The Marshall Plan is the largest successful US geopolitical project in post-war Europe.
It is of tremendous economic importance in restoring the economies of the 16 Western European countries affected by World War II. In its political essence, this plan is an instrument of American ideological expansion. In particular, its implementation artificially (based on a purely American foreign policy) was politically opposed by the Western European bourgeois states with the Eastern European socialist ones. Note that this distancing, which served as the beginning of the Cold War, was deliberately incorporated into the plan by the American “hawks”.
Develop a Marshall Plan
It received its name in honor of US Secretary of Foreign Affairs George Quetlett Marshall, who presented on June 5, 1947 the famous program of European restoration at Harvard University.
The leaders of Western European countries took the American initiative with interest. After all, the crisis of the economies of their states could not be overcome by their own efforts. A month later, on July 12, in Paris, a meeting of representatives of 16 states with the American delegation took place. An agreement was reached with the American side. Discussed the size and timing of financial assistance.
The “Committee for Cooperation” established after this meeting established the necessary amount of assistance in the context of each of the 16 recipient states, developed timelines and purpose.
The plan was carried out immediately after the adoption by the US Congress in April 1947 of a special law “On Economic Cooperation”.
Objectives of the US Transforming Europe Project
The goals of the Marshall Plan were strategic. According to George Marshall, there were four of them:
- restoration of the economic potential of Western Europe;
- the elimination of trade barriers;
- reconstruction and modernization of industrial facilities;
- development of the European infrastructure as a whole.
However, no less important for the United States were political goals that were not publicly announced in the Minister’s speech:
- implementation of the Truman doctrine (global confrontation of communism) in the European market;
- depriving Western European countries of foreign policy sovereignty by including their economic obligations to the United States by “special political subparagraphs” of the plan;
- the reformatting by the United States of the domestic political process in Western countries, characterized by the arrangement of democracies in them similar to the American one.
The essence of the project is pro-American pragmatism.
What is the essence of this document? Marshall's plan was to clearly understand and realize the US pragmatic interests in Europe. America after World War II proved to be the undisputed economic leader. She sought to start a large-scale economic expansion against the spread of the influence of the USSR in the world.
But in the first place, the program prevented the economic crisis of overproduction in the United States itself by significantly stimulating American exports to Western Europe. Significant industrial post-war superiority of the United States over European countries, not provided by solvent markets, bore the leader the threat of an overproduction crisis. Characteristically, the US financial investments in European countries (most of which were loans) helped pay for the supply of American goods. To the credit of Americans, it should be pointed out that their imports for Western Europe were selective: import-substituting capacities were created, export production was formed.
However, this effective assistance by special treaties made European countries dependent on the United States. The dollar was their mutual currency of payment. The economic ties of each European country were adjusted from Washington. The essence of the Marshall Plan, thus, was reduced to the implementation of American foreign policy of economic expansion.
An important aspect of project effectiveness is monetary reform.
The effectiveness of the subsequent modernization of industry and GDP growth provided a well-conducted monetary reform, which turned the inflating currencies of Western countries into a powerful financial resource for economic growth.
The financial basis for this was the synchronous monetary reforms of democratic countries to reduce cash in circulation. In Italy, prices after the war increased 50 times, in France - by 18, in the Netherlands - 6 times, in Belgium - 3 times, in Britain - by 80%. The Reichsmarks of Germany generally lost their purchasing power.
The monetary reforms under the Marshall Plan were two-step. At first they assumed the exchange of a fixed number of old bills for new ones. Thus, the money supply in circulation was optimized. In 1949, post-war inflation was finally defeated by devaluing all currencies against the US dollar. At the same time, the rate of each Western European currency was rigidly tied to the US dollar rate at a pre-calculated value that is optimal for further economic development.
Why President Truman Signs Marshall Plan
The project itself, as an economic component, was the first step in the strategy of Atlantic integration and was carried out within the framework of the doctrine of President Truman. As is known, the priorities of the president - revisionist in revising the system of international relations were limited to the construction of a unipolar world led by America. Economic and political expansion were ideologically justified by the communist threat.
