THE datum point from which any discussion of Near Eastern affairs must proceed is Italy's firm determination to defend and to exploit her new empire in East Africa. Ethiopia is an indispensable element in the future of Italy, the greatest of her hopes. More than that, Italy feels honor-bound before the world to develop and civilize Ethiopia in order to prove that its conquest was a just and necessary measure.
As a result of that conquest the focus of Italy's foreign policy has shifted to the Eastern Mediterranean. Italy, now more than ever before, must insist upon the freedom of the Mediterranean, for through that sea lies her only route to Ethiopia. This does not mean that Italy desires to monopolize the Mediterranean: her policy remains what it has always been ever since the Risorgimento -- the preservation of the status quo, or if that proves impossible, the creation of a Mediterranean equilibrium in which Italy has a place corresponding to her importance and to her vital interests. The common defense of this principle was one of the cornerstones of that Anglo-Italian diplomatic coöperation which endured the vicissitudes of fifty years, only to end with Britain's overt and intransigent opposition to Italy's liquidation of the Ethiopian problem, an opposition that for a time seemed to be leading the two nations to armed conflict. Indeed, that there was no such conflict was due to Il Duce's firm resolve to prevent the outbreak of a general European war.
I need not remind my readers that the Mediterranean and Red Seas -- with their connecting link, the Suez Canal -- also form a vital link in the imperial communications of Great Britain. But whereas Britain may use other ways to reach her Eastern possessions, for Italy there is no alternative. If the Suez Canal and its approaches are closed to her, she is completely cut off from her East African empire. The mortal dangers of her position in the Mediterranean, particularly in its status quo gravely disturbed by the agreements of mutual assistance between England on the one hand and Jugoslavia, Greece and Turkey on the other, by which the latter in effect put their ports at Britain's disposal. She also saw that through this combination she might have to bear even heavier sanctions -- the loss of her oil supply or the blocking of the Suez Canal. In other words, she saw the spectre of that very territorial and naval hegemony in the Mediterranean she had always striven to prevent.
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