How the Marshall Plan Created the Cold War
After World War II in 1947, Western Europe was in an economic downfall: these countries within it were deteriorating, and the spread of communism was on the rise. During this time, the United States Secretary of State, George Marshall, came up with the Marshall Plan otherwise known as the European Recovery Program (ERP). This was a plan to revitalize Western Europe’s economy and make it stable again by the help and funding from the United States. Not all countries were in favor of this, especially the Soviet Union. The implementation of the Marshall Plan in Western Europe, leads me to the question: How different were the assessments of this plan between the United States and the Soviet Union? Why in history are we only taught the one sides view and never the others? This paper analyzes the United States and the Soviet Union’s outlook on this pressing matter.
In 1947 Secretary of State George Marshall drafted the Marshall Plan, which the United States viewed as a positive way to help restore Western Europe, after the destruction it went through during World War II. As bonus it would help them limit the spread of communism. The article The Marshall Plan and How It Works states that the purpose of the Marshall Plan is as follows, “the ultimate goal of The Marshall Plan is to promote industrial and agricultural production in these European countries, to aid in restoring sound currencies, budgets and finances, and to foster the growth of international through all appropriate measures including reduction of barriers which may hamper such trade.””. The United States was allowed to exceed no more than $4,300,000,000 in aid to Western Europe. In June of 1947, George Marshall visited Harvard and gave a speech about this matter. He wanted educate intellectual people about this first hand, other than what they read in the newspaper. During his speech a specific portion of it stands out when Marshall declares that, “Any government which maneuvers to block the recovery of other countries cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States”. To a historian such as myself, he is saying the United States is going to do this no matter what the Soviet Union (and other communist countries) has to say about this, and if they get in our way we won’t back down. The implementation of this plan seems like a moral thing to do, is it not? That is the point, the government of the United States, and its’ citizens of it see it as a very positive thing to do for those countries in Western Europe who are in dire need of such help. Do not forget that this is just the view of the United States and its people, not the view of the countries in Europe. The only nation to publicly show their personal view of this plan being implemented in Western Europe, was the Soviet Union.
In the article New Evidence on the Soviet Rejection of the Marshall Plan, from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for the Cold War International History project. It talks about both sides (U.S and USSR) opinions pertaining to this matter. This article was written by two different authors; Scott D. Parrish from the University of Texas in Austin, and Mikhail M. Narinsky from the Institute of Universal History, Moscow. Two historians from two different nations, both having different views on the implementation of the Marshall Plan. In this historiography we will look at both of these historians’ arguments, comparing and contrasting their arguments in order to further understand why the United States and the Soviet Union’s viewpoint of The Marshall Plan differed so much.
In Scott D. Parrish’s portion of this article, he starts off right away by stating “U.S. government officials viewed Moscow’s response to the Marshall Plan as additional evidence of inherent Soviet hostility and aggressiveness”, the United States saw this as an act of aggression that could lead to war, when they were “only” trying to help repair Europe’s economy post WWII. Walter Bedell Smith, the American ambassador in Moscow during this time said the Soviet actions were “nothing less than a declaration of war by the Soviet Union on immediate issue of the control of Europe”, the United States is basically saying that the Soviet Union doesn’t want to participate because they wish to control Europe. Whereas George Kennan, one of the authors who contributed to writing the Marshall Plan saw the response of the Soviet Union “as a indicative of a Soviet Desire to seize the substantial industrial and human resources of Europe”. After the Soviet response the United States saw the Marshall Plan a crucial defensive step, “taken to prevent Soviet expansion into Western Europe”, they also feared that “the deteriorating economic situation in Western Europe could lead to communists coming to power in such countries as France and Italy”. In the United States point of view the implementation of the Marshall Plan was the correct thing to do, not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of Europe as well.
On the other hand, the Soviets had a completely different view on this matter than the United States did. In Mikhail M. Narinsky’s portion of this article he starts off by stating that “The Marshall Plan proposed to exploit East European raw material resources for the rehabilitation of Western Europe”, in a sense he is saying that they are taking materials that are within the Soviets sphere of influence that they gained through WWII and will be using them to fix Western Europe. Nikolai V. Novikov, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, sent a telegram to Molotov on June 24 that said”…the process of democratization in European countries, to stimulate forces hostile to the Soviet Union and to create conditions for the buttressing of the positions of American capital in Europe and Asia remain without any substantial change […] it is directed toward the establishment of West European bloc as an instrument of American policy”, this was an interesting point simply because it shows how the United States in the perspective of the Soviets were trying to make the transition in Europe to a more democratic political party while trying to encourage hostility towards the Soviet Union. This was a big problem for the Soviets because their political party was communism, and if their communist sphere of influence dwindles they will lose the states in which they are in control of, resulting in a loss of power. From the perspective of the Soviet Union you can now understand how they did not just see The Marshall Plan as a plan with the only intention to fix the European economy but more so as a plan with the full intentions of weakening the Soviet Union in the process, which it very much was.
