762.65/172: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Long) to the Secretary of State

62. My 60, February 20, 7 p.m.43 This evening I had a long talk with Suvich.44 He assured me there is in process no negotiation with Germany for military or political cooperation and stated that the various conversations listed in mine under reference were simply coincidental and had no joint or common significance. He explained them as follows:

Austria: (a) There are no present threats to its independence; (b) the Independence Party is increasing in strength and sentiment for independence is in the majority. The new generation up to 25 years of age are all for independence, the Nazis are from 25 to 35; (c) there is no change of Italian policy vis-à-vis Austria.
Danube: (a) They considered that conversation for Danubian pact was now inopportune; (b) that Italian cooperation was necessary for the proper solution of the question and nothing could be done without it.
Mussolini and the Polish Ambassador. The call was a pure courtesy before the departure of the Ambassador on leave. He had not seen Mussolini for more than a year. The conversation had absolutely no relation to Germany. They incidentally discussed (1) the Danubian treaty—to the same effect as with Berger-Waldenegg; (2) the Franco-Russian treaty to which Poland reacts quite similarly to Germany and disapproves in theory but is inactive in regard to it.
Mussolini–von Hassel46–Hitler. Suvich said these conversations had nothing to do with an Italo-German alliance. There was no conversation about such an arrangement for cooperation between the two governments nor any present plan for an alliance. Von Hassel had seen Hitler several weeks ago in Bavaria. Hitler as usual with his head in the clouds and philosophizing about the general [Page 205] welfare of the universe had been so abstract that von Hassel was unable to deduce any concrete understanding and was instructed to return to Italy and proceed to Berlin in two weeks and meet Hitler and von Neurath who is concrete and practical.

In the interim in Italy he had twice seen Mussolini and had just returned from his Berlin conversations and was seeing Mussolini again about the time I was with Suvich—thus making his third conversation in two weeks with two visits to Hitler.

The subjects discussed in these various conversations were (1) Austria, in regard to which Germany maintained she was not interfering but concerning which Suvich remarked that there was some present Nazi activity due to an influx of German propaganda money, (2) the Locarno Treaty, Germany had asked Italy if Italy would construe the Franco-Russian treaty as incompatible with Locarno. Italy had carefully considered and replied that as a matter of policy she disapproved the Franco-Soviet treaty because it invited communism into Central Europe but as a matter of principle she could not hold the treaty incompatible with Locarno. This question was still being considered by Germany and von Hassel was to express Germany’s latest view to Mussolini today but Suvich had already heard from their Berlin Embassy that Germany has not yet decided what position she would take so the conversation of von Hassel would be practically without point. Italy’s answer has been made and her position taken. He also stated he had just been advised that Laval was now opposed to ratification of the Soviet treaty and believed the French Government were not so enthusiastic about it as to make ratification a question of confidence in the Chamber; that it would pass the Chamber in normal course and might be defeated in the Senate.

Assuming the frankness of each of these statements I am still of the opinion that no definite political or military understanding exists between Germany and Italy, that the two Governments are watching developments with their several suspicions but without a common ground of mutual interest, that Italy is not presently willing to desert the European concert to ally herself with Germany and that the policy of opposition to each of these two Governments on the part of England, France, Russia and their allies may and easily can create an artificial base for their collaboration.

In this connection I record my sincere belief that Italy does not want an European war and will cooperate to prevent it up to the point where she is faced with a national danger and that she will then react with her entire power. Her attitude toward Locarno is highly important and indicative of her present policy, (1) to continue to cooperate under pre-existing arrangements for the peace of Europe, (2) to continue in the League in spite of existing sanctions, (3) to [Page 206] prosecute her African venture as a “colonial” campaign, (4) to make no new political engagements during sanctions.

Concerning point (4) last above her policy at the London Naval Conference is pertinent. Suvich said in this regard that the newspaper report of the Press Bureau, my telegram No. 61, February 21, 7 p.m.,47 was not accurate; that Italian delegates had returned to the Conference; would continue there to consider technical questions but that when these questions were decided and incorporated within a political instrument for signature Italy would consider her policy; the naval treaty was the only “political” question envisaged in the Press Bureau announcement, neither Mediterranean accord nor Ethiopia nor any other political arrangement were intended; that Italy believed Germany should be one of the London conferees but that Russia had no navy and was not entitled to be present.

In plain English Italy intends to continue her technical cooperation in London and probably will agree in principle but will not sign nor make this or any other new engagements nor assume any new obligations with any sanctioning government or governments pending the sanctions régime.

Repeated to American delegation London, mailed Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, Geneva Consulate.

  1. Telegram is two sections.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Fulvio Suvich, Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. Egon Berger-Waldenegg, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  5. Ulrlch von Hassell, German Ambassador in Italy.
  6. Not printed.