740.0011 European war 1939/2691‑1/7
The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State
[Rome,] May 1, 1940‑noon.
[Received May 1‑9 a.m.]
301. Your telegram No. 98, April, 29, 1940, 6 p.m. This morning at nine‑thirty I vas received by Mussolini at the Ministry of the Interior. Ciano arrived late and thus was present part of the time. The interview lasted a little over thirty minutes. As I read the message of President Roosevelt to him slowly Mussolini translated it into Italian. That every point was understood by him was clear to me. At the end of the message he took the paper and again read it and while rereading it made observations as follows: The possibility of the three Americas being drawn into the war puzzled him and why they should be he did not understand. Italy, Germany, and Russia did not desire an extension of the war. Germany is not menaced from the Balkans unless a new situation which would indeed be a menace be created by some act of the Allies in the Danubian region or at Salonika. To defeat Russia would be possible in his opinion and
he remarked that he also considered that Germany could not be beaten. After this morning's news of the important victories of Germany in Norway he considers the situation in Scandinavia to be already "liquidated" in Germany's favor. Fifteen countries can now be called upon by Germany for every kind of supplies and he enumerated them to me. In addition the blockade of the Allies was therefore completely ineffective. Apparently with satisfaction he noted the statement of President Roosevelt that he, Roosevelt, was a realist. Mussolini, also being a realist, feels that peace in Europe cannot be considered without recognizing the conditions which had come about as a consequence of the war. Poland had been defeated by Germany and the latter would willingly permit a new independent Polish state to be created without the old boundaries which were completely without justification. Germany was also willing that a new Czechoslovakian state be reestablished. Mussolini hoped that tile necessity of a "new geography" would be foreseen by the President as well as the necessity of the liquidation in the first place of all of the political questions and the poisons which now make a peaceful Europe impossible. We can approach the economic problems after the political problems are disposed of. But to tackle the economic problems first would be putting the cart before the horse. He reiterated that a new map of Europe must come into being. His country also had its new position in a reconstituted Europe.
Italy had been formerly an agricultural country and its foreign commerce was not particularly important to her own well‑being. At the present time she was a greatly industrialized country. Her large merchant marine was dependent on foreign commerce. Today, however, Italy was a "prisoner within the Mediterranean". This situation was intolerable and as her population increased rapidly she would insist upon getting the free access to the Atlantic Ocean which "under the guns of Gibraltar" she did not now have. He also spoke of the necessity for a change in Italy's favor in regard to the Suez Canal. Answering my question whether these were a new Italy's principal requirements he only said that there were a few other problems with France to be settled but gave no indication of them. Finally he said he would be greatly interested to learn the attitude of President Roosevelt in respect to his observations and also with respect. to the new map of Europe. He requested that I thank President Roosevelt cordially for the latter's message and in fact he appeared to be extremely appreciative of it. He expressed himself with calmness and at the same time with decision and appeared to be in good health. It appeared to me that he went out of his way to be friendly.
Ciano was evidently expecting that I would leave a copy of the message with him and seemed disappointed when I told him that I could not do so according to my instructions. Ciano telephoned to me later that through Ambassador Colonna Mussolini would send an answer to President Roosevelt.