When you look at both of these historians arguments, you can see how different the United States and the Soviet Union viewed the Marshall Plan. While the United States saw it as a great foreign policy; that would help strengthen the European, you don’t realize how much this plan would also help strengthen the United States economy as well. When in the end after the economy of Europe is in the hands of the United States, it would then become solely dependent on the nations that are a part of it, including the United States there for being very beneficial for them too, economically and politically. When the Soviet Union did not want to participate the United States, saw this as an act of aggression which then led to the plans defensive measures being incorporated into Europe which was limiting the power of the Soviet Union (communism). The Soviet Union knew that this plan would strengthen the United States economy as well as their political power with other nations in Europe, which in their eyes this ‘good dead’ would pull nations away from them. Thus weakening the Soviet Union. They did not want to be a part of a plan that would not be as beneficial to them as it would be to other countries. Keep in mind the Soviet Union was not receiving reparations like the other countries were, nor did they want to see Germany rise back to power after the last two consecutive world wars that Germany played a key role in. So it is very understandable why the Soviet Union did not want to participate in this plan, nor see it be incorporated into Europe when they thought that it should be only the Nations within Europe creating a plan to fix this without help from outside nations.
Historiography is the study of history, and it is a very important concept to understand. Once this is understood, you gain a deeper comprehension of the different views that nations have on certain events in history. As you can now see that the implementation of the Marshall Plan, sparked significantly different viewpoints between the United States and the Soviet Union. What arose from those different viewpoints, was nothing but sever amounts of tension. When comparing and contrasting the different views between these two countries, it is now apparent to me that no country was more wrong for the other. Both countries had very different reasoning for their actions which derived from their completely different viewpoints on The Marshall Plan. Friedrich Nietzsche once said “there are no facts, only interpretations” that quote suits this very well, both of these countries had very different interpretations on this matter.
The Soviet Union was given a chance to participate in the Marshall Plan to help restore the economy, but then decided to withdraw from their involvement. During this time, Andrei Vyshinsky, who was a very powerful Soviet politician, wrote a very powerful document called A Soviet Criticism of The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, which showed why the Soviet Union viewed the incorporation of this plan in Western Europe was such an unscrupulous idea. Vyshinsky states right off the bat that, “The Soviets withdrew from participation in the Marshall Plan in part because they viewed American motives in rebuilding Western Europe, especially Germany, with suspicion. The plan threatened Soviet control of the eastern bloc as much as it renewed fears of German recovery and remilitarization.” Imagine living in the Soviet Union during WWII and everything they went through, this is more than a valuable excuse to not want to participate in such a plan. That was not the only reason why the Soviet Union did not want to be a part of this plan. Unlike how the United States viewed the Marshall Plan as a way of helping these countries, the Soviets viewed it as “attempts to impose its will on other independent states, while at the same time obviously using the economic resources distributed as relieve to individual needy nations as an instrument of political pressure.” This view was completely different compared to how the United States saw it. Vyshinsky later makes a valid argument by saying, “This policy conflicts sharply with the principle expressed by the General Assembly in its resolution of 11 December 1946, which declares that relief supplies to other countries “should… at no time be used as a political weapon.” This directly disobeyed what the General Assembly had said. As you can see both of these country’s viewpoints on the Marshall Plan are 100% opposite: the United States sees it as trying to help nations in need during a time of crisis, and the Soviet Union sees it as using resources as political pressure to essentially hand over their economy to them.
When observing an event in history, it is imperative to learn how both sides revolving around that said event react. This gives a firm understanding for both sides and makes understanding why they felt that way towards it. The Marshall Plan’s overall goal was to revive Western Europe’s economy, but when you compare and contrast these two county’s thoughts you realize that they are blatantly opposite and nothing good will come between the United States and the Soviet Union. If you look at another section of Marshall’s speech, he states, “The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products-principally from America-are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial addition help, or face economic, social and political deterioration of very grave character.” It is clear that this is very different than Soviets perspective, where they feel that the United States is using the Marshall Plan as an “instrument of political pressure,” and that they are not doing this under the right circumstances. The United States feels that they are just trying to revitalize Western Europe’s economy and get them back on their feet, which seems like they are doing this for a very good reason.
