tv Lectures in History U.S. Containment Strategy After World War II CSPAN March 13, 2021 8:00pm-8:56pm EST
period the us under president harry truman implemented a strategy called containment designed to check soviet expansion and influence around the globe. the strategy remained one of the dominant aspects of us foreign policy for more than four decades until the collapse of the soviet union in 1991. in 55 minutes the co-authors of the book landscapes for the people george alexander grant first chief photographer of the national park service show examples of his work and discuss his story with a park service historian and in two hours on real america. we take you back to the mid-20th century for several films about electricity and the power grid all right, so we have a lot to cover today. this is a very substantial lecture. so it's not the first time you've heard some of this and it's not the last time so don't fret if you feel that it's going to rapidly but i have to cover a lot of ground and the topic that we're dealing with today in this lecture is the american strategy
for consolidating their farm policy. with respect to the soviet union in that critical period 1940 to 1949 or 1950. um, if you need a two words sort of title, what we're dealing with is consolidation of control. and the implementation of a policy that will increasingly be termed. containment so the advent of the policy of containment in this critical three to four year period is what we've got to deal with today. you guys will remember that we left off last time talking about potsdam the potsdam conference of july 1945. what did the great powers agree to there? you will remember the basics? the great powers the the four occupying powers of germany agreed that they would they would they were before occupying powers. they would all have a zone of occupation. but they would work cooperatively in terminate to govern germany as a single unit. just just remember that they're gonna they had there's four
zones of occupation in germany, but those four states are going to work cooperatively to keep germany. not partition, but together as a single. political unit. do you see any tensions there any pitfalls of course obviously very difficult task. they would work together to dismantle german military power they agreed. they would break up the large industrial cartels. they would denoxify german society. they would re-educate german citizens. and they would do this on the basis of shared governance in germany. those were the principles at potsdam and we've seen that there were very serious difficulties right from the start in implementing the agreements made at pasta. so you see in the records that by night early 1946 beginning in 1946 american military officials and administrators and occupied germany writing back to washington very frustrated bitterly complaining about the behavior of the soviet union the soviet representatives in germany.
the russians it appeared were not going to treat germany as a single. a single nation and work cooperatively with the western states then the eyes of these american administrators they seem to be acting. unilaterally in germany especially in the area of reparations and dismantling of german economic assets. the american saw the russian behavior as predatory. i think that's a good word to describe their attitude. or at least the way the american saw russian behavior as predatory as dealing with germany as if it was conquered territory to be extracted and brought home. the soviets they felt were clearly going to operate an occupy germany in only in their own national interests and not in the cooperative interests of the four occupying powers as they had said they would at potstep. that was an american perception. was that the reality? well, this is the great question, but that was the
perception at work here. now it wasn't just in germany that trouble was brewing according to american officials. germany was was the main focus of these tensions early on but it wasn't just there american officials believe they saw a pattern emerging elsewhere and just very very quickly. they felt that there was soviet machinations in austria where there were also a joint occupying force there. the russians were maintaining very large military forces in austria. they felt as the americans looked at the map of europe that in yugoslavia, romania bulgaria poland that the russians were also beating up local communist party activists and making life very difficult for non communist political activity to occur. as they were supposed to have done. in greece a civil war had broken out that would pitted communists against royalists and the washington felt that surely the soviets were helping the communists there. and in the near east and turkey and in iran, there was tension and trouble a difficulty there as well. the soviets seemed to be seeking greater influence in that part of the world in the veneer east.
