765.75/442: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

683. Wilson23 had a talk today with Politis, Minister of Greece. Politis said the he was greatly concerned about the situation of his country. He sees the Italian aggression against Albania as merely the first stage of the totalitarian program to obtain Italian predominance in the eastern Mediterranean. Greece will come next in a few days or a few weeks. Mussolini will bring up some pretext of Italians being maltreated in Greece and there will be a demand for Italian military occupation of the Greek islands. Greece will refuse, Italy will send her fleet and airplanes, the Greeks will fight as well as they can but inevitably will go under, and then Italy will be installed at Salonica and in the Greek islands.

Politis called on Bonnet24 this morning. He asked Bonnet what was the attitude of the French Government to the Italian attack on Albania. Bonnet said that the French Government was thinking about the matter and would consult with the British Government. Politis asked: “Do you mean to say that the French and British Governments have not yet determined their position?” Bonnet replied that it was difficult to ascertain the British position and that Chamberlain was fishing in Scotland. Politis remarked to Wilson that you cannot govern a great empire and go fishing at a time like this.

Politis said that neither the British nor French Government had believed that Italy would actually attack Albania. Just 3 days ago the British Ambassador in Paris had said to him that there was no cause for concern, that Perth had received satisfactory assurances in Rome and that the British Government was certain that these assurances would be respected.

Politis said that when Bonnet asked him what Greece would do if attacked by Italy he had replied that Greece would fight although there was no doubt that it would be a losing fight. Bonnet had said that of course France and Great Britain could not stand aside and see Greece crushed, that that would be too horrible, et cetera. Politis had replied that he would be convinced of this only when he heard that the British Navy was taking up stations among the Greek islands.

Politis went on to say that the British apparently do not realize yet how dangerous the situation is. Between 30 and 50,000 Italian soldiers have recently arrived at Rhodes. There is no need of them [Page 384] in Rhodes. The only explanation is that they are there to make an attack on Suez. The British forces at Cyprus should be tripled and the best airplanes Britain possesses should be sent there. There is no indication that Britain is doing this.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, in Southern Spain the Italians are getting ready for an attack on Gibraltar. The democracies have abounded in high sounding phrases and declarations. The query is, what are they doing to get into a position where their speeches can be backed up by action? What can England and France really do to assist Poland when Germany attacks! What can England do to help Greece or Yugoslavia, if England waits until Italy bottles up the Adriatic and occupies the Greek coast and islands? British policy has been to avoid war at all costs, to avoid even precautionary measures for fear the dictators would see a provocation. As a result the dictators have seized one position after another, until today declarations like Chamberlain’s on Poland,25 which if made last September might have bolstered up the collapsing structure of Europe, are no longer taken seriously because the possibility of making them effective has been lost.

Politis sees war coming inevitably at the moment the dictators judge best suited to their interests.

  1. Edwin C. Wilson, Counselor of Embassy in France.
  2. Georges Bonnet, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939, Third Series, Vol. iv, p. 552.