Vyshinsky’s Speech to the UN General Assembly Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Europe suffered from the aftermath of World War II throughout the 1940s. Many nations faced poverty, unemployment, and housing shortages, but lacked the financial solvency and administrative support necessary to address these issues. Europe was also divided along political lines. Led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, Western European governments were mostly democratic. Led by the Soviet Union, the governments of Eastern Europe were mostly Communist.

Summary Overview

Europe suffered from the aftermath of World War II throughout the 1940s. Many nations faced poverty, unemployment, and housing shortages, but lacked the financial solvency and administrative support necessary to address these issues. Europe was also divided along political lines. Led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, Western European governments were mostly democratic. Led by the Soviet Union, the governments of Eastern Europe were mostly Communist.

In 1947, the United States established the Truman Doctrine and began formulating the Marshall Plan to provide economic assistance to help European countries rebuild after the war. However, the Soviet Union objected to these plans. In a September 1947 speech to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrey Vyshinsky argued that these policies directly contradicted the UN requirement that foreign aid not be “used as a political weapon.” He believed the United States violated this requirement by financing European struggles against Communism under the guise of humanitarian aid.

Defining Moment

World War II wrought considerable destruction throughout most of Europe. Although the war officially ended in 1945, Europe continued to feel its destructive effects throughout the 1940s. Nations struggled with a multitude of problems due to poverty, unemployment, housing shortages, and lack of infrastructure. The threat of instability loomed, as governments lacked the resources needed to rebuild economies and infrastructure.

On May 22, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the Agreements on Aid to Greece and Turkey, which marked a major shift in US foreign policy that became known as the Truman Doctrine. The United Kingdom had been providing economic and military support to help the Greek government block a takeover by the Communist Party, but eventually needed to redirect these funds toward its own postwar economic concerns. The United States stepped in to provide $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey, hoping to prevent a Communist takeover of Greece and to prevent the conflict from spilling over into neighboring Turkey. In his speech to Congress to advocate for the agreement in March 1947, President Truman emphasized that the “foreign policy and national security” of the United States was at stake any time democratic systems of government were threatened and thus argued that intervention was critical.

Although some debate exists, many scholars and historians view the Marshall Plan as following directly from the Truman Doctrine. Officially known as the European Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan was developed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall after visiting postwar Europe. Marshall saw the widespread poverty, hunger, and unemployment facing Europeans and felt the United States should provide assistance. He also feared that, without immediate economic assistance to rebuild, all of Europe could quickly and easily fall to Communism as the Soviet Union sought to expand its reach across the continent. In a speech made at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, Marshall outlined his plan for the United States to assist Europe with the organizational and economic resources to rebuild.

Approved by Congress in March 1948, the Marshall Plan was authorized to provide $17 billion (about $90 billion in 2015 dollars) in grants to European countries in order to purchase food, equipment, medicine, and transportation system upgrades. However, the Soviet Union believed the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were thinly veiled attempts by the United States to exert political influence in postwar Europe, in violation of a United Nations resolution stating that relief should “at no time be used as a political weapon.”

In September 1947, shortly after the announcement of these two policies, Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrey Vyshinsky gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he described his government's interpretation and disapproval of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

Author Biography

Andrey Vyshinsky was born on December 10, 1883, in Odessa, Russia. He graduated from Kiev University in 1913 and became a lawyer. He relocated to Moscow to work as an attorney and participate in national politics, joining the Communist Party in 1920. He became the prosecutor general of the Soviet Union in 1935 and oversaw many trials that were part of the Great Purge to remove dissenters from the Communist Party.

In 1940, Vyshinsky was appointed deputy minister of foreign affairs. In this role, he made numerous speeches to the United Nations and became known for his long, flourishing, and often aggressive rhetoric. He was promoted to minister of foreign affairs in 1949 and served in this position until 1953, when he was demoted to first deputy foreign minister. Vyshinsky died on November 22, 1954.

Historical Document

The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nation are violated, of the way in which the organization is ignored.

As the experience of the past few months has shown, the proclamation of this doctrine meant that the United States government has moved towards a direct renunciation of the principles of international collaboration and concerted action by the great powers and towards attempts to impose its will on other independent states, while at the same time obviously using the economic resources distributed as relief to individual needy nations as an instrument of political pressure. This is clearly proved by the measures taken by the United States government with regard to Greece and Turkey which ignore and bypass the United Nations as well as by the measures proposed under the so-called Marshall Plan in Europe. This policy conflicts sharply with the principle expressed by the General Assembly in its resolution of 11 December 1946, which declares that relief supplies to other countries “should… at no time be used as a political weapon.”

