The Consul at Geneva (Bucknell) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 18—4:35 p.m.]
51. The consensus of responsible Secretariat and other informed opinion at Geneva regarding the situation resulting from the German annexation of Czechoslovakia may be summarized as follows:
- The latest German move by its revelation, even to the most skeptical, of the ruthlessness of German methods and the extent of her ultimate aims has marked a turning point in the European situation and has rendered an eventual war almost inevitable. The Czech annexation is considered as Hitler’s first great error since it can not be justified on racial or other reasonable grounds and starkly reflects a determination to extend German expansion to such an extent that this ambition can only be checked by force.
- Further German moves in Eastern Europe are expected to take place in the near future. It is thought that such future moves will as in the case of Czechoslovakia, be directed either to securing Germany’s “back door” in preparation for a move to the west or be preliminary to a further rapid expansion eastward or both.
- As regards the highly desirable possibility of rallying the small states of Europe, particularly of Southeastern Europe, against further German attacks, this is thought to present great difficulties unless Great Britain and France are prepared immediately to take such a strong stand that they could not recede therefrom at the last moment. In the light of what has taken place in Europe during the past year, no small state or group of states it is felt would dare risk resistance to a German attack without the certainty of immediate and effective support from these two countries. More than ever there is much pessimism not only as regards the determination but also the ability of France and Great Britain to afford such support at present.
- The position of Russia both as to her willingness and her ability to give effective aid presents a big question mark and must inevitably affect British and French policy.
- The importance of Mediterranean as an immediate danger spot is stressed. One view expressed is that Mussolini has two main alternatives, (a) now feeling the German menace himself, come to terms with the British and French in return for their protection against Germany or (b) push his demands against France to the point of risking a war on the gamble that Hitler would be forced through fear of losing Italy as an ally to come to her assistance. Grave concern is felt here lest Mussolini choose the second alternative since the first would entail the abandonment of his dreams of empire. This concern is increased by the feeling that in the last analysis Hitler could [Page 54] not afford to see Italy defeated even though a war to save Italy would be highly unpopular in Germany.
Finally, these predictions and preoccupations are based upon the premise that any major hostilities in either Eastern Europe or in the Mediterranean would eventually extend into a general war and that such hostilities might in the existing situation be provoked by even a minor incident.