the 1863 January Uprising in Poland, French Emperor Napoleon III asked the United States to join the protest but it [United States] decined. The first significant step towards a modified foreign policy was when the United States intervened in Spanish-American War, which saw the United States occupy and control Philipines, Puerto Rico, Guam and later formally annexing Hawaii. Even in the aftermath of the First World War, the United States enacted its non-interventionist foreign policy in full force. Initially, the United States Congress discarded president Woodrow Wilson’s condition of the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations. The tendency towards non-interventionsim and isolationism continued, even in the early years of the Second World War, when Europe moved closer and closer to war in the late 1930s, the United States Congress was doing everything it could to prevent it. But, it was not until the end of the Second World War, when US’s foreign policy was characterized by full-scale interventionism, which meant that US was directly involved in other states’ affairs. Case-in-point, immediately after the end of the war, the US supplied Europe with monetary aid in hopes of combating the influence of Communism in a vulnerable, war-weakened Europe. This label posted on the financial packages was the Marshall Plan, which was indeed the first step towards implementation of the ‘Truman Doctrine’, under the aegis of the policy of Containment, a Cold War foreign policy of the United States and its allies to prevent the spread of Communism. As a component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet Union to increase communist influence in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Africa, Vietnam, and Latin America. Containment represented a middle-ground position between ‘détente’ (de-escalation) and ‘rollback’ (replacement). The end of the Cold War in 1991 marked the official end of the containment policy, but the U.S. kept its bases in the areas around Russia, such as those in Iceland, Germany, and Turkey.

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In a broader spectrum of global politics, the triumph of the policy of Containment was a catalyst in incentivizing a multipolar world, one where a small number of large regions develop increasingly distinctive models of politics, society, economics, finance and technology. Our sense is that the Americas, Europe and China-centric Asia are already on their way to becoming the three principal 'poles' of a multipolar order, with perhaps India and the Emirate states together having the potential to be a future 'pole.' Independent, mid-sized countries like Russia, the UK and Japan may struggle for influence in this kind of world through lack of economic size or hard power required to match the larger 'poles.'


The US-led global political order of the contemporary world came at the virtue of the triumph of US foreign policy that witnessed fall of the Soviet Communism. The Allied victory over the Fascism was indeed a silvering lining, considering the overall decimation wreaked on humanity. It was also an ostensible hope that good relations between the superpowers would ensure world peace, but this ethereal fantasy soon faded as a result of the Stalinization of eastern Europe and Soviet support of communist insurgencies in various parts of the globe. Events came to a head in 1947 when Britain, weakened by a failing economy, decided to pull out of the eastern Mediterranean. This would leave both Greece, where a communist-inspired civil war was raging, and Turkey to the mercies of the Soviet Union. Truman now came into his own as a national leader, asking Congress to appropriate aid to Greece and Turkey and asserting, in effect, that henceforth the United States must help free peoples in general to resist communist aggression. This policy, known as the Truman Doctrine, has been criticized for committing the United States to the support of unworthy regimes and for taking on greater burdens than it was safe to assume. At first, however, the Truman Doctrine was narrowly applied. Congress appropriated $400 million for Greece and Turkey, saving both from falling into unfriendly hands, and thereafter the United States relied mainly on economic assistance to support its foreign policy. But, the keystone of this policy, and its greatest success, was the European Recovery Program, usually called the Marshall Plan, where,In 1948, Congress created the ‘Economic Cooperation Administration’ and over the next five years poured some $13 billion worth of aid into western Europe. (Assistance was offered to Eastern-bloc countries also, but they were forced by Stalin to decline.) The plan restored economic vitality and confidence to the region, while undermining the local communist parties. This policy, known as Containment, a term suggested by its principal framer, George F. Kennan, resulted in the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, as well as in the decision to make the western zones of Germany (later West Germany) a pillar of strength. A logical culmination of this policy of the U.S. was the creation in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance among 12 (later 16) nations to resist Soviet aggression. The U.S followed containment in Korea, Nuclear-Proliferation, Space-Race, Science and Technology, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan and these big global changes during these years saw the world transition from a bipolar world to a multipolar world. While the United States remains a strong power economically and militarily, rising nations such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia as well as a united Europe have challenged its dominance.

