Greek communists do not want to see “Harry Truman” in the Aegean. In their opinion, his appearance there in the current situation is fraught with the involvement of their country in hostilities in Ukraine.
Of course, in this case it is correct to write that the Greeks do not want to see the Truman, since we are talking about an American aircraft carrier that came to the area of the island of Lemnos to send fighters to Romania. But geopolitics has its own grammar. The warship is the embodiment of the doctrine bearing the same name and proclaiming, in fact, America’s readiness to establish its order thousands of miles from its own shores.
Calculating ” charity “
75 years ago, on March 12, 1947, the 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, delivered a speech to Congress demanding funds to prevent the growth of the influence of communists and other leftist forces in Greece and Turkey. In essence, it was about direct American interference in other people’s internal affairs, but, as usual, everything was dressed in beautiful words.
“I believe that US policy should be to support free peoples who resist attempts at enslavement by armed minorities or under pressure from outside,” said the owner of the White House. “I believe that we should help free peoples determine their own destiny. I believe that our support should be provided predominantly in the form of economic and financial assistance necessary for economic stability and orderly political processes.”
These theses were later perceived as the quintessence of the “Truman Doctrine”. And since a little earlier, his chief foreign policy adviser, Dean Acheson, frightened legislators with stories that communists should never be allowed to lead anywhere, since, they say, the whole cart dies from one “rotten apple”, the origins of the so-called domino theory in geopolitics. The president mentioned in his speech that “if Greece and Turkey are not helped at this fateful hour, the consequences will be far-reaching both in the West and in the East.”
By the way, according to today’s commentators, in those years such statements at the highest level seemed bold to the point of radicalism. Truman was even reproached for the abuse of “rhetoric”. He justified himself: they say, the leaders of the legislators themselves asked him to focus on threats so that people would get through. Judge for yourself in what direction not only politics, but also its lexicon has changed since then, if now the same words seem to us quite harmless and even insipid.
Be that as it may, the President of the United States then solved his immediate task. Considerable even in today’s times, but then just astronomical money – $ 400 million! — were singled out and played their part. Greece and Turkey remained in the Western camp, which, in fact, was required by their Washington “benefactors”.
Origins of the Cold War
The longer term effects are also well known. With regard to Moscow, yesterday’s ally of Washington in the victorious anti-Hitler coalition, the containment strategy was adopted. Within its framework, the West began to fence itself off from the USSR with an iron curtain, and to equip its own controlled territory in Europe with the help of the financial and economic “Marshall Plan”. In the military-political sphere, NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was created in 1949 in the American capital to carry out the same strategy.
Therefore, in historiography, it is customary to associate the beginning of the Cold War with Truman’s speech, which underlay all these efforts. Although a year earlier – on March 5, 1946 – Winston Churchill made a different speech: just about the Iron Curtain that descended on Europe “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.”
This is actually also the right starting point. You just have to remember that at the time of his speech, Churchill was no longer Prime Minister of Great Britain, but was in the United States on vacation as an honored guest. It was not by chance that he read his text, which was included in the annals, in Fulton (Missouri), i.e. in Truman’s homeland; By the way, they went there together.
Finally, the main thing was that both speeches reflected the change in the balance of power in the post-war world, the nomination of Washington to the position of the undisputed leader of the West in the same cold war. Churchill spoke of the “peak of power” of the United States, which, by the way, eight months earlier, used nuclear weapons for the first (and, hopefully, last) time in world history. Truman, on the other hand, reminded Congress that Britain, due to its own acute post-war financial and economic difficulties, was forced to immediately “reduce or wind down its obligations in several parts of the world, including Greece.” With his speech, he actually put forward US claims to global dominance, while the former Washington “Monroe Doctrine” was limited to the Western Hemisphere.
In general, Washington and London, of course, acted as a tandem. In hindsight, there were even suggestions that Churchill’s “semi-official” speech, unequivocally perceived in Moscow as a call by the West to war against the USSR and securing the role of arbiters of the destinies of the world for the English-speaking nations, could be a kind of trial balloon launched in the interests of the American partner.
While I personally doubt that Truman could have manipulated Churchill, quite the contrary. The American, although he was only ten years younger than the British, could not be compared with him either in terms of experience in public administration, or in personal political weight and authority, and even more so in oratory. He himself was perfectly aware of this report, which I will say later.
Another thing is that the British Empire, which used to proudly call itself “the mistress of the seas”, by that time was frankly yielding its positions to the new overseas hegemon. And Truman, of course, also understood this very well. After all, in the same doctrinal speech, he, in fact, outlined the limits of the power of the decrepit British sovereign.
By the way, the word “mistress” in the arrogant British self-identification is usually explained by the first line of their patriotic anthem: Rule, Britannia! But now I remember rather the greedy old woman of Pushkin, who desired to be the mistress of the sea.
