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The US Policy of Marshall Aid Essay

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Assess the view that the US Policy of Marshall Aid was motivated mainly by the altruistic desire to help the economic recovery of Europe.

Following advice from U.S General Marshall, Marshall Aid was introduced to Europe in 1947. Some argue this policy was motivated mainly through altruistic desire to help the economic reconstruction of Europe; however the four interpretations dismiss this argument, focusing on the need to boost capitalism, preventing communism. The main reasons for Marshall Aid’s introduction were political and economic, not altruistic.

The theory that Marshall Aid was mainly motivated through altruism isn’t credibly acknowledged in any interpretation. Judt acknowledges altruism in his interpretation by stating aid was offered ”to all European countries, without distinction” and ”Enthusiastic American New Dealers” had ”urged upon European colleagues” virtues of ”freer trade, international collaboration and inter-state integration”, however he dismisses altruism and argues other influences had great significance, aid was part of a program to reform the European economy as a whole; Europe would need to ”collaborate in planning” and ”confer….with each other”. ”Enthusiastic American New Dealers” supported aid through their own self-interests, not altruistic desire. Balfour, McCauley and Gaddis fail to acknowledge altruism in their arguments, supporting Judt’s dismissal. However Europe was devastated following the war and Marshall Aid had reduced the problem, so altruism was not completely absent.

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America lacked any altruistic desire to help Russia. Fear of Soviet domination and the spread of communism was key to the introduction of aid in the first place, this is argued in each interpretation, adding credibility to each view. Gaddis argues the ”immediate psychological benefits” produced by economic assistance would halt the spread of communism. However in contrast to Gaddis, Judt draws focus to ”productivity missions funded by the Marshall Plan” in his interpretation, which brought ”thousands of managers, technicians and trade unionists” the U.S to study “the American way of business”. There is evidence to make this a credible argument as it ties in with revisionist theory that America intended to use Marshall Aid as a form of economic imperialism to asset their authority over Europe. Gaddis concedes Russia refusing aid would ”strain relationships”, enabling the U.S to ”seize the geopolitical and moral initiative in the emerging Cold War”, thus strengthening Judt’s argument that aid favoured American interests as well as containing communism.

Balfour suggests a main objective of the Marshall Plan was to ”win the mouths and minds of the West European peoples so as to prevent them from turning Communist”, again focusing on America’s fear of communism. This meant boosting capitalism, which was ”being resuscitated” and given a prosperity ”highly alluring to countries on the fringes of the USSR”, to encourage Cominform nations to denounce communism, a fairly forceful argument acknowledged by each interpretation. Judt implies aid was part of a ”programme to reform the European economy” and is correct when stating Stalin and Molotov’s suspicions of ”the terms Marshall was proposing” being ”quite incompatible with the closed Soviet economy”. Neither the US or USSR were prepared to accept each other’s economic system, Judt again references the differing ideologies and argues that as well as reducing Soviet influence, boosting capitalism and encouraging free trade would have the desired effect of containing communism. Further evidence to make this a credible argument is within Balfour’s interpretation, Molotov viewed aid as ”an attempt by American capitalists to capture additional markets”.

In contrast to Balfour and Judt who focus on differing ideologies as a key motivation, the counter revisionist argument that Marshall Aid was motivated by U.S self-interest re-emerges in McCauley’s interpretation, ”an expanding European market would take more U.S goods”. Nations accepting aid would be open to U.S markets, the incentive of viable trading partners which would in turn ”avoid depression”, as Molotov believed. America’s need for a viable trade partner is expressed further by Gaddis, arguing that economic assistance would provide ”immediate psychological benefits” and ”material ones that would reduce this trend” where goods and capital could move freely, boosting capitalism. Introducing Marshall Aid would solve two problems by containing communism and providing a badly needed trade partner for America, adding credibility to the two arguments.

Balfour’s interpretation also focuses on economic factors as the main motivation behind Marshall Aid, which could be used to turn countries to capitalism and ”recover the position which had been lost between 1944 and 1947”, despite the fact Balfour implies that Eastern Europe was not a market for the West, Molotov’s belief supports Balfour’s argument. McCauley’s interpretation also focuses on economic recovery; containing a speech by John Foster Dulles, putting the future of Germany ”in the context of the economic unity of Europe” rather than the Potsdam view of Germany as ”an economic entity”. German recovery would lead to production of industrial and capital goods ”so vital to Europe’s earnings”, and ”would open up the German market for other European manufacturers”, hence the link to ”re-establishing inter-European trade”1.

McCauley’s argument that ”small economic units in a divided Europe could not prosper” and Europe ”had to unite….to provide a market large enough to justify modern mass-production techniques”, suggests that in order for the European economy to strengthen, and ”win the mouths and minds of the West European peoples” as Balfour argues, Europe must collaborate. This posed serious problems – European political ideologies varied, some countries would have problems working together. European collapse would be a disaster for America too, and revival in Germany was key to re-establishing European economies, further validating McCauley’s argument on the importance of economic recovery. Opportunities would open up for other European manufacturers as a result of industrial revival in Germany.

Washington believed that reestablishment of multilateral trade was key to boosting the economy, the ”protective device” of aid intended European countries to switch ”from the bilateral to the multilateral as soon as possible”. McCauley references the benefits of multilateral collaboration throughout his interpretation, strengthening Judt’s argument that economic reasons were the main motivation behind Marshall Aid. The subsequent boom led to an economic divide as obvious as the political one, with the rich West and poor East. European markets had exceeded pre-war levels of production and income by the 1950’s, reducing the influence of the communists and verifying Ryan’s argument that Marshall Aid would negate the appeal of communism. The West had no incentive to turn communist now it was booming.

