852.00/8865: Telegram

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

25. My 20, January 20, 11 a.m. On January 24 under instructions Perth26 protested to Ciano against any precipitate action contemplated by the 60 battalions of troops in question explaining at the same time the possibility that Italian information with regard to the French intervention in Spain might be inaccurate. He asked whether [Page 733] in the event that the Italians received reports of French intervention they would first consult with the British and afford the latter opportunity to do whatever might seem desirable in the circumstances. The Italian Government has given these assurances.

Yesterday and again under instructions Perth called at the Foreign Office to express the hope of the British Government that upon the occupation of Catalonia Franco would exercise leniency and avoid retaliatory measures. Ciano agreed thoroughly with the British hope and gave assurances that he would do everything he could with this end in view. Perth informed me that his Government had been requested by the Barcelona Government to use its influence in this respect upon Franco and that the Government while doing so had felt the desirability of inducing the Italian Government to take similar action.

It is impossible at this moment to foresee the situation which will develop after the occupation of Catalonia and the end of the war in its international aspect. It is probable that Mussolini himself has not determined his own program which will depend considerably upon the general European atmosphere and upon the attitude of Germany. That he will make demands upon France is certain but in precisely what form and with what definite objectives is still guesswork.

  1. British Ambassador in Italy.