The principles of the Marshall Plan stemmed from the asymmetric “open door” policy he declared. The United States unilaterally liberalized trade exclusively for the democratic countries of Western Europe. But, on the other hand, the harsh, unprecedented in international relations discrimination against socialist countries included the Marshall Plan.
The cold war, as many researchers believe, began precisely after the signing of the bilateral treaties of European states with the United States as part of the Marshal Plan, as a result of which they, among other commitments, were obliged to counterpose the iron curtain to the economic development of the USSR
Why America hastily implemented the Marshall Plan
America hastened to implement it for a reason. She actively fought with the Soviet Union for influence in the world. Without vigorous measures on its part, the post-war political situation in the European theater developed with a tendency to exacerbate the influence of the USSR.
The macroeconomics of post-war Western Europe was characterized by a worsening economic crisis, an aggravating social situation. According to the reports of the Soviet consuls Molotov, the Western European states proved insolvent after the war. Every month, for European imports critically needed for them, European countries underpaid about $ 1 billion. Political changes were brewing.
At the same time, a system of states of socialist orientation was formed in Eastern Europe under the influence of the USSR. How can you not remember the words of Marx about the “ghost of communism”? Immediately after the war, with the help of the USSR, there was a gradual crisis-free development. The social structure characteristic of socialist countries was contrary to American views on “way of life” and “form of government”.
Formation of the Western bloc of states
It is not by chance that the Marshall Plan provided for the obligatory condition for the provision of American financial assistance to the requirement of the absence of communists in the governments of debtor states. The economic expansion of the United States was accompanied by ideological cover. In their concepts, American political consultants represented the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” the source of the threat of communism. Thus, the Marshal's plan was completely subordinate to the doctrine of building a unipolar world. The goals and tasks solved by him were reduced to the consolidation and strengthening of the so-called democratic world and the separation of the countries of socialist orientation from it.
American politicians really feared that in times of crisis, Western European countries would choose the socialist path. Therefore, additional funds were allocated to strengthen the European middle class, the guarantor of the stability of a democratic society.
The Western bloc of states was ideologically actively opposed by the efforts of the United States to the Soviet Union and opposed its influence on other countries. As part of the Truman Doctrine, a transatlantic system of international financial institutions was established, isolating the USSR and its satellites, and organizationally contributing to the economic dominance of the Western world: the IMF, IBRD, GATT. Through a ban on the sale of technology, a USSR containment program was implemented.
All these vigorous measures have allowed the United States to critically narrow down the international markets available to the countries of the socialist camp. Thus began the cold war, which ended with the collapse of the USSR after an oil strike (sanctioned lower oil prices) in the second half of the 80s.
The Marshall Plan was implemented extremely competently and purposefully. Historically, the timing of its implementation is determined by a four-year time interval from 04/04/1948 (date of adoption of the law) to 12/31/1951.
The implications of the Marshall Plan for the economies of Western Europe have been very positive. They received the necessary impetus for further economic development. During the 4 years of the plan’s implementation, substantial funds have been invested in the basic production assets. Up to $ 4 billion in the purchase of agricultural equipment. Up to $ 5 billion - in machinery and equipment for mines. Up to $ 3 billion in production facilities for the extraction and smelting of iron and steel.
Thus, the Marshall Plan achieved its goals. The economy of Western Europe received long-term growth stimuli, labor productivity increased, trade developed.
Even after the official termination of the aid plan for European countries, the United States continued its policy of helping foreign countries. It was the Marshall Plan that laid the foundations for an atmosphere of cooperation, mutual assistance and support between the United States and the countries of Western Europe. By economic standards, it was very effective: annual assistance of $ 5 billion stimulated an increase in output by $ 20 billion.
Did the Marshall Plan manifest itself only in the economic recovery of post-war Western Europe? Briefly, it can be described as a vivid example of pro-American economic diplomacy.
The consequences of the Marshall Plan turned out to be global: the United States gained a huge market in Western Europe, laid the foundations for effective transatlantic integration, and the Cold War began.