and in the eastern mediterranean where the british had once been so influential, but their power was shrinking and the united states feared the soviets would seek to fill what they perceived as a power gap or vacuum, okay. so what were the russians up to? what were they doing? was there a plan was there a blueprint were they following a very carefully thought out scheme? it depended in 1946 on who you asked. but it was george cannon's long telegram of february 1946, which you have been reading and will read continue continually read and reread as write your short essays on it. that seemed to offer. an explanation at a time when american policy was looking for an explanation of soviet behavior. it was written while canon as you know a second in command of the embassy in moscow it was at
a time when american official policy was still to cooperate with the soviets and the telegram made the argument that the soviet union was fundamentally, not a normal. with normal ambitions that it was abnormal. canon said the soviet leaders were. driven by and this i love this phrase a neurotic view of world affairs. you've seen that in the long telegram a neurotic view of world affairs. it's a very powerful characterization soviet leaders. he said we're paranoid they feared contact with the outside world. they feared foreign influence and interference at soviet affairs. and they consider the outside world kenans words evil hostile and menacing. that's pretty powerful stuff evil. soviet leaders, kennedy said conducted their work and this is the great a great turn of phrase. in an atmosphere of oriental
secretiveness and conspiracy your canon say what you will about is analysis and many people thought it was over overblown was an extraordinarily gifted writer and i think one of the reasons for the success of the long telegram was its powerfully argued. and articulated argument even so kenneth said although their anxious and worried and they hate the outside world and they think everyone else is evil even so they're going to go on the offensive. they're not going to withdraw behind a a screen a curtain and just and just restrain themselves. no, they're going to seek to address their security needs by not by pulling back but by strengthening their prestige strengthening their power and and the of the soviet union. how would they do this? they would be opportunistic they were going to look for. points of weakness in the american and western configuration of power there were going to look for the ripe fruit that was hanging that
might just fall into their laps. they were going to pick off a little weaklings of the pack. that was some of the idea here. they would use secret organizations and political fronts inside foreign countries to undermine political legitimacy of elected governments. they were going to exploit anticolonial sentiment in the empires of britain and france around the world. and above all they were going to impose an autarkic economic. closed system over that area that territory that they controlled. autarkic a closed economic system. this is a very important fear in the minds of many of the american leaders that if the soviet. control should expand. they would close off that territory to the interpenetration of free trade the exchange of goods and people and ideas across those boundaries. so the soviets wanted a closed system and that would deny the west access to resources and to
people and to to political space. so in general canon declared and this is some of his final flourishes and they're just worth repeating all i know you've been reading them carefully. also be efforts on the unofficial international plane will be negative and destructive. this is only in line. he says with the basic soviet instinct that there can be no compromise with rival power and that constructive work can start only when communist power is dominant. he says in summary, and here's the payoff. he concludes. we have here a political force committed fanatically. to the belief that with the us there can be no permanent modus vivendi. and that soviet leadership will be content only when our traditional way of life is destroyed. it's very stark. it's very black and white and we've debated and we'll continue to big weather. kennen's analysis was accurate. maybe he was wrong many scholars
have suggested that he overstated the case or that he was read incorrectly. that's what kenan would later claim. was it far too harsh a critique? was it dismissive of evidence that there might have been opportunities for cooperation will continue to discuss that in the in the next few weeks. but the point is that because of the difficulties that i've described a germany and in the near east and elsewhere in europe american leaders. wanted cannons analysis to be accurate. they believed it. they accepted it they felt. that it crystallized the international geopolitical situation very well and that it explains soviet behavior. that's the critical point american leaders and truman and his senior cabinet members. felt that this way of thinking about soviet behavior made sense that it's squared up with what they were seeing. elsewhere in germany and europe and the rest of the world
alrighty, well the big question then is what do we do about it? if we have the analysis down of what the soviets are like and what they're doing. what do we in? the united states do about what should our foreign policy to be? how should we meet this challenge? if the soviets are expansionist and aggressive what policies can we see is upon to to meet that challenge. how could the us push back? without pushing so hard that it might lead to outright conflict of war. now canon's telegram wasn't very helpful in that regard. right and you guys have to analyze. well, what policy recommendations does he make it's hard to extrapolate a little bit. later on about a year later. he would publish an essay called the sources of soviet conduct in which he he published it anonymously in the magazine called foreign affairs in july 1947. and there too. he he wasn't particularly detailed about what american policy should do, but what he says is quote the main element of any united states policy
toward the soviet union must be that of a long term patient. but firm and vigilant containment of russian expansive tendencies all right, so there's your answer. containment that's what america should pursue sounds great. but what did containment mean what did it require? how should american policy makers proceed? that was the great task of. us policy in this period from 1940 to 1949 1950 figuring out an answer to that question. how to translate the intellectual concept of containing soviet power into practical policy now it's tempting to think. that the truman said, all right get me containment on line one. you'll get me the envelope mark containment and to see what's in it so we can put that into play that they could just turn on the switch and they'd have a policy containment.
