Foreign Policy, 1923-1939

Influences behind Mussolini's foreign policy

Mussolini’s foreign policy was shaped and influenced by a lot of factors: including: The First World War and mutilated victory (which, at first, Mussolini didn’t make a fuss about, but eventually, through the persuasion of the Italians, did), Fascist Ideology and war, The Great History of the Roman Empire and aggression. That was the only way Mussolini (or any other dictator for that matter), got anywhere. Mussolini did conquer North Africa including Libya, but there was no economic value.

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Corfu 1923

Corfu's intervention summer 1923 was mainly propaganda based and was successful for Mussolini. It all started about an argument over the border between Greece+Albania. Great Powers organised Conference. Italian army officers part of inspection team. Several killed in Greek Territory. Mussolini seized opportunity to uphold Italian honour. Sent harsh 7-point ultimatum to Greece, demanding an apology and huge financial compensation. Greek issued apology, but refused to pay. Mussolini instantly bombarded Greek Island of Corfu, killing civilians. Italian troops occupied. Blatant act of war. Greece made furious protests, supported by us. Greece went to L of N, M refused to accept verdict and insisted Conference of Ambassadors should sort out issue instead. Crisis eventually died down and forces were removed. However, Mussolini achieved cheap boosted prestige - ahead of 1924 elections! Able to restore relations with us but weakened L of N in the process. Corfu considered as Mussolini's dress rehearsal for Abyssinia 12 years later.

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Fiume 1924

Another success in foreign Policy! This time he SECURED possession of Fiume sea port on Dalmatian coast. Was disputed area after WW1. Fought over by Italy and Yugoslavia after WWW1 peace-settlement which claimed Fiume as a free city. M believed Italy had the opportunity to gain political influence and dominance in Western Balkans especially Albania. In his Fascist Speeches to Fascist enthusiasts, he claimed the Adriatic Sea was "by rights Italian". However, still v. cautious+realistic in early power years. Didn’t want to alarm anybody just yet. Showed more diplomatic skill. Persuaded Yugoslavian Government to accept Italian take over by Treaty of Rome Jan 1924. Italians promised to establish peace(ish) after 3 years of chaos. Also toned down OTT claims against Yugoslavia. Economically useless. Gained prestige.

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Locarno Treaties 1925

Role as meditator, signing Locarno Treaties 1925. Borders between France, Germany and Belgium recognised as permanent in Italian speaking part of Switzerland, lake resort Locarno. British Foreign secretary, Austen Chamberlain meditator too. Mussolini's supporters suggested he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize! Role little more than symbolic. Increased popularity in Italy. Foreign countries impressed. European countries particularly. Austen Chamberlain met him several times later after Locarno.

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1929: Funded right-wing political groups. 1930: signed Friendship Treaty. On good terms with Englbert Dollfuss, who became PM 1932. Informal family get togethers at the Italian Riviera. Splashed the cash on Austria. If you were paid by the state, you were essentially paid by Italy. Jan 1933, Austrian Nazi Party got stronger. Dollfuss faced opposition form left+right. M urged D to "act decisively" against Socialists. M supported D against Nazi's, confident Italy could prevent German Anschluss. 1934: Dollfuss assassinated. Mainly because M made show of commitment to Austria by military force if necessary. Stationed army of 4 divisions on Austrian Border at Brenner Pass. M outraged "Hitler is a ... loathsome sexual degenerate"

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Stressa Front 1935

1935: Mussolini was seen as a European Statesman and a potential ally. At the Stressa Conference April 1935: Britain+France had been eager to reach an agreement with Mussolini. Britain and France’s attitudes and actions were based on public opinion. On one hand, they wanted to support the L of N and stop Fascist aggression. There was no doubt about imposing military sanctions, but they were unsure about economic sanctions. On the other hand, they wanted Mussolini on their side and to keep the Stresa front alive. They didn’t really mind Mussolini having an Italian Empire in Africa, so long as there was no trouble. Mussolini could have part of Abyssinia and another part was free and independent. Mussolini said no.

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Decision to invade Abyssinia and it's consequences

From October 1935-April 1936, Mussolini had managed to conquer Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia), which is in North Africa. This angered the League of Nations and they imposed sanctions (which weren’t very effective). This led to a growth in National support for Italy and the people finally saw Mussolini as a great leader again. Britain and France failed to negotiate and in the end, in May 1936, Italy had King Victor Emmanuel crowned Emperor of Abyssinia.

There was an actual Abyssinian war from 1924 – when it was put under control of the League of Nations, to July 1936 – When Italy had invaded and the League of Nations stopped trying to impose sanctions on it.

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Involvement in Spanish Civil War

Partly based on ideology of fighting communism. Competition to match Hitler in helping Franco. Fascist Italy provided Franco with large-scale military support. Also brought Italy and Germany closer. 12 Italian bombers sent to Spain July 1936. December: 1st force of 10,000 Italian men in Cadiz. Feb 1937: 50,000 Italians troops. Height of involvement: 80,000 troops, 150 tanks. Air power increased win for Franco. 6660 Italian aircraft in Spain. Italian bombing raid Barcelona March 1938 damaged republican cause. Severe strain on own military equipment for WW2. 4000 dead.

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Mussolini's relationship with Nazi Germany

1934-1938: Austria was a source of friction between M and G. M became increasingly worried about rapid growth of German economy and military power, therefore 1936-37 - more dependent on it because of other interventions eg. Spain. More impressed with dynamism. Made a speech in German during a thunderstorm Sept 1937. Nov 1937: signed Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany+Japan. Mussolini proposed Munich agreement drawn up by the Germans 1938.

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Pact of Steel

The Pact of Steel was signed in May 1939, when Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini and Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler became a formal alliance. They had suggested this since 1938, but now, it was official.

The Fascist Negotiations: Muddled and improvised. Mussolini believed war would start 1943, so was preparing for that time, no earlier. Still wanted Italy to hold balance of power in Europe.Therefore, not fully committed. He didn’t want war for another 3 years, as he was not ready for war. He hoped the invasion of Albania, April 1939, would show Italian strength. In May, he became desperate and decided to go ahead with the alliance

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