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President Truman Announces a New Foreign Policy

President Harry S. Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine in a speech addressed to Congress on March 12, 1947. In addition to drawing a stark contrast between the two different "ways of life" represented by the United States and the Soviet Union, the speech marked a shift in American foreign policy toward a policy of "containment" of Soviet expansion. Truman pledged assistance to Greece and Turkey, then threatened by aggressive Soviet expansion in the region and by their own Communist movements, in the form of military and economic aid. The Doctrine would come to be seen, along with the Marshall Plan, as one of the "founding documents" of the Cold War, and would continue to provide the rationale for American foreign intervention in the years to come.

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 that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes. . . .

Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East.

We must take immediate and resolute action.

The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grown 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 look to us for support in 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 this Nation.


Source | Harry S. Truman, "Address of the President to Congress, Recommending Assistance to Greece and Turkey," 12 Mach 1947, Harry S. Truman, Elsey Papers,
Creator | Harry S. Truman
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Harry S. Truman, “President Truman Announces a New Foreign Policy,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 16, 2024,

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