no. there was not a plan. there was not a blueprint called containment that couldn't just open the drawer and pull it out. so here it is. let's put that into operation. in this critical period this three or four year period i'm talking about american policymakers had to improvise. they had to kind of make it up as they went. they had some general guidance general ideas governing them, but they generally speaking had to had to work it out as they went. i think that's a critical point. we tend to think as we look back at the early cold war. it's been 60 years and it was a relatively very successful story for the united states anyway. that there must have been. a kind of coherence to that policy early on but there wasn't it was remarkably piecemeal and pasted together in reaction to various specific crises and problems. what is amazing? and it's it's not i don't think too extreme to use that word. what's amazing is how successful and how enduring that strategy was even though it emerged. in a someone improvisational manner dean atchison, who's one of the key architects of the
policies that will follow a containment. he titled his memoirs present at the creation. is one of the best memoir titles of all time and we all know what the creation was, but atchison was talking about the creation of what an american an american grand strategy for victory in the cold war and it was created in this period was put into practice and it was sustained for almost 50 years. so addison could look back with some pride that he was present at the creation of this grant strategy. alrighty, what was the grant strategy? what did it look like in practice? there's three areas where i want to suggest that this new us strategy for waging the cold war. can be can be seen emerging as americans began to feel towards a policy of containment taken together. they formed the policy of this that this period put into place. as i get into the details though
think to yourself was the united states intensifying. the cold war was the united states making the cold war worse. and putting into practice these policies does the united states must we as historians? essentially a sign a certain amount of responsibility to the united states for generating greater cold war tensions. is it possible the united states did in fact intensify and make worse the cold war make it impossible? to pursue a peaceful strategy of accommodation and cooperation that roosevelt had hoped for are these the policies that made the cold war last so long? just keep that be critical in your thinking as we're going along through these what appear to be like very successful policy initiatives. just also be critical to think well, what were the alternatives the the avenues that were missed the alternative possibilities? so the first arena i'm gonna talk about three. three areas first arena in which this shift away from a policy of cooperation with russia toward a
policy of confrontation. we've got to go back to germany. that's that's the focus of our first area. we see in germany if we look at german policy us german policy 1946 to 47 the united states through potsdam out the window. now they say they were they were pressured to do this by the russian misbehavior, but the fact is the united states gave up on potsdam quite early. there was a distinctive shift in so in us behavior in this period and we can see it play out in a number of very specific areas. what are some of the examples of shift in american behavior away from the cooperative language of potsdam? towards what amounts to a us focused strategy for making germany a pro-western state that will eventually emerge as the state of west germany. one example of this growing lenience in us policy concern concerns denotification you recall that the occupying powers had agreed to rip out all vestiges of nazi control nazi nazism from defeated germany and they were going to punish those
who had waged aggressive war in europe. now the occupying powers did set up the international military tribunal at nuremberg and they tried 22 leading german nazi generals and ministers in late 1945 into 1946. but what about the millions of nazi party adherence in germany? during the war what should become of them? what about the talented administrators the bureaucrats the technicians? the elites the educated those who had supported the third reich, but who were essential to making? occupied germany function getting the lights turned on. what about them? were they all to be pushed out of their jobs where they all just to be sort of set aside. while occupy germany slipped into chaos the answer that the united states gave 1946 was no. we're not going to do that. and us policy in fact sought to limit the scope of denoxification in 1945 and 46.
they granted amnesties to millions of people who were former party members and they handed over in fact responsibility for denotification to the germans themselves. i said, you know, this is too complicated. it's too much work. i don't germans handle this problem but himself well, how effective do you think that was was rather ineffective? why did they do this? was this a sign the united states suddenly had become sympathetic to the objectives of third reich, of course not nothing to do with that. it was a question of moving forward rapidly to create economic and political stability inside occupy germany and their zones. do notification was going to get in the way of that plan. another example of the shift in us policy the agreements. at potsdam you spoke remember that spoken about breaking up the great industrial cartels that have been so vital to enhancing german economic power in the third reich. they had agreed to break up these big economic concerns, but by 1946 the united states too
begins to do to ratchet back the the pace at which decartellization. is moving forward they begin to slow their efforts to break up great big german industries. why do they do that? obviously because they want to generate economic development and growth more than they want to break up the great big german cartels. they have to choose between a policy of punishment and control that was outlined at potsdam and a forward-looking policy. that's more in line with what canon is talking about, which is we've got to get germany back up and it's feet because that's going to be the front on which we build our containment policy. on the political front us authorities allowed german political parties to begin to form and to hold elections local elections in january 1946 in the us zone and those local elections put christian democrats. that is a center-right-wing political organism political party favorable to american interests into local positions of power and influence.
