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Enlarged Photograph (59kB)

Italy's position

Italy heads for the war (March-June 1940)

The beginning of the Second World War

The German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 caught not just the Western Powers but also Italy (theoretically the Reich's ally in the fascist "new order") unawares. Although the Italian government had been informed of the Nazi plans to invade Poland in early August, both Mussolini and his Foreign Minister, Ciano, strove to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis, along the lines of the Munich Agreement of September 1938. As such efforts were quickly frustrated, Mussolini - aware of the low level of fighting potential of the Italian armed forces - was forced to declare that Italy would adopt a policy of non-belligerence, reaffirming his desire to broker a diplomatic solution to the Polish crisis.

On the other hand, the Italian presence in Albania disturbed the balance of powers in the southern Balkan Peninsula to such a degree, that Greece's strategic value vis-á-vis Britain reduced significantly. In that sense, the neutrality of both Greece and the other Balkan states was in Britain's interest, to the degree that the latter kept the Italian war machine out of the British-German conflict.

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