740.0011 European War 1939/26911/7: Telegram

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

301. Your telegram No. 98, April 29, 6 p.m. Mussolini received me this morning at 9:30 at the Ministry of the Interior. Ciano came in late and was therefore present only part of the time. The interview [Page 694] lasted just over half an hour. I read the President’s message slowly and Mussolini translated it into Italian as we proceeded. It was clear to me that he understood every point. At the conclusion of the message he took the paper and read it a second time and during the rereading made the following observations: he was puzzled at the possibility of the three Americas being drawn into the war and did not understand why they should be. Neither Italy, Germany nor Russia desired to extend the war. There is no menace to Germany from the Balkans unless the Allies through some act in the Danubian region or at Salonika create a new situation which would in fact become a menace. In his opinion it would be possible to defeat Russia and he said that it was also his opinion that Germany could not be beaten.

With the news this morning of the important German successes in Norway he regards the Scandinavian situation as already “liquidated” in favor of Germany. Germany can now call upon 15 countries for supplies of every description and he enumerated them to me. Moreover, the Allied blockade was accordingly wholly ineffective. He took note with apparent satisfaction of the President’s statement that he, the President, was a realist. Being also a realist he feels that it is impossible to consider a European peace without recognizing the conditions which had arisen as a result of the war. Germany had defeated Poland and was willing to permit the creation of a new independent Polish state without the former frontiers which were wholly unjustifiable. Germany would also be willing that a new state of Czechoslovakia should be re-established. He hoped that the President would foresee the necessity of a “new geography” as he called it and the necessity of first liquidating all political questions and the poisons which are now making impossible a peaceful Europe. When the political problems are disposed of then we can approach the economic problems. But it would be putting the cart before the horse to tackle the economic problems first. He repeated there must be a new map of Europe. Italy also had her new position in the reconstituted Europe.

Formerly Italy had been an agricultural country and her foreign trade was of no particular importance to her own welfare. Now she was a heavily industrialized nation. Her large mercantile fleet was dependent on international trade. And yet Italy was today a “prisoner within the Mediterranean”. This was an intolerable situation and with the rapid increase in her population she would insist upon obtaining freedom of access to the Atlantic which she did not now have “under the guns of Gibraltar”. He mentioned also the necessity for a change with respect to the Suez Canal in Italy’s favor. In reply to my inquiry as to whether these were the principal requirements of a new Italy he merely mentioned that there were some other problems to be settled with France but he did not indicate them. In [Page 695] conclusion he said he would be very much interested to know what the President’s attitude was with regard to his observations and with regard to the new map of Europe. He asked me to thank the President cordially for his message which indeed he seemed to appreciate very much. He looked in good health and expressed himself with calmness and yet decision. It seemed to me that he went out of his way to be friendly.

Ciano evidently expected that I would leave with him a copy of the message and appeared to be disappointed when I told him that my instructions made it impossible for me to do so.

Later he telephoned me that Mussolini would send an answer to the President through Ambassador Colonna.