On this day in 1941, President Roosevelt, determined to keep the United States out of the war while helping those allies already mired in it, approves $1 billion in Lend-Lease loans to the Soviet Union. The terms: no interest and repayment did not have to start until five years after the war was over.
The Lend-Lease program was devised by President Roosevelt and passed by Congress on March 11, 1941. Originally, it was meant to aid Great Britain in its war effort against the Germans by giving the chief executive the power to “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” any military resources the president deemed ultimately in the interest of the defense of the United States. The reasoning was: If a neighbor was successful in defending his home, the security of your home was enhanced.
Although the Soviet Union had already been the recipient of American military weapons, and now had been promised $1 billion in financial aid, formal approval to extend the Lend-Lease program to the USSR had to be given by Congress. Anticommunist feeling meant much heated debate, but Congress finally gave its approval to the extension on November 7.
By the end of the war, more than $50 billion in funds, weapons, aircraft, and ships had been distributed to 44 countries. After the war, the Lend-Lease program morphed into the Marshall Plan, which allocated funds for the revitalization of “friendly” democratic nations—even if they were former enemies.