The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
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 eastern end, were dramatically brought home to Italy during the 241 days of economic siege applied against her by the League of Nations. She saw the 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.
At the same time, sanctions showed Italy that her position had certain advantages. She discovered that she could cut Britain's Mediterranean communications, and that Britain's naval bases in that sea were no longer invulnerable.
Leaving aside the imponderables -- for the effect of these can never be foreseen -- what are the relative military positions of England and Italy in the Eastern Mediterranean? Italy failed to make good her wartime aspirations in Anatolia; she therefore possesses, in addition to the homeland, only Libya and the Dodecanese, neither of which she won in the World War. England, on the other hand, greatly expanded her Near Eastern domain after the war by forming a compact complex of allies, mandates, tributary states and crown colonies between the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Because of her responsibilities to these allied or subject peoples, England cannot limit her action in the Mediterranean to closing its two ends at Suez and Gibraltar without greatly damaging her prestige and her interests. Responsible British statesmen, such as Sir Samuel Hoare, have themselves clearly indicated that they have no intention of renouncing the British position in that sea by, for instance, abandoning the naval base at Malta. Though their strategic situation has been altered by the strengthening of potentially hostile naval bases and air fleets, the British continue to trust in the magnitude of their own forces, in their carefully prepared political arrangements, and in those complicated plans for the defense of maritime traffic in closed seas which the Admiralty declares it has already made.
What, in concrete terms, is the state of Italy's naval preparedness in the Eastern Mediterranean? Her most important naval arsenal, located at Taranto, lies on the shores of that sea. Further, there are on the east coast of Sicily the bases of Messina and Augusta, in Libya the ports of Tripoli and Bengasi and the base at Tobruk, and in the Ægean Islands the base at Leros. To this well-planned network must be added the naval base at Brindisi, which controls the Strait of Otranto, and the port of Trapani, which, together with the recently fortified island of Pantelleria, dominates the Strait of Sicily. The peculiar formation of the floor of this Strait affords especially favorable conditions for the use of insidious weapons such as mines and submarines. Further, the Strait can easily be controlled from the air bases of Sicily, Sardinia and Libya. These circumstances explain why several British naval and aëronautical experts have pronounced Malta untenable, lying as it does only fifty miles from Italian airfields, and why the Admiralty has on more than one occasion seriously considered basing its Eastern Mediterranean fleet at a less exposed place. With Egyptian consent this could be Alexandria, though that city at present lacks the necessary military and naval apparatus for a base. Haifa, another suitable spot, is not supposed to be put to military purposes since it lies in mandated territory. Cyprus has an ideal location, but its coasts offer absolutely no sites for the creation of a naval base worthy of the name.
In so far as the relative strength of the Italian and British fleets is concerned, it might not be amiss to make a rapid comparison of the two. Today Italy has in service or being thoroughly refitted four capital ships, while England has fifteen. She has in the advanced stages of construction two others of 35,000 tons each, similar to five English vessels also being built. To these must be added two more of like tonnage recently started, for which there are five English counterparts. In this category Italy tends to maintain the now defunct ratios set up in the Washington Treaty.
In the cruiser class Italy has seven heavy and twelve light units, all modern, which are comparable in type to the sixteen heavy and forty-five light cruisers in the British Navy. Italy has in construction twelve light cruisers of limited size but of great speed -- her "oceanic" cruisers -- whereas England is building twenty-eight, larger but slower. Among the smaller craft Italy has, in the water or shortly to be launched, sixty-three destroyers and thirty-two large torpedo boats, together with numerous small and antiquated but still useful vessels. In this class Britain possesses some two hundred units in service or on the ways.
Italy has no airplane carriers because the entire Mediterranean is within range of her air bases; Britain has seven in use and seven building. On the other hand, the Italian Navy sets great store on its submarines, of which it has more than a hundred, while England has fifty-six (plus seventeen in construction). Upon the occasion of Hitler's recent visit to Italy, eighty-two Italian submarines manœuvred in formation on and below the waters of the Bay of Naples.
And lastly, both navies have developed those small torpedo-carrying motorboats (known in Italy as the MAS), used with such success by the Italian Navy in the Adriatic during the World War.