so americans again are moving a little bit forward to create self-sustaining political institutions inside their zone. not focusing on the cooperative policy. of potsdam and in may 1946 the kicker the head of the us military administration in occupied germany general lucius clay decides. look, it's time to stop letting the russians have reparations at least from the western part of germany. so he stops the delivery of reparations from the western zones. to into russian hands may 46. this is a major poke in the eye to the russians. they say look this is one thing that we feel we earned. we feel we've earned reparations from germany. and now you are stopping us gaining that access to those reparations. clay said look, it's just not consistent with our policy of trying to create some sort of political and economic order in germany. we can't be ripping out its guts while we're trying to rebuild. it doesn't make sense. but think about early it is may
46 the united states a year ago a year earlier was busily destroying all of germany in the last the tail end of the second world war. so we see that us policy by the middle of 1946 had shifted in germany. it had shifted. decisively from a policy of hard. peace. and control to a policy that is more constructive more consistent with american economic interests. the united states has by this time very early on rejected a policy of what about the servitude of germany? servitude of defeated germany what? maybe this was a wise choice. indeed, i think. judgment of history is probably this was a wise choice, but this was not what was agreed to and it opened the way for the soviets to harsh the criticize american behavior in germany, they could now say look at what you're doing there. look at all these fronts on which you're moving inconsistent with our agreements. you're the bad guys. so now we're going to take our action americans felt.
it was just the opposite. no, we were reacting to soviet behavior. it's a chicken and egg question to us to a large extent. but the point that i want you to in this lecture to focus on is americans had made their choice. they made a choice that they were going to move ahead with restoring order in germany regardless of the political consequences. that's a decisive turning point, and it comes very early on in this story of the cold war. any questions so far? it's you know, i think we've gone through some of these details, but if there's any concerns you have any issues at this point, feel free. or good on occupy, germany okay, the second area the second key building block of america the consolidation of american control and the building of the policy of containment. concerns what it concerns the restoration of the european economy. so we're moving the focus out a little bit away from just on germany. focusing on europe as a whole and again i want to stress again. i feel this is important.
i i the sounds as if there was a coherent plan, but in reality we're dealing with a somewhat piecemeal some what reactive set of policies driven by growing distrust of the soviet union to be sure but there is an improvisational quality to american policy 1946 and 47 and a good example of this almost impulsive quality. to american policy comes in the spring of 1947 what happens in the spring of 1947 critical moment when the british government? the british government announces that because of its own economic problems, its own financial difficulties. can no longer provide political military and economic aid. to two states that are very important geopolitically. where britain has had traditionally some interest and some role those two states are turkey and greece. the spring of 1947 the british say, you know, we're just too broke.
we can't continue to bankroll our our client states and our and our partners greece and turkey. we don't have the money. we're going to we're going to have to stop our aid to these states. what's the united states to do? if the british withdraw aid from these two states, this might be they fear an invitation. to soviet machinations so in this atmosphere of growing tension and distrust in germany. and around around europe president truman decides the united states. is going to assume the burden that britain has laid down the united states is going to pick it up. it's a decisive moment. british power is shrinking in europe and in the mediterranean the united states power is expanding and this moment when the united states says we're going to pay the bill. we're going to help provide political support military aid. economic aid to greece and turkey in their time of difficulty. but of course truman needs what in order to make this happen.
he doesn't just have a checkbook. he has to go to the united states congress. he has to say i got to get the congress to pass this appropriation to help aid to greece and turkey. so what does he do goes to congress in march of 1947? the ask that congress approved 400 million dollars in aid to greece and turkey together. it's not the aid that matters. it's not the money the dollar value. it's the justification that truman settled on when asking for this aid. he goes to congress and he gives an astonishing speech i've sent you the the text of it you can you read it very carefully. he decides he's going to organize american foreign policy around a very stark. black and white view of foreign affairs world affairs in that speech here's what he says. we have to pay some attention to the language here and i want you to read that document quite carefully. this is truman in front of a joint session of the us congress in march of 1947. 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 truman says that it must be the policy of the united states to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by aren't minorities or by outside pressures. truman is doing something that who would have recognized.
