Greece and the Birth of Containment: An American Perspective
America’s strategy of containment, designed to confront postwar Soviet aggression, real and perceived, grew out of a series of disparate and seemingly unrelated conflicts. Thus the clash over the future of defeated Germany was direct, immediate and of obvious importance for vital United States interests in Europe and the world. By contrast, the communist insurgency in Greece was originally perceived as a basically domestic affair of a small country in a remote region of little strategic value. Yet the Truman Doctrine, which paved the way for containment’s gradual global implementation—Marshall Plan, Berlin airlift, NATO, wars in Korea and Indochina—was ostensibly focused primarily on Greece. After remaining a benevolent but deliberately passive observer of turmoil and violence in Greece, Washington boldly replaced Britain as the foreign patron of that small and troubled Balkan state. This study documents the transformation of United States policy toward Greece, and the birth of containment. It argues that the change was fundamentally one of perceptions of the nature of Soviet policy itself within the Truman administration, rather than of realities in Greece. In retrospect, Greece was an unlikely springboard for launching the strategy of containing Moscow’s ideology and power. The significance of the communist threat in Greece was more a matter of alarmist assumptions, loose perceptions and questionable symbolism than of hard facts and geostrategic realities. But in human affairs perceptions and symbolism are important, especially if clothed in an aura of success, as was the application of containment in Greece.