765.84/4544: Telegram

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

182. I am informed that Mussolini has stated that unless the situation changes materially by June 16 especially as regards sanctions and the status of the Negus he will not send a delegation to the meeting of the Council at Geneva but will be represented at the Straits Conference which is scheduled to convene at Montreux on June 22. This latter meeting is looked upon as furnishing an opportunity for discussion of the Abyssinian problem among representatives of the [Page 144]interested European powers and of furthering a possible solution by reaching an agreement on the general Mediterranean problem as a broader basis for understanding.

In the meanwhile, there is every indication that the military preparedness in Italy is being maintained and even increased activities in certain branches are reported. The fleet is being kept at the height of preparedness. Increases are reported in aviation equipment and in offices, and it is said that new military airdromes are being developed in the northeast sector. As regards the army, it is reported that several new classes are to be called up and that schools in the Piedmont sector are to be closed so as to be available for barracks and the return to Italy of Marshal Badoglio is looked upon as an indication of intensive activities within the General Staff. In fact, the country appears to be fully established on a war basis and the extent of this preparation combined with the mood engendered by the recent successes in Abyssinia has created a state of mind on the part of Italians which is by no means conducive to an attitude of restraint in the face of what they regard as unjustified opposition.

The menace inherent in the present situation cannot be denied. Mussolini has declared that his decisions are irrevocable. He appears to have staked his prestige on maintaining the position which he has established and there is basis for the opinion that any recession from the main lines of that position would be practically impossible. Under that opinion any policy of bluff on his part is excluded for in the last analysis he would have no other course than to make good or try to make good the position which he has declared. Public opinion is firmly behind him. He has achieved more than he promised and has proved to the people the necessity if not the value of the measures which have been adopted in attaining his ends. He has strengthened the regime by recent administrative measures and it is rumored that fresh steps in this direction, both as regards changes in important offices as well as affecting governmental organizations and bodies, may be expected in the near future. Mussolini, it is believed, is looking for a peaceful solution. To that end it is alleged that he is ready to give other countries, and especially England, every assurance that their interests will be amply respected whether in Abyssinia or Egypt or elsewhere, and the Duce himself has declared that Italy, having attained satisfaction, will be fully occupied in exploiting her conquests and will menace the peace of no nation. To effect such a solution, however, would appear to be impossible if the policy of other countries, and of England in particular, is to be predicated upon a consideration of the moral issues involved in Italy’s action in Abyssinia rather than upon a conviction that some solution must be found which will liquidate this particular venture in order [Page 145]that nations may bend their efforts towards the reorganization of international relationships on the basic principles which have hitherto been acknowledged and which would preclude a repetition of events similar to the one which has created the present situation. Those who are convinced of the grave danger of what appears to be a present deadlock are hoping that a realistic view of the problem may prevail in order to obviate the pursuit of a policy which, on the one hand, might bring about scenes within Italy of which the consequences cannot be foreseen or, on the other, drive Mussolini to precipitate a general conflict in order to demonstrate his power if only by initial successes.

Kirk