The following table gives the official figures, as of October 1, 1938, for the Italian, French and British fleets. Those for the French Navy have been included in order that the reader may gauge the magnitude of Italy's naval progress.
|COMPARATIVE NAVAL TONNAGES OF THE THREE PRINCIPAL|
The figures cited above are in themselves misleading unless interpreted in the light of the strategic situation in which each country finds itself, or might find itself in the event of a general European war. Italy, for instance, is so located geographically that she is literally in a closed sea, the three outlets of which lie in the hands of others. It is easy to see why many British naval experts were, at the time of the Ethiopian War, of the opinion that Italy could be forced to surrender merely by closing these outlets without waging war against her in the Central Mediterranean. This danger for Italy, however real it may have been three years ago, will in the future become less serious as her policy of autarchy advances towards success and as closer relations with her friends in Central and Eastern Europe are developed.
There remains, furthermore, the fundamental fact, already alluded to, that by commanding the Strait of Sicily Italy is able to cut the Mediterranean into two parts and thus oblige the British, if they wish to exert effective and continuous pressure on the Italian Peninsula, to keep two fleets in that sea -- one based on Gibraltar and one based on Alexandria or Haifa. Operating in its own waters and making full use of the Strait of Messina, the Italian Navy can, with support from the air, oblige any adversary to employ a tremendous display of force. And since Britain has commitments all over the world, the disproportion between the two navies is not as great as the figures of tonnage and of units, taken by themselves, might indicate.
Turning to the Red Sea, strategically an integral part of the Eastern Mediterranean, we find that the conquest of Ethiopia has freed Italian naval positions in those waters from that fear of an Abyssinian attack which in the past rendered their use precarious. Today the Italian naval bases at Massaua and Assab enjoy the necessary freedom of action; and, because of local hydrographic conditions, they are practically unassailable. When we remember that farther south, in Somalia, Italy possesses other bases for operations, especially for aviation, it is clear that henceforth it will not be difficult for her to block the lower entrance to the Red Sea -- and thus to the Mediterranean. A flotilla of light ships and submarines, supported from the air and technically prepared to operate in tropical seas, would be more than sufficient to bar the passage of that sea.
From the foregoing remarks three obvious conclusions are to be drawn: (1) Great Britain and Italy have a common vital interest in maintaining the freedom of their imperial communications through the Mediterranean and Red Seas; (2) each is in a position seriously to hinder the other's access to certain zones along this route; (3) a war in which one sought to overthrow the other would therefore present for both of them incalculable, perhaps mortal, dangers. It is with full consciousness of these inescapable facts that the governments of the two nations have, ever since July 1936, been groping towards an understanding. These attempts, after meeting various setbacks, finally led to the signature of the Anglo-Italian Agreements and accompanying Declarations on April 16, 1938. Even then, another seven months elapsed before these documents were to be made effective by the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from both sides in Spain.
Naturally, relations between Rome and London were very strained as long as the League's sanctions were enforced and as long as Britain upheld the naval agreements she had made with Jugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. The League's vote on July 16, 1936, to revoke sanctions and Foreign Minister Eden's declaration three weeks later that the pacts of guarantee between Britain and the three Eastern Mediterranean Powers had outlived their usefulness, opened the way for a détente in Anglo-Italian relations. Even during the dark days of the Ethiopian War, Mussolini had repeatedly asserted that Italy's policy did not menace British imperial interests and that it was highly regrettable that their differences had developed into a bitter diplomatic conflict.
Mussolini therefore welcomed the promise of a better understanding. In his speech to the people of Milan on November 1, 1936, he took up the question of Anglo-Italian relations. He pointed out that if the Mediterranean was for England a route -- a "short cut" -- to her eastern empire, for Italy it was life itself. However, he went on to say that Italy does "not intend to menace that route. We do not propose to cut it, but in return we demand that our rights and vital interests be respected." Continuing, he declared that "there are no alternatives: the rational brains in the British Empire must realize the irrevocable and accomplished fact; and the sooner the better. A bilateral clash is unthinkable, and even less one that from bilateral might become a general European conflict. There is therefore only one solution: a straightforward, rapid, complete understanding based on the recognition of reciprocal interests." These ideas he reiterated a few days later in an interview with Ward Price of the Daily Mail. "Anglo-Italian interests in the Mediterranean," he declared, "are not conflicting but complementary. Neither of our two nations can permit itself the luxury of being hostile to the other."
