chapter  2
21 Pages

Italian Diplomacy and European Power Politics 1922-60

On the last day of March 1940, in a Europe still pregnant with anticipation that the 'phoney war' might one day turn real, Benito Mussolini, the Duce of Fascist Italy, sent a memorandum to the constitutional Head of State, King Victor Emmanuel III. The Duce's mind wandered over the dilemmas confronting Italy since 'nonbelligerency' had been declared national policy:

If the war continues, to believe that Italy can stay out until the very end is absurd and impossible. Italy is not relegated to a corner of Europe as Spain is, Italy is not semi-Asiatic like Russia, Italy is not far away . . . as Japan and the United States are. Italy, rather, lives right in the middle of the combatants, both by land and by sea. Even if Italy changed its views and passed bag and baggage to the Anglo-French side, it would not avoid an immediate war with Germany. And this war would be one which Italy would have to fight alone [sic]. Italy cannot remain neutral for the duration of the war without abandoning its role [as a Great Power], without disqualifying itself, without reducing itself to a Switzerland times ten.1