Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was the architect of what became known as The Marshall Plan for European Recovery. In 1947, Europe was still in the midst of reeling from the effects of World War 2 and the almost total devastation of cities, displacement of people and the shortage of food and essentials. Coupled with a growing concern over the motives of the Soviet Union, and a climate in Eastern Europe, which former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to as an “Iron Curtain“, the Soviet influence was being felt in other parts of Europe, as discontent and crippled economies had many looking East for a solution. With the establishment and growth of Communist parties in France and Italy and the issue of German recovery and reparations for their role in the War; the Soviet refusal to consider reunification and disputes over lands and borders, some solution had to be arrived at, or else another War was inevitable. While Europe was trying to get back on its economic feet, Russia was busy setting up spheres of influence in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Germany, Poland – all those countries to the East which had been overrun by German armies at the outbreak of World War 2.
So it was incumbent upon Marshall to come up with an alternative to this perceived Soviet threat, and to create a political and social climate where recovery was undertaken, to enable economic and political stability – ultimately, a desire to not return to the atmosphere of 1939.
Although he doesn’t directly map out his plan in this address – he has just returned from the London Conference – he gives an assessment of the atmosphere and puts forth the notion that a plan, or one just like it, needed to be implemented if Europe was going to survive and recover.
For those of you wondering about the current affairs of Europe, of Brexit, of NATO and calls for dismantling of certain institutions, here is an explanation, given at the time, why a union of Western nations was critical.
Here is that address by Secretary of State George C. Marshall from December 19, 1947.