” Straight to the Jaw “
If there was anything that really made Washington and London related, it was the desire for world domination and hatred for those who could interfere with them. Truman, for example, was proud of the fact that almost immediately after taking the highest state post, he received the head of the USSR Foreign Ministry, Vyacheslav Molotov, with extreme hostility.
Truman became President of the United States on April 12, 1945, following the sudden death of his predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). And already on April 23, the Soviet minister, who until March of that year was called People’s Commissar, arrived at the White House to meet with the new American leader.
According to the history.com network channel, “Truman then immediately attacked Molotov,” claiming that the Soviet leadership was not keeping its word and was violating its obligations. “At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been spoken to in such a tone; Truman parried the attack, saying that you must keep your word, then they won’t talk to you like that,” the publication states. “Molotov slammed the door, and Truman was very pleased with himself and later told a friend that he had met a Soviet official “straight to the jaw. The President was convinced that this was the only way to talk hard with the Communists, and this American approach to the Soviets became dominant in the early stages of the Cold War.”
” Zigzag of Luck “
By the time he assumed the highest government post in the United States, Truman had served as vice president for only 82 days. In his previous life, nothing prepared him for such a “zigzag of luck”. A new political biography of him, written by New York journalist Jeffrey Frank and out of print on March 8, is entitled The Trials of Harry Truman: An Ordinary Man’s Extraordinary Presidency.
How ordinary the 33rd President of the United States really was is an open question. The New Yorker magazine, in a review of the same book, recalls that “in 1953, when Truman moved out of the White House, his rating was lower than that of Donald Trump” in the same circumstances just over a year ago. But historians now “put him in the category of near-great presidents, next in line to Washington, Lincoln and FDR.”
Formally, there really were no signs of greatness. Truman did not graduate not only from university, but also from college, before entering politics he was a farmer, haberdashery owner and district judge, and in 1934, at the age of 50, he won election to the US Senate from his provincial state. Yes, and his Senate career was remembered only by the struggle for the purity of military contracts.
Therefore, according to Frank, Truman himself was taken aback when, in the 1944 election, Roosevelt decided to make him his vice president. By all accounts, this “Missouri Compromise” was the result of a backroom deal at the top of the Democratic Party: other challengers seemed either too liberal, like former FDR running mate Henry Wallace, or, conversely, too reactionary. And this one was “none”, that is, not causing any special objections.
The Buck Stops Here
As a result, having taken the presidency after Roosevelt’s death, Truman himself even admitted to his friends that the position was “too big” for him. And to the press corps at the White House, on his first day on the job, he said: “I don’t know if you newspapermen pray at all. But if you do, please pray for me.”
And then he often not only in word, but also in deed demonstrated humility unusual for his status. For example, he himself considered it expedient that the plan for the post-war reconstruction of Western Europe should bear the name not of the president, but of US Secretary of State George Marshall. Because he realized that the name of a popular combat general would help get this very expensive program through Congress. Now, by the way, Washington’s European allies are proposing to draw up a new “Marshall plan for the restoration of Ukraine.”
The West blames Russia for the death of the Minsk agreements, but Ukraine killed them
For all that, perhaps the most famous quote associated with Truman’s name reads: The buck stops here. The 33rd President of the United States kept a tablet with this inscription on his desktop. The direct meaning of the phrase from the everyday life of gamblers is that there is nowhere to pass, to pass the move to another player.
And the owner of the table, according to his biographers, understood it in the same spirit in which we talk about Monomakh’s hat: that he has no one to shift responsibility to, the last word is his. According to his own diary entries, it often seemed to him that two people were sitting at the same table at the same time: one was an ordinary man Harry Truman, the other was the President of the United States.
Who cares, but I rather like such a consciousness of responsibility for my actions. Although Frank, for example, claims that the decision to atomic bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki “was, in practice, made for him”, i.e. for Truman, others. Almost until Roosevelt’s death, he himself was allegedly kept in the dark about the fact that the United States had nuclear weapons.
One way or another, in world history, he still remains the only leader who has used such a weapon. This, of course, is a gloomy page of his legacy, but it is not entirely reduced to it. The entire world order that emerged as a result of the Second World War was formed under him. And the key institutions of this order – from the UN, the IMF and the World Bank to the same NATO – turned out to be very stable.
Only now, practically before our very eyes, is Russia fighting to create a new system of common and indivisible security. And this is only because the doctrine of “limited sovereignty” of other countries, the creation of which the US agitprop once attributed to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, was in fact imposed on the world by the Americans both before and after the USSR. Truman, by the way, had a hand in this not only with his nominal doctrine, but also with the fact that under him the current American power structures were established – from the Department of Defense and the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces to the National Security Council and the CIA.
Why is Maidan better than capturing Congress?
I would like to believe that the fruit of the current Russian efforts will be the establishment of a more just and lasting peace. But there are no guarantees yet, and the idea of the foundations of such a world in Moscow and Washington is still very different, not to say opposite. And, of course, perhaps the main question is whether today’s politicians on both sides of the Atlantic will be able to come to an agreement for the common good.
To confidently build the future, it is necessary to properly understand the past. Russian President Vladimir Putin constantly reminds of this in his speeches and articles on historical topics, but this task is by no means only for our country. This is understood by many across the ocean.
Generational change in politics:
Let me cite as an example a recent essay by Colorado College political scientist David Hendrickson in the National Interest magazine about “how the West got tangled up with Russia and Ukraine.” Calling America’s “original sin” support for the anti-constitutional coup of 2014 in Kyiv, the author draws an interesting comparison with the seizure of the main building of the US Congress by supporters of President Trump on January 6 last year.
“How can something so obviously wrong in America be absolutely right in Ukraine?” asks an American specialist. what America’s wisest leaders have always taught us about the sanctity of elections and a peaceful transfer of power?”
The answer for the author is obvious: no way! And certain conclusions follow from this. Referring to the famous dispute in American political science, during which it was proved back in the 19th century that no state can participate in the adoption of the general laws of the country, but refuse to apply them to itself, i.e. be both in the legal field and outside it, Hendrickson argues that this is exactly what happened eight years ago in Ukraine.
There, as he recalls, “a crowd of 500,000 protesters changed power in a country with a population of 45 million people” and thereby “annulled the constitution.” In these circumstances, “if Western Ukrainians had the right to take up arms, which they essentially did, then doesn’t it follow that Eastern Ukrainians had the same right?” the expert asks.
As for the issues of territorial integrity and external interference, they, according to him, “in this case are completely subordinate to the question of whether the inhabitants of Crimea and the quasi-states (statelets) of Donbass had the right to declare their independence.” If so – and the author himself believes that this is the case – then “the assistance provided to them by Russia was not illegal – at least, no more than the US assistance to the revolution on Euromaidan.”
In fairness, it must be added that Hendrickson categorically rejects and condemns the current special military operation of Russia in Ukraine. But this does not change the essence of his political analysis. And in assessing the right of people to self-determination, he has many like-minded people.
For example, a couple of years ago, his colleague Richard Kreitner, in his book “Crush it: Secession, Discord, and the Secret History of the Imperfect American Union,” pointed out that ideas of separatism have accompanied the United States as long as the country has existed. Actually, they appeared in the New World even earlier, since even the Puritan Pilgrims who formed the British colony in Plymouth called themselves separatists, emphasizing independence from the Anglican Church.
” Dirty Presidency “
However, these are all theories, although interesting ones. And for Biden, according to American observers, Truman’s experience is relevant now and in practice. The Atlantic magazine, for example, is sure that it is time for the current American leader to “light a candle in the altar of Harry Truman, the patron saint of those whose presidency is stuck in the mud.”
And it’s not just low ratings. Commentators see political and even personal similarities between the current American leader and his longtime predecessor and fellow party member. Over Biden, for example, it is customary to laugh at his public verbal blunders. But under Truman in the United States, there was an expression in general: To err is Truman – a paraphrase of the well-known maxim (to err is human) that it is human to err.
The current president of the United States has to work in the conditions of a frenzied anti-Russian hysteria, which the White House partly spurs on itself, and partly still tries to keep in check. Under Truman, the political atmosphere was similar: McCarthyism reigned across the ocean, unbridled anti-communist and anti-Soviet “witch hunts.”
And the role of the chief of staff was also ambiguous: for example, not Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, but Democratic President Harry Truman then established a loyalty program for federal employees. Political opponents accused him of softness towards Moscow, just as Biden is now blamed. But the owner of the White House parried the attacks and, for example, in 1950 said at a press conference: “I think the Kremlin’s most valuable asset is Senator McCarthy.”
Who will deal with whom
Ultimately, Truman managed to reverse the skepticism of American voters and in 1948, contrary to all forecasts, he achieved re-election (the main lesson for Biden is seen in this). By the way, four years later he had the right to run for another term, but he preferred to resign his presidential powers. He believed that he left on time, and was rewarded with a good reception from fellow countrymen in his small homeland.
But the US policy, including the course towards global dominance, has not changed much since then. Truman’s successor, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, who served as NATO’s first commander-in-chief before coming to the White House, tightened “containment” as president, authorized “regime change” operations in various countries, including Cuba and Iran, and was the first to formulate the “domino principle” in relation to Indochina , where the Yankees then got bogged down in military swamps for a long time.
And after the collapse of the USSR, they, with their alliances and raking hands, reached the post-Soviet states, including Ukraine. Washington does not hide the fact that they intend to finally deal with Russia and then seriously take up China. But this, as they say, we’ll see who will deal with whom.