852.00/2354: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

307. My 291, July 25, 5 [3] p.m. The continuation of the Civil War in Spain with special reference to the reported assistance from France to the Madrid Government has further intensified the anxiety of the Italians over the situation there. Leading officials of the Foreign Office refer to the fact that Italy is closely interested in the events in Spain both as a Mediterranean state and as a Latin and Anglo-American country but they acknowledge that the underlying basis of redeeming concern of the Italian Government is the factor of Communism and the threat of the spread of Bolshevism throughout Spain and North Africa. In fact in the highest official circles here the present conflict in Spain has been characterized as the crystallization of the opposition between the two main forces in Europe, namely, Fascism and Bolshevism, and on that basis the developments there with special reference to the progress of the anti-Communist elements are regarded as of international consequence rather than of merely national scope. The destruction of Italian lives and property as a result of the fighting has aroused indignation but up to the present the inclination appears to be to attempt to reduce that danger by evacuating Italian subjects from Spanish territory and to postpone the consideration of compensation and future pledges of security to a time when the political situation in the country is less confused. The alleged assistance from France to the Madrid Government on the other hand is regarded as of immediate concern and the fact that a leading official of the Government here has been quoted as saying that such action would furnish a justification to other countries who might wish to aid the opposing [Page 454] factions in Spain has given rise to conjectures in certain circles here as to the possibility of an anti-Communist move on the part of the countries in Europe aligned against Bolshevism. Foreign Office officials at the present time, however, while admitting the danger of some incident resulting in foreign complications, reject categorically any consideration of the possibility of actual intervention in the Spanish conflict and merely emphasize the vital importance of the outcome there to the maintenance of the social order in Europe.

The press here has generally devoted space on the Spanish conflict to news accounts of events there together with repercussions in other countries and has discussed matters of direct concern to Italy only in the form of denials of allegedly erroneous reports. It has not given publicity to the report which reached Rome yesterday to the effect that an Italian plane equipped with machine guns had cracked near the Spanish Moroccan border and officials, while refusing to offer any explanation pending an investigation, insist that in no event can the Italian Government be regarded as involved. The newspapers have, however, published a denial of the report that the Italian Government received an offer from General Franco of the cession of Ceuta in return for assistance from Italy and the Press Ministry has denied the shipment of Italian planes to Spanish territory. In the last day or two the Italian press has increased the extent of the foreign news reports on the situation in Spain and although the communistic aspect of the conflict is emphasized, no statement of an Italian policy appears other than that of neutrality.