Following the maxim “speak softly and carry a big stick,” Theodore Roosevelt built a foreign policy legacy of expanding the United States’ influence on the world stage.
Roosevelt’s brazen approach to foreign policy began during his term as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley. He advocated war against Spain and mobilized the Navy while his boss was away. When the U.S. declared war on Spain, Roosevelt assembled the Rough Riders and led the First Volunteer Cavalry to victory on Cuba's San Juan Hill in 1898.
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One of Roosevelt’s most notable foreign accomplishments after rising to the presidency in 1901 was the establishment of the Panama Canal. When negotiations for the canal with Colombia failed, Roosevelt supported a revolution. Independent of Colombian control, Panama agreed to a canal zone, giving the United States control of the canal for $10 million and an annual payment of $250,000, according to the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
Construction began in 1904 and was completed in 1914.
As a peacemaker, Roosevelt mediated the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, earning the Nobel Peace Prize. He also mediated international disputes involving Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Morocco, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association
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In response to disputes over foreign debt between Latin American and European countries, Roosevelt formulated the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. He feared that inability to repay foreign debt could lead Latin American countries too become targets. To maintain regional stability, the Roosevelt Corollary stated that the United States would intervene in any Latin American country that manifested serious economic problems, the Miller Center noted.
Roosevelt also worked for a strong and modern Navy, adding battleships and increasing enlisted men. He sent the Great White Fleet of 16 battleships on a tour around the world from December 1907 and February 1909.
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