These categorical statements were soon followed by concrete actions. On November 6 an accord was signed renewing commercial relations between the two countries and liquidating the Italian commercial debts to England, frozen during sanctions. This paved the way for the Gentlemen's Agreement signed at Rome on January 2, 1937. In this document the two Powers recognized that" the freedom of entry into, exit from, and transit through, the Mediterranean is a vital interest both to the different parts of the British Empire and to Italy, and that these interests are in no way inconsistent with each other," and agreed to "disclaim any desire to modify, or, so far as they are concerned, to see modified, the status quo as regards national sovereignty of territory in the Mediterranean area."
The favorable effects of this declaration were not slow in appearing. On January 15, Italy gave her preliminary adhesion to the decisions of the 1936 London Naval Conference. On January 27, though Great Britain still refused to recognize Italy's conquest of Ethiopia, Italy signed conventions with her which regulated the water and pasturage rights of the natives along the frontier between Ethiopia and British Somaliland, as well as the transit traffic between the British ports of Zeila and Berbera and the Ethiopian hinterland.
But this auspicious start towards Anglo-Italian coöperation was soon to receive a severe setback as a result of the Civil War in Spain. It was inevitable that Italy should look with the utmost disfavor on the creation of an anti-Fascist, and therefore anti-Italian, régime in Spain. Yet, the generous help given General Franco by Italy has not been for the purpose of upsetting the status quo in the Mediterranean: the Italian Government has never thought of modifying the territorial integrity of continental, insular or colonial Spain, or of reaping for itself political and economic advantages in that country. Its sole object has been to prevent the Madrid-Valencia Government from destroying the status quo in the Western Mediterranean by endangering Italy's freedom of passage through the Strait of Gibraltar.
But the coherence of Italy's Spanish policy came to be appreciated in England only very gradually, and the hopes engendered by the Gentlemen's Agreement were therefore slow of fulfilment. It was only with Mr. Neville Chamberlain's accession to power that British policy was divorced from the complicated system of Geneva and placed on the firm ground of historical reality and the substantial interests of the empire. Thereafter Anglo-Italian conciliation moved forward. Mr. Eden's resignation as Foreign Minister in February 1938, due to his disagreement with Mr. Chamberlain over the advisability of a rapprochement with Italy, finally cleared the tracks for a liquidation of all disputes between the two countries about Mediterranean and Near Eastern affairs. The terms of this rapprochement were embodied in the various accords signed, as remarked above, at Rome on April 16, 1938.
The Gentlemen's Agreement of January 1937 had dealt only with the Mediterranean and was very brief and general in its terms. In sharp contrast, the April 1938 accords are comprehensive, detailed and exact, and their scope is not confined to the Mediterranean. They go to the root of all Anglo-Italian questions regardless of how delicate they may be. And they settle them concretely, leaving nothing to chance or to uncertainty. Above all, these documents establish the moral parity of the two nations. This in itself is an historic fact. The traditional British-Italian relationship, after having long been one between the strong and the weak, has now become one between full-fledged equals: in each of the agreements and accompanying declarations every clause accepted by Italy has its counterpart in one accepted by Britain. In this wise the guarantees are given, not unilaterally, but reciprocally. Let us examine the contents of these documents.
First of all, the Gentlemen's Agreement of the previous year is confirmed. Second, the two parties agree to exchange certain broad categories of information about their land, sea and air forces in their territories (including mandates and protectorates) on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, the Gulf of Aden and in certain adjacent parts of Africa. Each also agrees to notify the other in advance of any decision relative to the establishment of new naval or air bases in the Mediterranean east of the nineteenth meridian, in the Red Sea or on the approaches thereto.
More significant are the documents which follow this: the "Anglo-Italian Agreement Regarding Certain Areas in the Middle East" and its five subsidiary Declarations. Taken together they constitute a species of "constitution" determining the new balance of power in the Red Sea region. As early as 1926 the Fascist Government had affirmed Italy's status as a Great Power in that area by being the first to recognize the independence of the Yemen. Shortly thereafter, the British Government indicated that it wished to discuss with Italy, in a spirit of understanding and collaboration, the situation created in the Red Sea -- probably the most delicate segment in Britain's imperial communications -- by the changes which had taken place there since the World War: the consolidation of the Yemenite state, the rise of Ibn Saud as a major factor in Arabian politics; the uncertain future of 'Asir; and the poorly defined legal status of the islands along the Arabian coast surrendered by Turkey. From the conversations held at Rome in 1927 there emerged certain understandings which, in spite of their rather generic nature, regulated Italo-British affairs in that zone for a decade.
