President Truman’s entire attitude towards the Soviet Union and communism as a whole was completely different from that of his predecessor. Truman had little grounding in foreign policy; however, from what he knew, the Soviet Union was more an enemy than a flexible, reasonable country like Roosevelt had assumed. He insisted that the United States receive “85 percent” of what it wanted, despite its clear lack of leverage; when this didn’t happen, Truman adopted a hard-line stance towards Russia. Thus, Truman’s initial attempt to deal with the Soviet union was characterized by his insistence on getting almost all of what he wanted; when that did not happen, he naturally adopted a hard-line stance.
The “containment” doctrine emerged out of an awareness of the Soviet Union’s growing sphere of influence. Slowly but surely, communists were threatening the governments in more and more countries in Europe; the Soviet Union had already gained control of many Eastern European countries. Determined to stem the tide of “Russian expansionist tendencies”, Truman acted on the advice of George Kennan and created the Truman Doctrine, a policy of containment stated in slightly more diplomatic terms. Truman thus countered the threat of Soviet expansion by implementing a policy to contain that expansion.
Truman recognized that Western Europe, reeling in the aftermath of World War II, would need to be reconstructed very quickly if the Soviet threat was to be contained, and if American trade was to continue. Secretary of State George C. Marshall drafted a plan to provide economic relief to all interested European nations. The plan was a success; by the end of 1950, and just over three years since the Marshall Plan was created, European industrial production had skyrocketed by 64 percent. Thus, Truman pumped aid into Western Europe so that the United States would gain an advantageous position in trade and more importantly so that the Soviet “threat” would be contained.
Truman also responded to the Soviet threat in domestic areas. The president had Congress approve maintain the military at a near wartime level and redouble its weapon stock and nuclear arsenal. The Atomic Energy Commission, created in 1946, oversaw all nuclear-related military research; meanwhile, the National Security Act of 1947 restructured the military and some of the World War II organizations created by Roosevelt.
Agreements in Europe also became essential ingredients to Truman’s plan; he commenced unifying those territories under Western control, including West Berlin. An airlift for over 10 months sustained this policy in Berlin, until Stalin relented and allowed the Western occupying zones to merge. The Berlin crisis sped up this cycle in the rest of Western Europe; twelve countries united under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO countries would defend each other and maintain military forces to counter those of the Soviet union. Thus, Truman helped consolidate Western Europe, both economically and militarily, to guard against the expansion of the Soviet Union.
*All information, unless otherwise noted, is from Brinkley, Alan. American History: A Survey. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.