Foreign policy

Mussolini’s Initial Foreign Policy Strategies

  • Mussolini aimed to make Italy a leading global power. A key element of his foreign policy was to establish Italy as a dominant force in the Mediterranean and African region.
  • He pursued an aggressive foreign policy and wanted to gain more territories for Italy. This implicated that expansionist policies were a key part of his strategies.
  • Nationalism and the belief in Italian superiority played a significant role in shaping his foreign policy. This ideology often led to conflict with other powers.

Invasion of Abyssinia

  • A key event in Mussolini’s foreign policy was the invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935. This was part of Mussolini’s ambition to create a new Roman Empire in Africa.
  • The League of Nations condemned the invasion and imposed economic sanctions on Italy. However, these were poorly enforced and did not include key commodities such as oil, thus having little effect on Italy.
  • The invasion strained Italy’s relations with the UK and France as they had varying interests in the region, but it eventually led to closer ties between Italy and Nazi Germany.

Relationship with Nazi Germany

  • Mussolini was initially skeptical of Hitler and the Nazi Party due to their racial ideology. However, their shared disdain for communism and their mutual ambition for territorial expansion drew them together.
  • The Rome-Berlin Axis was formed in 1936, marking a significant alliance between fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. This agreement further isolated Italy from Britain and France.
  • In 1938, Italy adopted anti-Semitic policies similar to those of Nazi Germany. This included laws that excluded Jews from civil service and education, reflecting Hitler’s influence on Mussolini.

Role in Spanish Civil War

  • Mussolini provided significant support to the fascist leader Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). This foreign intervention was aimed to suppress communism and establish a fascist ally in Spain.
  • The intervention further strained Italy’s relationship with Britain and France.

Pact of Steel

  • In 1939, Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel, formalising an alliance with Hitler’s Germany. This was a predecessor to the Tripartite Pact of 1940 that would align Italy, Germany and Japan in World War II.
  • The pact committed Italy to enter into war if Germany did, leading to Italy’s involvement in World War II, despite its unpreparedness for war at that time.

Impact of Mussolini’s Foreign Policy

  • Mussolini’s aggressive foreign policy and alliances with fascist powers ultimately led Italy into World War II.
  • Despite his ambitions, Mussolini largely followed Hitler’s lead in the late 1930s, reducing Italy’s autonomy in foreign affairs.