In the years following 1927 further changes took place: Ibn Saud's creation of Saudi Arabia by the annexation of 'Asir and the Farasan Islands, formerly belonging to Turkey; the pact of "Arab Brotherhood" made between Saudi Arabia and the Yemen after their brief war; the elevation of Aden to the rank of a crown colony and the expansion of the Aden Protectorate to include the Hadhramaut; and lastly the creation of an Italian empire in East Africa. These circumstances rendered inevitable a revision of the obligations assumed in 1927.
In the Red Sea, perhaps even more than in the Mediterranean, the primary object of each party to the rapprochement of April 1938 was to insure the freedom of its imperial communications. This is the principal reason why both undertake to respect, and to oblige third Powers to respect, the territorial integrity and the independence of the Yemen and of Saudi Arabia. To give effect to this pledge they agree to abstain not merely from occupying territory but from every form of action which might lead to their acquiring privileged political positions in those countries.
Equally important are the stipulations in regard to the islands in the Red Sea. Nothing is said about the Farasan Islands -- or about 'Asir on the mainland -- indicating that the two Powers officially recognize their annexation to Saudi Arabia. As for the Kamaran Islands, Italy promises not to oppose the presence there of a British sanitary station, in return for which England will not oppose the admission of an Italian medical officer to the station. Next are mentioned Great and Little Hanish Islands and Jebel Zukur, on which it is provided that Italian officials may reside to protect the fishermen who frequent those waters, and Abu Ail, Centre Peak and Jebel Teir, on which a mixed British and Italian personnel will operate the lighthouses. The importance of these arrangements resides in the fact that they do not affect the sovereignty of the islands.
Italy declares that in that part of the Arabian Peninsula lying east and south of Saudi Arabia and the Yemen she "will not seek to acquire any political influence." For their part, the British promise not to take any action infringing on the independence or integrity of Saudi Arabia and the Yemen; not to undertake, or cause to be undertaken, any military works in that zone except those necessary for the defense of the area or of "the communications between different parts of the British Empire;" not to enroll, or allow to be enrolled, natives of that zone "in any military forces other than forces designed and suited solely for the preservation of order and for local defense." The British further declare it their intention to maintain the autonomy of the Arab rulers under their protection, though they reserve "the liberty to take in these territories such steps as may be necessary for the preservation of order and the development of the country." They also stipulate that Italian subjects can, in accord with local regulations, freely enter, move about, dwell and do business in the Aden Protectorate.
Supplementing this Agreement there are five Declarations, of which only two need be enlarged upon. In one Italy renews her assurance, previously made to the League of Nations on June 29, 1936, that the natives of Italian East Africa will not "be compelled to undertake military duties other than local policing and territorial defense." The second deals with the Suez Canal and will be discussed a little later.[i]
What effect do all these contractual obligations have on the interests and policies of the two Powers?
Let us begin with the southern end of the Red Sea, where certain observers may have gained the impression that, by accepting the status quo in Southern Arabia, Italy has bowed before British hegemony. In reality, a careful examination of the documents will show that there has been a loyal recognition of reciprocal interests and rights by both governments. Their interests, here as elsewhere in the Red Sea or in the Mediterranean, are "complementary" -- to borrow Mussolini's formula. The fact that British imperial interests are more extensive and complex in comparison to those of Italy has no importance. What is important is that the two empires have found it expedient in certain sectors where they have vital interests in common to come to terms on a basis of equality.
The strategic situation now governing the Red Sea would, in any case, militate against either Power's seeking to impose its hegemony there: the vast naval resources of Britain are well-known, while Italy's forces are, as was indicated above, in a position to carry out whatever operations, defensive or offensive, may prove to be necessary in those waters. As for the Indian Ocean, which in certain circumstances might be used in conjunction with the Red Sea, Italy still regards it as a British sea. At the same time, it must be kept in mind that when the ports on the inhospitable coast of Somalia have been completed, Italian vessels will be able to operate in the Indian Ocean.