earlier in this class very early on we talked about this is a classic move. he's doing something a woodrow wilson would have recognized very very clearly. he took a specific issue of us foreign policy. and he globalized it. he maximized it. he put it into historical and ideological context. the aid itself was not important here. it was the larger stakes the truman wanted to stress in this request for aid. and he concludes his speech. with language that i think reveals a very important argument the truman wants to make and it tells us something about the way he thinks about how the international system works what he says in this final paragraph and you have the text. 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 truman says look to us for support for 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 our own nation. never has 400 million dollars to two relatively small eastern mediterranean states seems so important. we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation if we don't write this check. to greece and turkey powerful stuff classic wave maximizing the argument for a specific policy interest this document becomes known as the truman doctrine. and its argument is revealed in that. that the key bit at the end there the totalitarian regimes arise when there is misery and want so where there is misery and want there's likely to follow political repression the
united states must stop it. we must address the larger issue of restoring europe's economic activity because if we can do that we can forestall political chaos and the seeds of totalitarian regimes. well, the trouble is the picture doesn't look very encouraging in late 46 and early 47 is truman's giving this speech doesn't look encouraging at all western europe. the advanced developed economies of western europe are in stagnation mode. they've frozen up not doing particularly. well at all. there's a terrific shortages of basic foodstuffs. economic goods clothing food fuel etc worse too big important western european states, france and italy have very large communist parties and those communist parties are free have been freely elected. there's a anywhere between 25 and 30% of the votes at the ballot box is going to communist parties in france. and italy. this is not encouraging if you're harry truman and those
communist parties are very active and activists. they're fomenting strikes public disorder disorder protests etc. so economic crisis plus the growth of political part of communist parties and france and italy make the picture look very bad indeed. so us cold war strategy to be successful has to attack these sources of instability. how do they do that? the argument is that the global economy has got to be restarted and economic activity in europe is the key to success long term enduring success. that's where the direction in which truman's cabinet is beginning to move. so the occasional check being written to greece and turkey that's not going to do it. the piecemeal approach give a little money here when there's a crisis in the near east give a little money here in the mediterranean not good enough. there's got to be a bigger bolder plan. the united states needs a plan for economic recovery. well, it's in that context in
the context of the tensions in germany the context of the greece and turkey issue context of the growing economic chaos in europe. that us secretary of state george marshall goes to the university of virginia. oh, no. sorry. he goes to harvard university to give a commencement speech in june of 1947. should have come here. he goes to harvard gives a speech not a particularly breathtaking speech quite short. in fact. he says we have to restart the european economy, and it's time now to break the vicious circle. we can't deal with individual states by themselves and try to get them out of their whole europe as a whole has got to be dealt with regionally. marshall has an interesting take on what needs to be done in europe. he says the united states. will aid europe getting its economy back on track, but the europeans have to act first. they have to show that they're willing to step up they have to to concert together to put together a plan for continental wide recovery. and then the united states will come in and help underwrite
support that plan. so marshall is saying i will not ask the president of the congress to simply write out individuals lump sums to individual states. no europe has got to come together to start talking about its own future. if it does that the united states will be there and will support you with economic aid. this is the beginning of the european capital european recovery program, which we call the martial plant. it starts in june 1947 in his harvard speech. it's just an idea at that point. but then by april 1948 it becomes a real policy for european economic recovery economically. it works very simply. here's how it works. the representatives of european states come together. they meet in july 1947 in europe. they put together a detailed analysis of their economic needs particularly their import needs. because many european states had used up. their dollar reserves, they didn't have enough dollars to go out into the world market to
purchase imports that they desperately needed for economic recovery. couldn't buy agricultural fertilizer and cement and steel and and wheat and raw materials to get there economy back up on track did they had used up so much of their dollar reserves during the second world war. so the marshall plan creates a fund to provide europeans to cover what is called the dollar gap? i've got to cover the dollar gap. they're going to provide them with dollars that they need to purchase these vital imports so far very simple. but the great thing about the marshall plan is that there's a ripple effect. because once the european states through through official channels have purchased these goods using marshall plan dollars. they then turn around and take all of these products and they sell them at home on the local market. they sell them to their to industrial sectors of the economy to manufacturers and so on and they take those that money that they earn from selling those imports. and they can reinvest those local currency dollars into what
into rebuilding of roads telegraphs railways ports into the infrastructure that is needed. so there's a multiplier effect inside the marshall plan that's remarkably clever. it's not just a big envelope of money that gets air mailed into europe. it's a it's a it's the beginning of a system of restarting a system. that is self-sustaining. in that sense. it's an investment program and it has a ripple or multiplier effect inherent in it. that's the genius of the marshall plan. marshall plan is a milestone. not only in the economic recovery of europe because it starts very quickly to have an effect to have a bite. it's also a milestone in the cold war origins nice to say in the deterioration of the us soviet relationship. let me ask you a question. why would the marshall plan such a benevolent thing so positive? why would the marshall plan be seen as controversial? or provocative in any way what is it about marshall aid that.