All four interpretations agree Marshall Aid would gain popularity if it would have a negative impact on communism. Gaddis outlines the greatest threat to the West wasn’t military intervention, rather ”the risk that hunger, poverty and despair might cause Europeans to vote their own communists into office”, who would ”obediently serve Moscow’s wishes”, this is a credible argument because communism was benefitting with many European economies bankrupt – Soviet domination was a real danger. Gaddis further acknowledges the U.S knew they had to intervene as the communists were an electoral threat throughout Europe especially France and Italy. Ryan agrees, arguing that ”Communism was perceived to thrive on fear, desperation and chaos”, summing up the state of Europe in 1945, and aid would ” in part negate the appeal of the left”.2 McCauley furthers the anti-communism view; ”by linking it to anti-Communism the concept would be very popular in the USA” and Balfour

backs this up, stating funds required for aid would never have been approved by Congress unless a ”considerable amount of emphasis” had been laid on ”the danger of communism in Europe, and on the significance of US aid as a protective device.” He also suggests the threat would have to be exaggerated to gain enough support, however Soviet domination was already a serious threat to the West, there was no need to exaggerate its severity. Judt agrees with Balfour, arguing that because aid would be confined to the West, with Greece and Turkey being ”honorary West Europeans”, it ”undoubtedly made it easier for Truman to secure passage of the ERP through Congress”. Judt has acknowledged aid was offered ”without distinction” and Ryan implies Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Ukraine were willing participants, but ”ultimately, Stalin pressured them into withdrawing”3,.Gaddis also acknowledges Russia ”would not accept such aid or allow its satellites to”, which is a credible argument because Stalin feared U.S economic domination, believing economic integration with the West would threaten Soviet control over Eastern Europe.

Judt also focuses on the fact Stalin and Molotov ”were of course suspicious”. Stalin had felt betrayed by the West during the war and he lacked trust, which is justifiable. Gaddis further acknowledges this, even though the Marshall Plan didn’t yet distinguish the areas of Europe under Soviet control, ”the thinking behind it certainly did”. Deputy Minister Vyshinsky argued the US was ”attempting to impose its will on other independent states”, doing little to reduce Soviet tension. Despite several Cominform states being ”willing participants” in desperate need of help and Judt’s argument that Russian sentiments ”were not widely shared elsewhere”, aid was refused with Stalin’s persuasion, which ”strained relationships” according to Gaddis. The four interpretations agree the U.S aimed to use European desperation for aid to boost capitalism. Judt’s view that aid was offered ”without distinction” is challenged by Kunz, arguing that ”the State Department knew that Congress

would never approve aid for Russia” – fear of Soviet domination was a key motivation for aid in the first place which validates Kunz’s argument – who adds that fortunately ”Stalin never called the bluff”4. Russian acceptance would have caused problems as the Marshall Plan was based on the assumption that Russia would decline aid.

McCauley implies European Governments were required ”to plan ahead and calculate future investment needs” and to ”negotiate and confer” with each other to aid economic reconstruction. There are numerous examples to validate McCauley’s argument. By cooperating, economies would benefit. During the years of aid, countries in receipt experienced economic growth of between 15-25%. Without cooperation, this would not have been possible. McCauley further argues the German economy would improve as France’s ”desperate need for German reparations” would be replaced by U.S credits, solving ”the French problem”.

Versailles had previously crippled Germany, and with German recovery important to revitalising Europe, it was vital to avoid a repeat despite Stalin’s wishes. ”The marrying of French and German economies” would ”reduce French fears of German economic power”. France would know if German expansionism posed a threat as the two were cooperating; they feared a future offensive due to geographical location. Judt focuses on the Americans who’d ”blocked any return” to the temptations of the interwar economy, and by encouraging Europe to cooperate, prevented future European conflict and promoted trust and reacceptance of Germany. American desire for a peaceful, united Europe expresses a degree of altruism.

Balfour in his interpretation draws focus to an underlying military reason for the Marshall Plan; it ”later came to be given a more military significance”, intending ”to recreate the

military power of Western Europe”. Britain and France could ”resume their roles as Great Powers” allowing them to ”provide armies which would be strong enough”, and ”backed by American atomic weapons” in order to recover ”the position which had been lost” by force. However the other arguments do not acknowledge militarism which severely undermines the credibility of this view. Britain and France received significant aid, revitalizing their economies, however no further military action took place in Europe. However Balfour goes on to concede that other events had greater significance, such as differing ideologies and fear of communism. Since Truman didn’t want war in election year, these two factors combined dismiss this view.

Several motivational factors were involved in implementing the Marshall Plan. A plan to boost capitalism, argued by Balfour, the economic concerns argued by Judt, and argued by McCauley and Gaddis to be interlinked with political concerns, along with hints of militarism and altruism. However, Gaddis’ argument that the US was following a political grand strategy through economic means, and the interlinking economic concerns established by McCauley reference the greatest motivational theory, along with the differing ideologies between U.S and USSR, implied by Judt and Balfour. The Marshall Plan wasn’t motivated through altruistic desire to help Europe, despite Churchill’s statement that it was ”the most unsordid act in history”5

1 How successful was the Marshall Plan? – Scott Newton, History Today (2000)

2 David Ryan, The United States and Europe in the Twentieth Century (2003)

3 David Ryan, The United States and Europe in the Twentieth Century (2003)

4 The Marshall Plan reconsidered: A complex of Motives – Diane Kunz (1997) p162, 9pgs

5 The American Past, A Study of American History. Joseph Conlin (2009) p. 724

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