World History

What were the effects of the Marshall Plan?
Answered by Discovery Channel
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  1. After World War II, much of Europe was suffering from dire economic conditions. In March 1947, President Truman announced the Truman Doctrine, which promised U.S. support to any country refusing to submit to an authoritarian regime. This change in U.S. foreign policy (which had previously been somewhat isolationist) resulted from the Greek civil war against the Communist Party, the Communist faction of which had been supported by the Soviet government.

    In June 1947, during the commencement address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall revealed a European aid strategy that would help the European economy recover -- this was known as the Marshall Plan. Congress passed an Economic Cooperation Act that authorized the plan in 1948 [source: Library of Congress]. The Soviet Union was asked to join the program, but the Soviets refused because they would have had to reveal their economic and industrial assets. Being the sole agent of the Marshall Plan (it was officially called the European Recovery Plan) gave the United States an advantage in its efforts to stop the spread of Communism in Europe.

    Increased American exports to Western Europe benefited U.S. industries, and America became the world's most important economic power. The Soviet Union battled the Marshall Plan with its own propaganda, distributed through the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), and created the Molotov Plan of relief grants to Eastern Bloc countries. Historians claim these conflicting programs probably increased Cold War tensions. By 1951, Western Europe's economy had recovered. The postwar cooperation between nations created conditions that eventually gave rise to the European Union (EU).

    At another Harvard commencement in 1972, German Chancellor Willy Brandt announced the creation of the German Marshall Fund. It is a transatlantic non-profit organization that honors the legacy of the Marshall Plan by making grants to foster international cooperation and convening meetings of policymakers.

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