765.75/429: Telegram

The Minister in Yugoslavia ( Lane ) to the Secretary of State

64. Yugoslav Cabinet now in session to discuss situation created by Italian occupation of Albania. No information yet obtainable from Yugoslav sources.

[Page 377]

From source close to Prince Regent, I understand telegram from King Zog to Mussolini was intercepted today containing former’s request for cessation of hostilities and agreement to capitulate to Italian demands. In view of last paragraph of my telegram No. 62, April 6, 5 p.m. indicating prior knowledge on the part of German military authorities that Italian action regarding Albania was imminent, I believe that it may be considered that Italy’s action was taken along the lines of settlement [sic] but probably at the instigation of Germany which desired one of the following: (1) to compromise Italy in a military venture in the Balkans so as to insure Italy’s not being on the side of Germany’s enemies in the event of a general war; (2) to weaken Italy’s prestige in the Balkans, especially with regard to Yugoslavia and Greece, as a result of her action against Albania, and thus make German economic and political penetration of the Balkans more feasible, or (3) to give Mussolini the sop which he has so long desired: annexation of territory to show that he has obtained something from the Axis.

In diplomatic circles it has been felt for some time that Germany’s best opportunity to strike against England and France was prior to their taking further steps at rearmament. Cvetković14 in fact today informed British Minister that information from Berlin showed German apprehension regarding success of British rearmament. Consequently if Germans could now act and consolidate the forces of the Axis both in Central Europe and in the Balkans their enemies would be weakened before the start of hostilities. It is now felt that the critical hour has arrived.

My personal feeling is that Yugoslavia will not come into the conflict should one arise, certainly not in its early phases. At present virtually the whole Yugoslav Government appears to be weak and almost cringing with respect to Germany. Even Prince Paul is depressed and without his usual vigor. Recent telegrams on case involving American oil interests are indicative of Government’s hesitation to take action despite the fact that the public is more and more hostile towards Germany and Italy. The Italian attack on Albania will undoubtedly create resentment here despite the fact that the Albanians are not esteemed and that Albania has had territorial designs on Yugoslavia. As Andrić15 pointed out in his conversation with me on April 5 Yugoslavia will in the long run come in on the side of Germany’s enemies but only at the last moment.

  1. D. Cvetković, Yugoslav Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; he acceded to this office on February 5, 1939.
  2. I. Andrić, Yugoslav Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs.