740.0011 European War 1939/6207: Telegram

The Minister in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

260. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs told me this morning that the Greek Government is completely at a loss to understand recent British agency and radio reports of Axis demands on this country in view of the fact that no such demands have been made. Furthermore he said that while the concentrations of Italian troops in Albania must still be considered as a potential menace, official [Page 544] relations between Greece and the Axis powers are easier at the moment than for some time past. He personally suggested as a possibility that the British maneuver may be part of a campaign to alarm Russia over Axis intentions in the Balkans linking it up with recent false rumors from British sources in Rumania. Regarding the Albanian concentrations he said that they may have been effected in anticipation of the collapse of Great Britain this summer, when the moment would have been opportune for a Balkan snatch, and quoted a remark of the Italian Minister here to the effect that if Italy really wished to invade Greece she would have done so in August and not waited until now.

The British and Yugoslav Military Attachés both are informed that the condition of the Italian troops on the Albanian border, many of whom are under canvas, is rapidly becoming untenable, and believe that they must soon either advance or retire. In this connection the Under Secretary believes that retirement is the more likely not only because of the immediate difficulties in the way of advance, but because the latter would “certainly involve widespread consequences”. He still thinks any war in the Balkans unlikely at least before next spring and in view of the difficulties to be surmounted by the Axis in attacking vital British centers in Asia or Africa without command of the sea, considers the final German decision may have to be to stake all on putting England out by direct attack.