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In that year, when the unification of Italy was achieved, the Papal Kingdom was confiscated by the Italian Kingdom, so the Pope refused to recognize the Italian Kingdom, or to step outside the Vatican City.
Mussolini entered into negotiations with the Pope, aimed at healing that rift. In 1929, the Pope and Mussolini entered into the Lateran Agreements, which consisted of a Treaty, a Concordat, and a Financial Convention. At first blush, the treaty seems to be a retreat from Mussolini's stated goal of expansionism, because the Treaty recognized papal sovereignty over Vatican City and gave Vatican City full diplomatic rights. However, Mussolini was also able to get the Papacy to officially recognize the Kingdom of Italy, and, more significantly, surrender its claim to the greater part of Rome.
What this meant was that, in exchange for the relatively small area of Vatican City, Mussolini received an undisputed claim to Rome, gained a political ally, and did not have to worry about the predominantly Catholic Italians finding fault with his foreign policy in regards to the Papacy. For Mussolini, the Lateran agreements were:
a great personal triumph. By healing the wounds between the Italian Kingdom and the Papacy, Mussolini could get support from the Catholics -- they gave support to Mussolini's regime until his fall from power. As the Pope regarded Mussolini as "a man of Providence," this also helped to raise Mussolini's prestige in the eyes of the world.
In short, Mussolini, by the Lateran Agreements, had obtained the much-needed support from a broad section of the Italian people for his dictatorial regime.
In fact, the Lateran Agreements was among Mussolini's first successes in foreign policy. His first success came in the early 1920s, when he provoked the Corfu incident. Greece and Albania were involved in a boundary dispute, and took their dispute to the Conference of Ambassadors, which the League of Nations had authorized to settle disputes such as boundary disputes. Italy, along with several other countries, provided soldiers to assist the commission in carrying out its survey. Greece alleged that the Italian Chairman, Enrico Tellini, was biased towards the Albanians, and, on August 27, 1923, Tellini and three of his assistants were murdered by unknown assassins. Italy demanded reparations and that Tellini's murders be executed, and, when Greece was unable to identify the killers, Italy attacked and occupied the Greek island of Corfu. Greece appealed to the League of Nations, which capitulated to Italy's demands, and failed to punish Italy for its aggression against Greece.
Whether or not the Corfu incident can be deemed a successful entry into foreign policy is debatable. Italy did not retain control over Corfu, which is presumed to be the real reason for the invasion, with Tellini's death serving as a pretext. In that respect, the Corfu incident was a failure. However, in another respect, the Corfu incident was extremely successful, because Mussolini learned that he could make demands of a country's government that were impossible for it to meet, and, when it failed to meet them, invade without facing any real sanctions from the League of Nations. This was a powerful lesson for a dictator who wanted to expand his power into the world.
Not all of Mussolini's foreign policy successes were the result of violence. On the contrary, he managed some very successful negotiations. Italians were very upset about Italy's failure to obtain Fiume at the end of World War I. However, Mussolini was able to successfully negotiate with Yugoslavia and obtained Fiume in 1924. Not all of his attempts at foreign policy negotiations were successful. "Throughout the 1920's, Mussolini also tried to repulse any French attempts to make alliances with Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia but he was unsuccessful."
In the early 1930s, Mussolini began to realize the power of political alliances, and he also seemed to understand the importance of biding his time. When Mussolini first came to power, Italy was recovering from World War I, and was in no position to demand more from either Britain or France, the countries dominating Europe at that time period. Germany had yet to become a major European power because it was also still recovering from World War I and dealing with the incredible economic hardships that it would encounter in the years following World War I. As a result, Mussolini did not attempt to push expansion into Europe. Most of Europe was focused on the threat posed by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and dismissed Italy and Germany as threats. Even when Hitler came to power in Germany, Europe did not immediately recognize the threat that he would pose to the continent. Mussolini seemed to recognize some of Hitler's potential, and struck an early partnership with him. In the beginning of the partnership, Mussolini definitely seemed to believe that he was the more powerful of the two dictators:
In 1933, Mussolini saw Hitler as a junior partner in the relationship between the two dictators. He also saw Hitler as a potential rival especially as Hitler had made it clear that he wanted a union with Austria -- forbidden by Versailles. Austria had a common border with Italy and such a move by Germany would have alarmed Mussolini -- if Hitler was a rival.
As a result, it is impossible to view Mussolini's partnership with Hitler as anything other than a strategic way of protecting Italy's border. By 1934, the relationship between the two men began to show some strain. At a meeting in Venice, Mussolini refused to use his translator, despite not being fluent in German, and was bored by Hitler's continuous quoting of Mein Kampf.
It was at this point that Mussolini began to denigrate Hitler as "a silly little monkey."
It was also at this time that Mussolini began to exploit the power of symbolism in the international arena, because Mussolini wore his military uniform when he met with Hitler.
It is important to keep in mind that in the early 1930s, Germany had not yet aggressed against Western Europe. Therefore, the fact that Mussolini was allied with Germany did not prevent him from forming strategic relationships with other European countries. In fact:
in June 1933, he invited representatives from France, Germany and Britain to a meeting in Rome. They signed the Four Power Pact. This, according to Mussolini, was a sign of the growing power Italy had: these countries came to Rome; Italians did not have to go to a venue out of Europe. Mussolini, so he claimed, was providing Europe with leadership.
In reality, the Four Power Pact had little impact on the world political scene. What Mussolini had wanted to do was reduce the power that smaller European nations had in the League of Nations. However, instead, the Four Power Pact increased France's concerns about Germany. Furthermore, by creating a working unit composed of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, the Four Powers Pact contributed to the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934.
In turn, that pact allowed Germany to turn its attention away from border skirmishes in the east, so that it could concentrate on attacking other nations. Poland may have felt unable to enter into a non-aggression pact with Germany if Germany was still being punished by France and Great Britain. Furthermore, Great Britain repeatedly attempted to use the Four Power Pact as a means of negotiating with Germany in the build up to World War II. Looking at those two results of the Four Power Pact, it is possible that the Four Power Pact contributed significantly to the ability of the Axis powers to dominate much of Europe during World War II, but the extent of that contribution is, necessarily, speculative. Furthermore, the Four Power Pact was virtually worthless from its inception. In 1936, Mussolini and Hitler created the Rome-Berlin access, which aligned them as allies and seemed to defeat the purpose of the Four Powers Pact. Regardless of its impact on World War II, the reality is that the Four Power Pact was a significant symbolic victory for Mussolini, because it signaled that Great Britain and France were both willing to recognize Italy as a major European power, and were not willing to override Italy's attempts to consign the smaller European countries to a less important status.
Mussolini also used some political maneuvering to position Italy to take over vulnerable countries. For example, Mussolini wanted to annex Albania into Italy. Instead of simply invading Italy in the early 1920s, Mussolini began to increase Albanian dependence on Italy. He granted Albania loans in exchange for oil concessions, which not only gave Mussolini access to much-needed natural resources, but also gave him leverage against the Albanian government. Furthermore, Mussolini became intimately involved with Albania's military; he "sent military advisers to organize the Albanian army."
This gave Mussolini the information that he needed to assess the size of the Albanian army and its ability to withstand or repel Italian forces, if he were to attack.…[continue]
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