740.00/757: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips ) to the Secretary of State

127. The situation as seen here is daily becoming more mysterious and precarious, which may possibly be due to the fact that no one can prophesy the events of tomorrow. On the part of the Italian people there is certainly no enthusiasm resulting from the Albanian affair nor for any war, but a spirit of resignation with regard to future developments has become increasingly evident. While there is no general mobilization, there is a marked activity in calling men from various classes to active service and according to reports there is concentration of military activities in Brindisi and border far in excess of the present needs of the Albanian situation. Some Italians believe that within a few days the provisional government of Albania will offer the Crown to the King of Italy and inasmuch as this will be a “spontaneous” act on the part of Albania it will involve no infringement of the Anglo-Italian agreements regarding the Mediterranean status quo.

On the other hand the Italian Government has taken considerable pains over the Easter week-end to maintain good relations with England and has given repeated assurances both to the British Ambassador in Rome and through the Italian Chargé in London that the integrity and independence of Albania will be maintained. It was also indicated that a new government would be set up in Tirana which would enter into a treaty alliance permitting the Italians to maintain garrisons in Albania which would nevertheless remain an independent state with the same relation to Italy as Egypt has to Great Britain. Should this be the case it is believed that England might consider that there has been no infringement of the status quo. In fact it is evident that Italy is making every effort to allay British suspicions and to prove that the Albanian venture was a matter of primary concern to Italy alone.

While I do not foresee any immediate dismemberment of Yugoslavia recent events seem to show that that country will be permitted to exist only as long as it remains attached to the Rome–Berlin Axis [Page 394] and that Yugoslavia may have already lost its independence in international affairs. In reply to a question from the Yugoslav Minister Ciano assured him last night that Italian troops in Albania would be kept away from the Yugoslav frontier.

Our reports indicate that there are no Italian military activities on the Tunis frontier; which gives me the impression that the Italian Government is turning its attention at present primarily towards Eastern Europe. It has, however, given very definite assurances to Athens, Belgrade and London that it has no intention whatsoever of infringing Greek sovereignty either on the mainland or in the islands and that no move against Corfu or other Greek territory is contemplated.

The French Ambassador assured me this morning that he had received positive instructions from Paris not to begin conversations with the Italian Government and that he is therefore continuing to keep entirely away from the Palazzo Chigi.

In his conversation with Ciano yesterday the British Ambassador was definitely assured that the withdrawal of Italian volunteers from Spain including the Balearic Islands was being arranged and would definitely take place after the military review in Madrid, see my 122, April 8, 11 a.m.37 Should the Albanian crisis not give rise to any further complications it is apparent that the Italian Government hopes that the assurances given to Great Britain with regard to Albania and the withdrawal of troops from Spain will satisfy British preoccupations concerning the maintenance of the status quo in the Mediterranean and lead to possible British mediation between France and Italy. The British Ambassador informs me that reports from the British Embassy in Berlin lead him to believe that the Germans were not consulted in advance of the Albanian campaign.

Phillips
  1. Not printed.