might have been seen as just a little bit. not so benevolent. who might have reacted negatively to the united states using its economic power? to restart the european economy. you want to take a take a try and when i say you little gonna mumble a one word answer? okay, go ahead. soviet union why? so the yeah, so begin good. why do you want to you want to go ahead ready? they wanted the capitalist economies to fail so that revolution could happen in the country's can turn to commun. ism, okay, so it doesn't sort it doesn't suit their long-term objectives. but that's not what they were going to say publicly. right, then i can say this is doesn't play with our plan of global revolution. what do they what are they?
what is their argument about what the us is trying to do? fearlessly imperialist exactly as if the united states is using economic muscle to do what they say. they've never would do do which is to expand. their sphere of influence and control in europe. you see the us is doing just what we said they would do they're trying to take over western europe indeed all of europe. yeah. just say that they see it as united states kind of meddling. their sphere of influence that they earned with their soldiers killed. yeah now that's a great question, which we should pick up does the marshall plan reach into eastern europe. does it medal in the soviet sphere of influence? does it option to invite country exactly gives the opera marshall speech and the initial invitation to come come and talk about marshall aid. so everyone's invited. everybody's invited this it is a policy against no individual state they say it has no ideological objectives. so the open invitation is indeed
to the eastern european states. what do the europeans leaders do remember? a couple of them the checks and others rsvp for it yeah, we'll see you there. yeah. there's initial interest. of course, there's terrible economic hardship in crisis. so some eastern european states. it's very tempted by this. the soviets say no stalin says sorry you can't do it precisely because he's afraid that this is going to be an economic the beginnings of an economic imperial control by the united states in the soviet sphere. it's a wonderful counterfactual to consider. what if stalin had let all the eastern europeans and indeed the soviet union itself joined in the marshall plan. wouldn't that i mean if think about wouldn't you wouldn't you want to have played that hand? all right, we're going to go to paris. we're going to talk about the economic needs of europe and and i've got dozen eastern european
states and the soviet union. here's our here's our here's what we need. it would have potentially brought the marshal plan process to a complete halt. one of the best things that ever happened to the marshall plan was this was stalin denying the opportunity for eastern european states to participate because suddenly the us had a region of advanced western oriented industrial economies that it could work with marshall plan became an enormous success had the soviets participated. it surely would have slowed it down in the same way that the occupation policy in germany had come to a crushing hall. was a strategic miscalculation. i think historians would agree on stalin's part. so the marshall plan was our second sign of the consolidation of a policy of containment. using economic power economic influence and ideas to restart the european economy. the last one the third area that cements the fate of the united states and western europe. together is of course the formation of not an economic cooperated cooperative community, but a military alliance it's the third building
block a military alliance a formal mutual defense treaty between the united states. canada and 10 western european states at this formal military alliance is to be called the north atlantic treaty organization or nato still of course exists today. and it was founded in april of 1949 and it marks a remarkable departure from american traditions. the united states is not remember does not is not supposed to get involved in entangling alliances with europeans. this is a big change for the united states. the congress is supposed to be the one to declare war. we shouldn't be involved in fixed alliances. it might force america's hand. so it marks a decisive change. what accounts for this extraordinary change of course the answer is tied to the first two areas of our policy that we've seen it's precisely because of american policy changes in germany as well as
the advent of the marshall plan and the soviet that the soviet union decides enough. we're going to push back. we're going to push back against this imperialistic us policy in europe. on the western the europeans like sort of conspire to after they got the money from the marshall kind they'd feel compelled to join that sporting position and it's an excellent question. did the europeans feel compelled. did they conspire to join a military organization? yeah the pressure of the united states because they wanted the sherences that they wouldn't get rolled over by like a nearly ascended to germany or obviously the soviets, right? so what's going on in this moment as the united states policy intensifies who's caught in the middle? who's caught in the middle? why the weak, you know, not very economically powerful militarily unprepared europeans. they can see the beginnings of increased tensions between the united states soviet union. they also worry about the possibility of a written of renewed german power.
european states are getting a little anxious about the ways things in which things are going. but at least for those leaders in western europe the prospect of working with the united states to create an enduring military lines is a very positive idea. and indeed it is they who begin to start talking about inviting the united states to participate in an enduring military alliance, but that what is one of the the decisive clinching events that makes the european so terrified that they can see things are not going to be particularly comfortable in europe in the near future. the beginnings of the berlin blockade it helps to really gear up and kick up the the settlement towards the nato agreement you all remember of course that the german capital berlin remember where it's located? it's the site it's it's incredibly important to the whole history of the cold war that you remember that berlin is not itself on the border between east and west germany, but that it's deep inside the soviet zone. the german capital berlin is
inside the soviet zone the four powers all had shared rights to be in berlin. and they all had the presence there. but it was since berlin was deep inside the soviet zone you had to cross soviet health territory to get there yet to fly over soviet territory you had to ride on rails and roads in soviet held east germany eastern germany to get to berlin. so us actions in the early summer 1948 appear very provocative to the russians and they push ahead. the americans are pushing ahead much too quickly for russian comfort. and a june 24 1948 soviet union decides to close off access to berlin closing off access meeting closing off road and rail access into the city. the western berliners those people in the american french and british zones of control are
suddenly captive captive people's 2.5 million berliners now cut off from their patrons. in the west it's as if the russians are saying you know what you want to have a marshall plan you want to you want to take over your portion of western germany fine. we're going to have berlin if we've earned anything, it's berlin. it's the capital. we're going to control it and impose our will on berlin and just you watch us watch how we how we do it. how easy it's going to be for us. we're just going to shut the doors. you guys can't come in. a major gauntlet has been thrown down to american authorities and it turns out to have been a colossal mistake by stalin to a play this card why because the united states uses this as a terrific propaganda opportunity. and indeed a humanitarian opportunity. the united states and britain undertake the creation of an air bridge through an air convoy of c-47s c54s and dakota airplanes and they fly into berlin into western berlin and they deliver
through an air convoy system that gets developed over the course of a year. thousands and thousands and tons of aid coal oil gasoline wheat potatoes clothing. everything that is required to make two and a half million berliners survive. it's a propaganda coup enormous proportions because it shows what it shows american commitment to the fate of germany and and of west berliners. so in this environment with the soviets now tensioning the ratcheting up the is it any wonder? that europeans say we really need a military organization that can cement american commitment. to europe and indeed. it is not the united states that creates and that conceives of the idea of an enduring. military alliance. principle the principle author is earnest bevin the british foreign minister who says now is the time as almost a war panic sets in over berlin that we must move ahead decisively to create
the institution of nato to bring the united states permanently into the into europe. and that becomes a reality in april of 1949 with the birth of the nato tree organization all right. i'm gonna just we just got five minutes left and i'm gonna just move to the last few points here. so i've stressed that in three areas us policy shifted decisively in 1946. to 1950 in german policy and the advent of the marshall plan and then the formation of nato and i've suggested that although this looks like a coherent policy at the end of this period at the beginning. no one knew exactly how they were going to create the policy of containment. so that the strategy emerges in a somewhat improvisational manner. that said there were key ideas. guiding american choices one of those ideas was that us policy
insisted on maintaining an open global economy. that was one of the main concerns about soviet behavior second was that us policy makers believe that a free market was the key to political and social stability a free market is the vital to the success of its own its own interests and the interests of western states. and third that american leaders were increasingly willing. to push for these aims even if it meant confrontation with soviet russia, they accepted that challenge so it seems clear to me. i mean, this is the this is the interpretive conclusion that i would suggest seems clear to me. that the united states did indeed intensify the cold war. and indeed by 1947 the united states had essentially embraced the cold war. as a way of organizing the international system. but and this is a critical concluding point the united states.
did not pursue this policy alone. millions of europeans. in fact welcomed that continuing american commitment and presence and post-war europe. this is not a small matter. for if the us as critics then and later have said was actually creating an empire. form of empire of imperial control it was an empire in which the weaker states. welcome. us role indeed us dominance and one scholar geared linda scott has actually given this a wonderful phrase a wonderful term empire by invitation. seems paradoxical but it's quite a useful way of imagining. the new relationship that is being worked out in europe. the invitation of american power into europe. so if it's an empire, it's one that is cooperative and collaborative between western european states united states. it's true.
