Soviet Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov walks out of a meeting with representatives of the British and French governments, signaling the Soviet Union’s rejection of the Marshall Plan. Molotov’s action indicated that Cold War frictions between the United States and Russia were intensifying.
On June 4, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a speech in which he announced that the United States was willing to offer economic assistance to the war-torn nations of Europe to help in their recovery. The Marshall Plan, as this program came to be known, eventually provided billions of dollars to European nations and helped stave off economic disaster in many of them. The Soviet reaction to Marshall’s speech was a stony silence. However, Foreign Minister Molotov agreed to a meeting on June 27 with his British and French counterparts to discuss the European reaction to the American offer.
Molotov immediately made clear the Soviet objections to the Marshall Plan. First, it would include economic assistance to Germany, and the Russians could not tolerate such aid to the enemy that had so recently devastated the Soviet Union. Second, Molotov was adamant in demanding that the Soviet Union have complete control and freedom of action over any Marshall Plan funds Germany might receive. Finally, the Foreign Minister wanted to know precisely how much money the United States would give to each nation. When it became clear that the French and British representatives did not share his objections, Molotov stormed out of the meeting on July 2. In the following weeks, the Soviet Union pressured its Eastern European allies to reject all Marshall Plan assistance. That pressure was successful and none of the Soviet satellites participated in the Marshall Plan. The Soviet press claimed that the American program was “a plan for interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.” The United States ignored the Soviet action and, in 1948, officially established the Marshall Plan and began providing funds to other European nations.
Publicly, U.S. officials argued that the Soviet stance was another indication that Russia intended to isolate Eastern Europe from the West and enforce its communist and totalitarian doctrines in that region. From the Soviet perspective, however, its refusal to participate in the Marshall Plan indicated its desire to remain free from American “economic imperialism” and domination.