The Ambassador in Italy ( Long ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 8:35 p.m.]
188. I just had a conversation with Suvich, who leaves tomorrow for Stresa. He is hopeful of an agreement there but does not know the attitude of England.[Page 230]
As he explained to me, the Italian position is as follows: it is based on the program formulated at London on February 3d, which considers the Eastern Locarno and the other parts of that program as an entity. Following the formulation of the London program Germany denounced the military clauses of the Versailles Treaty. Then followed Simon’s visit. The substance of the German position as developed to Simon comprises several points as follows:
- Germany will not agree to an Eastern Locarno provided that the obligation is for mutual assistance against an aggressor. It will, however, agree to a provision to bind the signatories not to help an aggressor. In other words, Germany will not accept an active but will accept a passive obligation in connection with a nonaggression pact.
- As regards Memel, Austria, and the demilitarized zone along the Rhine, Germany will not commit herself to guarantee their status quo but will insist as far as the first two are concerned that the populations have the right to choose their future allegiance.
- As regards her military establishment Germany insists upon 36 divisions.
- As regards an air force Germany announced to Simon that she had already an air force superior to that of Great Britain.
- As regards a navy Germany demanded 35 percent of the strength of that of Great Britain and at least equal to that of France. When Simon informed Hitler that France already had 50 percent or a total tonnage of 600,000 tons Hitler replied that Germany would then demand 600,000 tons instead of 400,000 tons.
- As regards large caliber guns and heavy military equipment Germany demands the immediate right to acquire guns equal to those of any other power and declines to consider limitation of armaments unless the other powers will agree immediately to reduce their guns in caliber and numerical strength to the size to be allotted Germany who shall have the presumed right to acquire up to that strength. If the decision of the other governments is to postpone reduction of heavy artillery for a period of years then Germany will in the meantime insist upon having heavy artillery equal to that of any other power after the acquisition of which she will consider reduction along with other governments.
With the London agreement of February 3d as a base and with the variations injected by virtue of the Simon–Hitler conversations, Italy will go to Stresa to insist that the French and English unite in a point of view to demand compliance by Germany with the London program. If Germany refuses, the Italian proposal would be that the other countries of Europe proceed to make the agreement without Germany. (The form which will enclose the notification to Germany if an agreement can be reached may be material in forecasting the future course at least of the continental powers.) Suvich, while he is ignorant of the attitude of England, is of the opinion that she cannot fail to accept the position which Italy will oppose [propose?] [Page 231] which in the last analysis is a reaffirmation of the London program of February 3d and an insistence upon Germany’s compliance with it. He regrets sincerely the illness of Eden for he feels that Germany’s hand will be stronger with Eden absent for the reason that he thinks that Simon is of a compromising nature and will not take as firm a stand as would Eden. In addition to the most important subject, which is the position to take vis-à-vis Germany on the question of armament and nonaggression Eastern Locarno Pact, are also to be brought up at Stresa two other questions:
- the rearmament of the small powers Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, which were disarmed in treaties after the war in the same way Germany was. Italy will propose their rearmament but will oppose any unilateral action to secure arms by any of them. It will ask the powers signatory to the respective treaties to agree to reasonable armament for each of those three countries, basing their position on the ground that (a) the situation in Europe has so changed that these Governments are entitled to arms in order to protect themselves; (b) unless they are permitted to arm they may follow the example of Germany and proceed to do as they please on the theory that if Germany could violate the Treaty with impunity they also are relieved from observing similar articles of their own treaties; and (c) because if Hungary should begin to arm, Czechoslovakia would immediately interpose and Italy would be committed to defend Hungary. Suvich emphasized this as being a very dangerous situation and one which might lead to a real catastrophe. He was very pointed on that particular phase.
- the other point on the Italian program at Stresa, is pressing the specific guarantee for the independence of Austria and Memel and the inviolability of the demilitarized zone along the Rhine. Bringing in Memel and the demilitarized zone is no doubt a diplomatic maneuver to gain the cooperation of the Baltic States and Russia on the one side and to hold France and Belgium on the other.
As throwing some light on the interview I might add that Suvich is calm, fairly confident, and hopeful of avoiding a conflict. However, he declined to commit himself in response to my questions as to what would happen in case Germany refused to comply with their demands about armament or in case she failed to accede to any of the proposals which might be presented to her in a memorandum of any nature. He said that each time they proposed anything to Germany, Germany would answer that she agreed in principle but would lay down some condition. Subsequently they would frame a new position and propose that to Germany and again Germany would say that she accepted in principle but would lay down some other conditions. Each time they were getting closer to a precipice. Now they had reached the point where they were very close to the precipice.
Suvich thinks that the Conference at Stresa will be more important than that at Geneva believing that the meeting of the League of Nations [Page 232] will be limited to a juridical inquiry as to whether or not Germany has violated the Treaty, the answer to which can only be in the affirmative. He doubts that there will be at Geneva a movement to invoke sanctions. He would not commit himself as to what the step might be following disagreement at Stresa or following the adjournment of the League without action.
I have also spoken with the Ministers of Lithuania and Czechoslovakia. The former is considerably depressed and entertains serious doubts as to the peaceful nature of the immediate future. The latter is not so fearful of a development against Germany out of the present situation as he is of the psychology in Europe and the danger that either in Memel or in Austria a little incident might be a spark to start the conflagration. Both of them are apprehensive and the latter is convinced that if military operations are prevented in the immediate future it will be only a temporary relief pending the certainty of an extensive war later this year or next.
Repeated to London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Geneva, Vienna, Praha, Belgrade, Warsaw.