In a surprising turn of events, President Harry Truman asks Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia. The action was part of the U.S. policy to drive a deeper wedge between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavia ended World War II with the communist forces of Josip Broz Tito in control. The United States supported him during the war when his group battled against the Nazi occupation. In the postwar period, as Cold War hostilities set in, U.S. policy toward Yugoslavia hardened. Tito was viewed as simply another tool of Soviet expansion into eastern and southern Europe.
In 1948, however, Tito openly broke with Stalin, though he continued to proclaim his allegiance to the communist ideology. Henceforth, he declared, Yugoslavia would determine and direct its own domestic and foreign policies without interference from the Soviet Union. U.S. officials quickly saw a propaganda opportunity in the fallout between the former communist allies. Although Tito was a communist, he was at least an independent communist who might prove a useful ally in Europe.
To curry favor with Tito, the United States supported Yugoslavia’s efforts in 1949 to gain a seat on the prestigious Security Council at the United Nations. In 1951, President Truman asked Congress to provide economic and military assistance to Yugoslavia. This aid was granted. Yugoslavia proved to be a Cold War wild card, however. Tito gave tacit support to the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, but harshly criticized the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
While the United States admired Tito for his independent stance, he could sometimes be a bit too independent. During the 1950s and 1960s he encouraged and supported the nonalignment movement among Third World nations, a policy that concerned American officials who were intent on forcing those nations to choose sides in the East-West struggle. Relations between the United States and Yugoslavia warmed considerably after Tito’s denunciation of the Czech intervention, but cooled again when he sided with the Soviets during the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1973. Tito died in 1980.