Etymology of ‘The Policy of Containment’

The subsequent events following the 1917 Boslshevik Revolution in Russia, there were calls by Western leaders to isolate the Bolshevik government, which seemed intent on promoting worldwide revolution through the ideology of Communism. In March 1919, French Premier Georges Clemenceau called for a ‘cordon sanitaire’ (Sanitary Cordon), a ring of non-communist states, to isolate the Soviet Union. Translating that phrase, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called for a 'quarantine.' Both phrases compare communism to a contagious disease. While the United States was confluencing countries for the establishment of World Bank and the IMF, the Soviet Union was fully opposing both monetary bodies, claiming they were governed in order to exemplify the superiority of the US and for the completion of their national interest motives through economic subjugation and domination. Because containment required detailed information about Communist moves, the government relied increasingly on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Established by the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA conducted espionage in foreign lands, some of it visible, more of it secret. Truman approved a classified statement of containment policy called NSC 20/4 in November 1948, the first comprehensive statement of security policy ever created by the United States. The Soviet Union's first nuclear test in 1949 prompted the National Security Council to formulate a revised security doctrine. Completed in April 1950, it became known as NSC 68. It concluded that a massive military buildup was necessary to deal with the Soviet threat.

Here it is necessary to bring into the limelight George Frost Kennan, (February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005) who was an American diplomat and historian. He was best known as an advocate of a policy of containment of Soviet expansion during the Cold War. He lectured widely and wrote scholarly histories of the relations between the USSR and the United States. He was also one of the group of foreign policy elders known as 'The Wise Men' (Walter Issacson’s book on eminent US leader and East Coast foreign policy officials)[footnoteRef:3]. He was the US ambassador to the Soviet Union under the Truman reign. During the late 1940s, his writings and the efforts of then US Secretary of State George C. Marshall, followed by Dean Acheson inspired the Truman Doctrine and the U.S. foreign policy of 'containing' the Soviet Union. His 'Long Telegram' from Moscow during 1946 and the subsequent 1947 article ‘the Long Telegram’ The Sources of Soviet Conduct (under the pseudonym Mr. X) argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be 'contained' in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States. These texts provided justification for the Truman administration's new anti-Soviet policy. Kennan played a major role in the development of definitive Cold War programs and institutions, notably the Marshall Plan.

The Truman Doctrine

The geopolitical expansion by the Soviet Union during Cold War, needed to be countered by American foreign policy measures that not only heeded economic, military support, geopolitical restructuring and financing of its allies, but also the ideological and social assistance through multilateral cooperation. Then came the ‘Truman Doctrine’, under Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972), who was the 33rd president of the United States (1945–1953), succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt after serving as vice president. He implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.[footnoteRef:4] To pass any legislation Truman needed the support of the Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress. Truman laid the groundwork for his request by having key congressional leaders meet with himself, Secretary of State George Marshall, and Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson. Acheson laid out the 'domino theory' in the starkest terms, comparing a communist state to a rotten apple that could spread its infection to an entire barrel. Republican leader were impressed, and advised Truman to appear before Congress and famously have saud to 'scare the hell out of the American people.'

On March 12, 1947, Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress. In his eighteen-minute speech, he stated: “I believe 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 outcome of this strategy was the European Recovery Program, usually called the Marshall Plan, where,In 1948, Congress created the ‘Economic Cooperation Administration’ and over the next five years poured some $13 billion worth of aid into western Europe.

‘Case Studies’ of the Policy of Containment

The Korean War:

In the Soviet Korean Zone of Occupation, the Soviet Union established a communist government led by Kim Il-sung. The resultant South Korean government promulgated a national political constitution on 17 July 1948, and elected Syngman Rhee as president on 20 July 1948. The U.S. followed containment when it entered the Korean War to defend South Korea from a communist invasion by North Korea. General Douglas MacArthur then advanced across the 38th parallel into North Korea. The Chinese then sent in a large army and defeated the U.N. forces, pushing them below the 38th parallel. That interpretation allowed the episode to be used to confirm the wisdom of the containment doctrine as opposed to rollback. The Communists were later pushed back to around the original border. Truman blamed MacArthur's focus on victory and adopted a 'limited war' policy.


In the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the top officials in Washington debated using rollback to get rid of Soviet nuclear missiles, which were threatening the United States. There was fear of a nuclear war until a deal was reached in which the Soviets would publicly remove their nuclear weapons, the United States would secretly remove its missiles from Turkey and to avoid invading Cuba. The policy of containing Cuba was put into effect by President John F. Kennedy and continued until 2015.


During the presidential elections of 1964 in the United States, the Vietnam war had already been going on for nine years and Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democratic nominee, won by a wide margin through the endorsement of the policy of Containment, especially during the Vietnam War. He rejected the proposals by General William Westmoreland for U.S. ground forces to advance into Laos and cut communist supply lines, Johnson gathered a group of elder statesmen called The Wise Men. The group included Kennan, Acheson and other former Truman advisors. Nixon, who replaced Johnson in 1969, referred to his foreign policy as détente, a relaxation of tension. Although it continued to aim at restraining the Soviet Union, it was based on political realism, thinking in terms of national interest, as opposed to crusades against communism or for democracy.