obviously the us settles on a policy. that is a sharp departure from that cooperative approach that roosevelt had hoped for in the war years. it's true. i think the us bears responsibility for worsening cold war relations worsening cold war tensions. and for making a peaceful resolution of us soviet differences probably unlikely if not impossible. but they did it in collaboration and cooperation with dozens of allies on the european continent and millions of europeans. thought that this was a forward-looking reasonable solution that they could support and indeed that they could welcome. so these are policy choices that are undertaken with cooperation. europeans are very well aware of what's going on in eastern europe at the same time. they understand that there is an alternative form of imperial control. that is not just a theoretical idea out there, but a real a real possibility that it could be also be transplanted into europe and that's what's happening in the east.
the repression and the snuffing out of independent political activity the economic stagnation that the intense police surveillance and the subservience to moscow that is what those in in the western portion of europe can see is happening in the east they understand that there are choices to be made in the early cold war and they throw in their lot with the united states and they do so under duress. but but freely. and i think this is the critical point when we talk about america pushing the cold war agenda. it's not as if the united states and the soviet union behave the same way in the creation of their spheres of influence. i think it's safe to say that they behave very differently and in our lecture on wednesday. we're going to talk about precisely what it is the soviets are doing at their seer of influence and how dramatically it differs from the way the united states is setting up. it's its fear in the west okay. good. see you next time. thanks.
you can watch lectures in history every weekend on american history tv. we take you inside college classrooms to learn about topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11 that saturday at 8pm at midnight eastern on c-span 3 sunday university of mary washington history professor claudine farrell discusses the life and legacy of sojourner truth and enslaved woman who self-emancipated in 1826 and spoke out on abolition and women's rights. here's a preview. so what you have is this young woman changing her name as she redefines still in a fairly halting way her identity from isabella bomfrey. to isabella van wagon in in often. she used just her first name or
use bell or isabel and then finally in 1843 fairly well down because we're not talking 1826-27 fairly down the line. she changes her name to the name. we all know about her. and so the question right is raised about what happened in those years because we pretty much know what happens after 1850 because in 1850, she starts her public life her walking her preaching her showing up at conferences her being reported on in newspapers. her meeting with presidents that's going to follow we know about those things. but what happened in the time in between well in this early period she moved to kingston new york, and we know she was working there. she did a lot of domestic work often generally for fairly well to do white families who became fairly important to her in terms
of certifying her dependability. not not for jobs necessarily which did apply but but for some of the legal actions that she needed to take she did decide to move with her son peter. to new york and she left the girls. being taken care of by others down in ulster county she increasingly started preaching at at camp meetings and on street corners. learn more about sojourner truth sunday at 2 pm eastern 11 am pacific here on american history tv. this week we're looking back to this date in history. as janet reno begins her work at the justice department. she will enter a building that symbolizes our nation's commitment to justice to equality to the enforcement of our laws. on the side of that building carved above one of the portals
is the inscription the halls of justice are a hallowed place. which janet reno serving is our nation's attorney general those words will have great meaning for all americans. you understand here? you have to go here. yet to move over here. so we won't block the cameras. and so janet can be seen. i'd like you all to me little kid agree to see him you bible. raise your right hand and repeat after me. all right, janet reno to solemnly swear. i janet we know who solemnly swear that i will support and defend the constitution of the united states that i will support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies born
in america i get all enemies far and in domestic that i will bear true faith and allegiance to the same that i will bear true faith and a lincoln's to the same that i take this obligation. freely that i take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion that i will well and thankfully perform that i will well and thankfully perform the duties of the office on which i'm about to enter the duties on the office on i am now about to enter. will help me god so help me god generally know congratulations. follow us on social media at c-span history for more this day in history clips and posts. you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these
television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. from 1929 until his retirement in 1954 george alexander grant created more than 30,000 photographs of national parks. he took this photo in utah in 1929. up next the co-authors of the book landscapes for the people george alexander grant first chief photographer of the national park service show examples of his work and discuss his story with a park service historian the national archives hosted this 2016 event and provided the video. my name is tom nastic. i'm a public program producer here at the national archives in washington dc. and it's my pleasure to welcome you all here today to the william g mcgowan theater, and also welcome those of you who are watching us on the national archives youtube channel. today our series