Robert E. Wood
The Marshall Plan was one of the decisive turning points in the early Cold War. After deliberating briefly on whether or not the Soviet Union should participate in the plan, Stalin quickly decided against it. He feared that the United States would use it to lure Eastern Europe from the Soviet orbit and to build up a powerful Germany. As indicated in the Gati and MccGwire essays, the Soviet leader then moved decisively to crush all opposition within Eastern Europe and to bring down the iron curtain as it would exist for the next four decades.
US officials were relieved that the Kremlin rebuffed their overture to participate in the European Recovery Program. They feared that the Kremlin might sabotage the program from within, or that Congress might not finance an assistance package that included Communist lands. Using the specter of Soviet domination, Truman administration officials won congressional support. In 1948 the program got under way and it helped to restore hope and provide the marginal assistance that expedited reconstruction in Western Europe.
Economic historians now hotly debate the extent to which the Marshall Plan was responsible for European recovery.* What is incontestable is that industrial growth did not quickly eliminate the dollar gap problem, that is, the shortage of dollars available to European governments which they needed to procure raw materials, foodstuffs, and some machine tools. In other words European countries continued to import more from than they exported to the United States. They had to design ways to overcome this problem. Otherwise when the Marshall Plan ended they would find themselves in a terrible predicament. They
* Alan S. Milward, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945-1951 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984).