The question of the Suez Canal should be examined with the same criteria that we have applied to the Eastern Mediterranean and to the Red Seas. Our approach to it depends, of course, on whether we presuppose rivalry or collaboration between Italy and England. In the first case, no protocol or declaration, no matter how explicit, can prevent England -- due to the privileged status she has won for herself, in particular by means of the military and aërial clauses in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of August 26, 1936 -- from exercising "decisive" pressure on the Canal. The Constantinople Convention of October 29, 1888, with which the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty is in substantial contradiction, would thus become a purely platonic instrument in spite of the precedents set during the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12 and the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 -- upon all of which occasions the freedom of the Canal was preserved in consonance with Article I of the Constantinople Convention. If, on the other hand, there is Anglo-Italian coöperation instead of hostility, the question of free transit does not even arise. By registering each Power's promise to respect the terms of the 1888 Convention, the April 1938 Declaration should prove to be a definite settlement of this problem, the more so since Egypt, in her new quality as an independent state, has adhered to it.
The relations between Italy and Egypt have at several moments given rise to diffidence. This diffidence has always been of Egyptian origin, much to the surprise of the Italian Government, which at all times has sought to prove its sincere friendship for the Egyptian people -- as, for instance, at the Montreux Conference for the abolition of the capitulations. Italy has a large and active colony in Egypt, where indeed for a considerable period during the nineteenth century the Italian language and Italian officials occupied a privileged position in the government and in business. All that Italy desires from Egypt is good political and economic relations, and mutual understanding and respect.
Egypt's suspicions towards Italy arose at the time of the Ethiopian War, when certain amateur strategists proclaimed that Italian troop movements in Libya, which in reality were purely defensive, represented preparations for an attack upon Alexandria, to be carried out in unison with an Italian invasion of the Sudan from Ethiopia. These strategists did not reflect that any such action would have meant not only a war with England but, as Mussolini himself declared, a general European conflict. Since it is not hard to imagine on which side France would have been in such a war, one can readily see in what a precarious position Libya would have been. Be that as it may, the Rome negotiations of April 1938 led to two measures clarifying the situation: the agreement of bon voisinage between Great Britain and Egypt on one hand and Italy on the other, and Italy's pledge to reduce her effectives in Libya to a peace footing -- equivalent to half the number stationed there in the winter of 1938.
Palestine is popularly believed to be another locus of friction between Italy and Great Britain. Let it therefore be said immediately that in Palestine, as in Syria and 'Iraq, Italy has no interests other than the preservation of the Mediterranean status quo and the defense of the principle of the Open Door as applied to the economic and cultural position she has already acquired there. Certainly, Italy does not regard the situation in those countries with entire satisfaction, particularly in so far as recent events in Syria and Palestine have not been in keeping with the concept of the status quo. In the Sanjak of Alexandretta, France, the mandatory Power for Syria, not long ago placated the Turkish Government by accepting its military assistance in policing the contested territory, and this against the will of the Syrians. In return for this favor she induced the Turks to enter a treaty of friendship, which created in that sector of the Near East a singular political situation -- a development in which Britain seems to have had a hand.
The British mandatory government in Palestine, instead of resolutely confronting the situation caused by its Zionist policy, has apparently been content to keep agitation and terrorism alive by proposing one solution after another, the only upshot of which is the further exasperation of Palestinian nationalist elements. Some observers hold that England has dragged out the pacification of Palestine in order to have an excuse for keeping an imposing array of military force in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this connection it is interesting to note that the British Government's determination to inject real energy into its military operations in Palestine followed the meeting at Munich and its own decision to put the Anglo-Italian Agreements into effect.
There is no foundation for the rumors that accuse Italy of secretly aiding the Arab nationalist movement. Italian opinion concerning the Arabs is that they ought to be permitted as far as possible to choose their own destiny. For this reason it has always regarded the institution of the Jewish "Homeland" as an abuse of power. Italy's friendly policy towards the Arab-Moslem world is an old and firm tradition. Since the conquest of Ethiopia the necessity for this attitude has been intensified by the fact that several million Mohammedans live in Italian Africa and because of the existence of Moslem countries on all sides of the Empire.