In contrast to that perspective, the Soviets believe that they are making the European countries that are in need of aid give away, “their inalienable rights to dispose of their economic resources and to plan their nation economy in their own way […] making all these countries directly dependent on the interests of American monopolies, which are striving to avert the approaching depression by an accelerated export of commodities and capital to Europe.” In short making Western Europe directly dependent on the United States. The Soviets also believe that, “this plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps and, with the help of the United Kingdom and France, to complete the formation of the bloc of several European counties hostile to the interests of the democratic countries of Eastern Europe and most particularly to the interests of the Soviet Union.” In other words the United States is trying to limit the spread of communism. Everlasting tension was created by the implementation of the Marshall Plan, between the United States and Soviet Union (now Russia) that still persists to this day.
In the end it’s very understandable why both of these nations had very different views on the Marshall Plan. Yes, the Marshall Plan seemed like a great idea, with great intentions but the result of this plan led to the Cold War which still to this day has created a significant amount of tension between the United States and Soviet Union. It is very interesting to me to see how many foreign policies result in war, even today. In the end it is clear to me that it is not people who start a war but the words written on a piece of paper that leads nations to war with each other.
Disclaimer: Professor Patterson, since I did not see any additional revisions on my rough draft for both my historiography that I revised, and my rough draft I hope it is okay that I will be submitting the same exact paper as I have previously submitted.
Franke, Gregory, Joanne D. Hartog, Daniel D. Holt, and Mark A. Stoler. “The Marshall Plan And How It Works.” George C. Marshall Reasearch Library Pamphlet Collectoin, n.d. http://marshallfoundation.org/library/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2014/06/The_Marshall_Plan_and_How_It_Works.pdf.
Marshall, George. “The Marshall Plan Speech | George C. Marshall,” June 1947. Accessed October 30, 2014. http://marshallfoundation.org/marshall/the-marshall-plan/marshall-plan-speech/.
Parrish, Scott D., and Mikhail M Narinsky. “New Evidence On The Soviet Rejection Of The Marshall Plan, 1947: Two Reports.” Woodrow Wilson Internation Center For Scholars, March 1994. Accessed December 8, 2014. http://wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACFB73.pdf.
Vyshinsky, Andrei. “Andrei Vyshinsky, A Soviet Criticism of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan,” September 18, 1947. Accessed September 29, 2014. http://slantchev.ucsd.edu/courses/nss/documents/vyshinsky-criticism-of-truman-doctrine.html.
 Gregory Franke et al., “The Marshall Plan And How It Works” (George C. Marshall Reasearch Library Pamphlet Collectoin, n.d.), http://marshallfoundation.org/library/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2014/06/The_Marshall_Plan_and_How_It_Works.pdf.
 George Marshall, “The Marshall Plan Speech | George C. Marshall,” June 1947, accessed October 30, 2014, http://marshallfoundation.org/marshall/the-marshall-plan/marshall-plan-speech/.
 Scott D. Parrish and Mikhail M Narinsky, “New Evidence On The Soviet Rejection Of The Marshall Plan, 1947: Two Reports” (Woodrow Wilson Internation Center For Scholars, March 1994), accessed December 8, 2014, http://wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACFB73.pdf.
 Smith to Secretary of State, 11 July 1947, in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1947, vol.3, p.327 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 197), 340-41. Volumes from this series will hereafter be referred to as FR, followed by the year, volume, and page number. See also harry S. Truman, Memoirs, vol.2, Years of Trial and Hope, 1946-1952(Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1956), 115-16. In Ibid.
 George F. Kennan, Memoirs, 1925-1950 (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967), 330. in Ibid.
 N. Novikov to Molotov, telegram, 24 June 1947, quoted in G. Takhnenko, “An Anatomy of a PoliticalDecision: Documents,” Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn 5 (may 1992), 121. in Ibid.
 Andrei Vyshinsky, “Andrei Vyshinsky, A Soviet Criticism of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan,” September 18, 1947, accessed September 29, 2014, http://slantchev.ucsd.edu/courses/nss/documents/vyshinsky-criticism-of-truman-doctrine.html.
 Marshall, “The Marshall Plan Speech | George C. Marshall.”
 Vyshinsky, “Andrei Vyshinsky, A Soviet Criticism of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan.”