As is now clear, the Marshall Plan constitutes in essence merely a variant of the Truman Doctrine adapted to the conditions of postwar Europe. In bringing forward this plan, the United States government apparently counted on the cooperation of governments of the United Kingdom and France to confront the European countries in need of relief with the necessity of renouncing their inalienable right to dispose of their economic resources and to plan their national economy in their own way. The United States also counted on making all these countries directly dependent on the interests of American monopolies, which are striving to avert the approaching depression by an accelerated export of commodities and capital to Europe.…

It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States and direct interference by the latter in the internal affairs of those countries.

Moreover, this plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps and, with the help of the United Kingdom and France, to complete the formation of a bloc of several European countries hostile to the interests of the democratic countries of Eastern Europe and most particularly to the interests of the Soviet Union.

An important feature of this plan is the attempt to confront the countries of Eastern Europe with a bloc of Western European states including Western Germany. The intention is to make use of Western Germany and German heavy industry (the Ruhr) as one of the most important economic bases for American expansion in Europe, in disregard of the national interests of the countries which suffered from German aggression.

I need only recall these facts to show the utter incompatibility of this policy of United States, and of the British and French governments which support it, with the fundamental principles of the United Nations.

Glossary

bloc: a group of persons, businesses, or nations united for a particular purpose or acting in concert from common interests

Document Analysis

Andrey Vyshinsky opens his speech to the United Nations General Assembly by stating that the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are “particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nations are violated.” He says these two policies demonstrate the US government's “direct renunciation of the principles of international collaboration” by using economic aid to impose its political will on independent nations. Vyshinsky believes this directly violates UN principles and cites a resolution from a session on December 11, 1946, which states that relief to other countries should not be used as a “political weapon.” He also notes that both of these plans effectively bypass the United Nations' oversight by providing aid and advisement directly to nations such as Greece and Turkey. He asserts the US government is “using the economic resources distributed as relief to individual needy nations as an instrument of political pressure.”

Vyshinsky argues that the Marshall Plan is simply a more widely applicable variation of the Truman Doctrine. He believes that the United States is relying on the United Kingdom and France to persuade other European nations to give in to political pressure and accept the aid, even though it means “renouncing their inalienable right to dispose of their economic resources and to plan their national economy in their own way.” He also accuses the United States of creating these policies to further its own self-interest in averting an economic depression by exporting goods and money to Europe. Vyshinsky states that “it is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States,” which will lead to the US government directly interfering with those countries' internal affairs.

Finally, Vyshinsky accuses the United States of using the Marshall Plan to establish its influence over heavy industrial manufacturing in Western Europe, particularly in West Germany. He believes the United States intends to use the region as “one of the most important economic bases for American expansion into Europe” in disregard of the needs of nations that had been only recently freed from German occupation. Vyshinsky concludes that both policies conflict with the fundamental principles of the United Nations and notes the complicity of the United Kingdom and France in the Marshall Plan.

Essential Themes

Disputes over postwar revitalization caused a significant rift between the Soviet-influenced countries of Eastern Europe and the American-influenced countries of Western Europe. The United States intervened in Europe's recovery partly for humanitarian reasons and partly in hopes of quelling the growing Communist influences across the continent. Also at issue was concern that Soviet control over Greece and Turkey would block access to Middle Eastern oil for the United States and the countries of Western Europe.

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan marked a significant change in the US government's historic policy of nonintervention in foreign affairs during times of peace. The $17 billion authorized under the Marshall Plan was an unprecedented sum for the United States to spend on foreign interests during peacetime. The Soviet Union accused the United States of taking advantage of war-torn countries' desperate need for funding to influence them to choose democracy over Communism and align politically with the United States.

In contrast to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's more tolerant approach to diplomacy with the Soviet Union, President Truman took a much firmer stance in the face of perceived insolence and lack of cooperation. This change in policy, and particularly the way it was reflected in the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, is thought to be a factor that led to the decades-long Cold War.

The idea behind the Marshall Plan was that the European countries themselves would draft and direct their own plan for recovery and the United States would advise and assist, as well as provide the necessary administration and funding. Of the twenty-two nations invited to the Paris conference to draw up recovery plans, sixteen accepted; the Soviet Union did not participate and forbade the countries under its control from participating or accepting aid.

US funding for the Marshall Plan ended in 1951. Scholars and policy analysts continue to debate the program's significance in Europe's postwar recovery, and some believe its enactment contributed to the tensions that spawned the Cold War. Despite its conflicting place in American history, George C. Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his plan.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Bandow, Doug. “A Look behind the Marshall Plan Mythology.” Investor's Business Daily. Cato Inst., 3 June 1997. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
  • Behrman, Greg. The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and How America Helped Rebuild Europe. New York: Free, 2007. Print.
  • Folly, Martin H. “Truman, Harry S.” Oxford Reference Online. Oxford UP, 2014. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
  • “For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan.” Library of Congress Online Exhibition. LoC, 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
  • “History of the Marshall Plan.” George C. Marshall Research Library. George C. Marshall Foundation, 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
  • Israelyan, Victor. On the Battlefields of the Cold War: A Soviet Ambassador's Confession. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2003. Print.
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