Benito Mussolini, the proud Fascist dictator, came to power in 1922. His initial aim was to increase the prestige of Italy showing him to be a great statesman and liberal leader. With visions of recreating the Roman Empire (familiar to Caesar) and looking after Italian interests, a dynamic foreign policy was devised to help Mussolini attain his aspiration. The effects of the Foreign policy prove to have some disparity, with which Mussolini’s plans of operation are questioned.
Mussolini knew that the confidence in Italy had been crushed by the small territorial gains following the tragic event of WW1 and the humiliation by the Powers at the Paris peace conference. Mussolini wanted more economic prosperity for his Italian people and further admiration for himself. His popularity was a key issue, as it would help gain the loyalty of his people and confidence of his allies. However with this as his main objective, the status of his Foreign Policy was in jeopardy.
In the early stages of the Foreign Policy, the Italian people were happy and Mussolini was seen as a great statesman. With his status assured, Mussolini began to look at foreign interests. Mussolini knew that if he wanted Italy to be the distinguished country he hoped for, he would have to be on good terms with the neighbouring countries “I want to make Italy great, respected and feared”. Mussolini decided to concentrate on the parts of Europe next to Italy, the Mediterranean and Africa, as he thought this would be most beneficial to Italy. Mussolini wanted to be seen as the heart of European politics and to do this he knew he had to be on good terms with Britain and France (main powers). Mussolini played a foremost part in the Locarno talks by settling differences and keeping the peace “improved the lasing chances of peace in Europe” (Lamb). Because of Locarno, Mussolini achieved recognition as a great leader, of a great power. The 1920’s proved to be mostly about diplomacy for Mussolini, as he established his trust.
The 1930’s demonstrated more active involvement for Italy. There were many eventful happenings in Europe around this time, with which Mussolini’s Foreign Policy came into play. In 1931 the Customs Union Crisis set in motion, but even with the lack of Italy’s involvement, Mussolini was still concerned with economic feasibility. Mussolini feared Germanys rise, as the union between Germany and Austria was a threat to the boarders of Italy. Italy subsequently signed a pact with Austria and Hungary in 1934 strengthening the military defences, which gave them security against Germany. Soon after, Mussolini sent troops into Austria, with the anxiety of being attacked by Germany and Hitler taking Austria. Mussolini’s plan succeeded, adding to his reputation as a good political leader. In 1935 Hitler was condemned for his actions in trying to take Austria, but due to Mussolini’s scepticism, nothing concrete came from this.
The most distinguished occasion for Mussolini’s “Roman Empire” was the invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935. Mussolini wholly believed only one war could make Italy the greatest military nation that he demanded. This was a crucial point for Mussolini as hostility from the League of Nations was inevitable, as he became more acquainted with Hitler. Hitler was impressed with Italy’s power and aggression. In May 1936, Mussolini claimed his Empire and had succeeded in Ethiopia. At this time Mussolini’s Foreign policy (on some level) was successful “Ethiopia is Italian”.
1936 was an important time for Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler, as the Spanish Civil War commenced. Europe could see that the two men were gaining friendship, as they helped each other with military arms. However, Mussolini’s over ambition for more power and more prestige caused him to loose sight of his attainable aspirations. The Italian dream of Fascism was victorious and the Civil war, proved to be a great accomplishment for Mussolini. In October 1936 Mussolini and Hitler signed the Rome- Berlin Axis, a promise of friendship between the two. Mussolini was pleased to have Hitler as an ally because Germany was a strong country, which gave Mussolini more potential for a profound Foreign Policy.
“Hitler seemed putty in his hands” (Burgwyn), but this was not entirely true. Mussolini agreed with Hitler that he could take Sudetenland if he did not go to war against Britain and France. Yet, in 1939 Hitler invaded Prague and Mussolini felt that he had lost parity in the Axis. Mussolini later invaded Albania, as he thought he should grab something before Hitler did. Mussolini and Hitler’s relation was kept by a thread and there was an excess of tension between them. Mussolini felt dominated by Hitler and felt he could not turn against him.
By alienating other countries Mussolini was now seen as an aggressive disturber of the peace, and with War foreseeable in the Pact of Steel, Italy prepared its territorial army. The invasion of Greece was one of Mussolini’s key downfalls. The operation was poorly planned. Italy was defeated by Greece and the confidence of the Italian people in Mussolini diminished. Hitler did not think of the consequences of going to war for Italy and Mussolini was left without a leg to stand on. Yet, Mussolini knew he had to stay with Hitler to have the strength and defence that Italy needed.
Many of Mussolini’s political colleagues saw that he was no longer in charge and Hitler had complete control over him. Mussolini unwillingly adhered to Hitler’s declare of War on Russia in 1941, which was just one of the bad moves Mussolini had to take in his stride. Following many downfalls for the Italian army in 1943 the King was able to arrest Mussolini and take away his command.
Mussolini’s involvement of taking Foreign Policy into War showed his weakness and overrule by Hitler. His relationship with Hitler proved to be costly, as he did not have much choice about Foreign Policy, loosing his popularity that was of utmost importance to him. Mussolini had to rely on Germany for protection, thus got dragged into conflicts that Hitler sought after. The Italian military was of inadequate condition, due to the economic suffering from defeats.
Mussolini’s Foreign Policy has proved that his initial ambition to be popular failed, mainly due to the Pact of Steel. Mussolini did not foresee his downfall with his over ambitious aims in War. Mussolini disregarded the Italian people, as his ambitions surpassed his own capabilities; always wanting more power. He was later branded as a tyrant, with the vicious actions of Hitler that he naively stood by. Italy gradually became more dilapidated and the dreams of a great empire were lost. Mussolini failed his personal aims and ambition for his country, leaving his Foreign Policy to be disgraced.