If we keep these facts clearly in mind, we see why the statement made by Il Duce during his last trip to Libya -- that he wished to be the "Protector of Islam" -- has a precise meaning, clearly understood by the Moslem world with the exception of a few envious religious personalities interested in giving it a literal interpretation. The Arab world is far from being solidly in favor of Arab unity, and this applies particularly to Pan Islamic circles. As Sheik Mohammed Mustafa el-Maraghi, Rector of the famous religious University of el-Azhar at Cairo, declared not long ago, "Islam is opposed to the spirit of race; it makes no distinction between the Arab and the non-Arab, because it starts from a concept of the Islamic community in which there is no discrimination between races. The ulemas and Moslems in general should strive for Islamic unity and not concern themselves with Arab unity."[ii] How could Mussolini, one of the most realistic statesmen in Europe, have had in mind any possibilities beyond these well-known and clearly defined limits? And in any event, did not the Interparliamentary Congress of the Arab states recently held at Cairo, by its conclusions and by the pro-British sympathies of its leading personalities, reveal itself to be a secret Pan Arab manœuvre for the creation of a united Arab kingdom which would be under Britain's tutelage, and which would thus reënforce Britain's monopoly over the Arab world?
Italy nevertheless confidently awaits the beneficial results of her rapprochement with Great Britain, even as regards the Arab countries, the more so because she has no special concessions to ask beyond those which naturally inhere in her position as a Mediterranean nation. Only one right of a highly spiritual character does she reaffirm, and that is her right to preserve the Latinity of the Holy Land, won through eight crusades. This right Italy can exercise only if she has the custody of the sanctuaries built there during the two centuries of Latin rule. In particular, she asks the possession of the Cœnaculum in Jerusalem, which the King of Italy has inherited from the House of Anjou, to which it once belonged. Italy is sure that a friendly England will not continue indefinitely to refuse to accord her these rights over the Cœnaculum which even the Sultan recognized were hers.
This brings us to the final point of friction in Anglo-Italian relations -- the economic agreement made between England and Turkey on May 27, 1938. In some quarters this is regarded as being injurious to Italian interests. By its terms Turkey's foreign trade is for practical purposes placed under British supervision, a supervision which might become a real monopoly. The intimacy and vastness of the economic relationships thus created explain why suspicions as to their political and military implications have arisen. In the meantime, a partially equalizing factor has been introduced into the situation by the economic accords entered into by Turkey and Germany in October 1938.
In fairness it must be said that Turkish animosity toward Italy has no need of British stimulation. This unfriendly attitude is one of the most incomprehensible phenomena which have ever confronted Italian diplomacy. Italy has always done everything possible to put her relations with Turkey on a cordial basis. She hoped that the treaty which she made with Turkey on May 30, 1928, would conduce to this end. Instead, the possibility of such friendly relations is continually frustrated by the fact that Turkey attributes to Italy all sorts of sinister designs. The truth of the matter is that Italy has long since relegated her ambitions of 1917-18 to the dusty archives of history -- and the writer can say this with full knowledge whereof he speaks, for during the World War he was among those who most ardently urged Italian expansion in Asia Minor. No less irrational appear Turkish fears in regard to the Italian islands in the Ægean. The fortifications on these islands, far from having been conceived with any specific anti-Turkish function in mind, were created as a natural part of Italy's Mediterranean defenses, and as such are linked with the rest of her strategic system in that sea.
Will peace in the Mediterranean also mean cordial relations between Italy and Turkey? Italy hopes so. In the meantime she has adhered to the Montreux Convention permitting the rearming of the Straits -- an adhesion which she certainly could not have conceded in July of 1936 (the date of its signature) when the pacts of mutual assistance in the Mediterranean aimed against her were still in force. Militarily, that Convention contains few innovations; and, in any case, Turkey will continue to possess, as she has possessed in the past, the de facto control of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. What really counts, then, is the attitude which Turkey may adopt in the event of a war -- Convention or no Convention.
[i] The other three Declarations deal with propaganda, Lake Tsana and "the free exercise of religion and the treatment of British religious bodies in Italian East Africa."
[ii] Letter published in Al-Misri of Cairo on May 31, 1938.