President Jimmy Carter came to office in 1977 and was committed to a foreign policy that emphasized human rights. However, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, containment was again made a priority. The wording of the Carter Doctrine (1980) intentionally echoed that of the Truman Doctrine.

Aftermath: Fall of the Soviet Communism

The two-decades-long war that followed the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had resulted in the comprehensive destruction of its state institutions, armed forces, and national economy. Further, fifteen years after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, U.S. and allied (including Afghan) forces have dismantled, for the most part, the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan that attacked the U.S. homeland on that fateful day. The precarious state of affairs suggests that the United States and its allies—who together contribute more than $5 billion annually in civilian assistance to Kabul—have to make important decisions on how best to support Afghanistan going forward. In fact, U.S. choices about its future involvement in the country remain arguably the most crucial external factor in the evolution of both the conflict and the Afghan state.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Communist Party in the Soviet Union rapidly gained wealth and power while millions of average Soviet citizens faced starvation. The Soviet Union’s push to industrialize at any cost resulted in frequent shortages of food and consumer goods. Bread lines were common throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Soviet citizens often did not have access to basic needs, such as clothing or shoes.

In the 1980s, the United States under President Ronald Reagan isolated the Soviet economy from the rest of the world and helped drive oil prices to their lowest levels in decades. When the Soviet Union’s oil and gas revenue dropped dramatically, the USSR began to lose its hold on Eastern Europe.

Political revolution in Poland in 1989 sparked other, mostly peaceful revolutions across Eastern European states and led to the toppling of the Berlin Wall. By the end of 1989, the USSR had come apart at the seams. On December 25, Gorbachev resigned as leader of the USSR. The Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 31, 1991 and the end of the Cold War in 1991 marked the official end of the containment policy.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union into separate nations, and the re-emergence of the nation of Russia, the world of pro-U.S. and pro-Soviet alliances broke down. Different challenges presented themselves, such as climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism. After the end of the Cold War, many scholars like Zbigniew Brzezinski claimed that the lack of a new strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy resulted in many missed opportunities for its foreign policy. The United States mostly scaled back its foreign policy budget as well as its cold war defense budget during the 1990s, which amounted to 6.5% of GDP while focusing on domestic economic prosperity under President Clinton, who succeeded in achieving a budget surplus for 1999 and 2000. by 1989 the U.S. held military alliances with 50 countries, and had 526,000 troops posted abroad in dozens of countries, with 326,000 in Europe (two-thirds of which in west Germany) and about 130,000 in Asia (mainly Japan and South Korea). The Cold War also marked the apex of peacetime military-industrial complexes, especially in the United States, and large-scale military funding of science. These complexes, though their origins may be found as early as the 19th century, have grown considerably during the Cold War. The military-industrial complexes have great impact on their countries and help shape their society, policy and foreign relations. There came spirit of a great power cooperation they hoped might materialize. Historians will look back and say this was no ordinary time but a defining moment: an unprecedented period of global change, and a time when one chapter ended and another began.


Containment was a foreign policy strategy followed by the United States during the Cold War. First laid out by George F. Kennan in 1947, the policy stated that communism needed to be contained and isolated, or else it would spread to neighboring countries. American foreign policy advisors believed that once one country fell to communism, each surrounding country would fall as well, like a row of dominoes. This view was known as the Domino theory. Adherence to the policy of containment and domino theory ultimately led to U.S. intervention in Vietnam as well as in Central America and Grenada.

The Cold War began after World War Two when nations formerly under Nazi rule ended up split between the conquests of the U.S.S.R. and the newly freed states of France, Poland, and the rest of Nazi-occupied Europe. Since the United States had been a key ally in liberating western Europe, it found itself deeply involved in this newly divided continent: Eastern Europe wasn't being turned back into free states, but rather being placed under the military and political control of the Soviet Union.

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The policy of containment was adopted by President Harry Truman as part of his Truman Doctrine in 1947, which redefined America's foreign policy as one that supports the 'free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.' This came at the height of the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949 when much of the world was waiting to see which direction Greece and Turkey would go, and the United States agreed to help both countries to avoid the possibility that the Soviet Union would lead them to communism. It included strategically enduring initiatives, for instance, the establishment of NATO, US involvement in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the fall of Soviet Communism and depletion of the bi-polar world. It also paved the way to a potential a multipolar world, one where a small number of large regions develop increasingly distinctive models of politics, society, economics, finance and technology.

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The Policy Containment And Globalization In Truman Doctrine. (2021, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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