Parallel War

   At the time of the formation of the “Pact of Steel” (6–7 May 1939), Italian General Ugo Cavallero gave German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop a memorandum for the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, from Benito Mussolini, informing him that Germany’s chief ally would not be able to enter a European war at any time before 1942 unless Germany agreed to replace the military supplies that Italy had used in Ethiopia and in the Spanish Civil War. Mussolini wanted to conduct, at a moment of his own choosing, a war parallel to Hitler’s but independent of Hitler’s attempt to consolidate Germany’s position in northern Europe. Italy’s ambitions focused on the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
   German moves into Slovakia (in March 1939) induced Mussolini to anticipate his planned invasion of Albania, the better to demonstrate to Hitler his capacity for autonomous action. When Hitler made war on Poland and within weeks had forced it to submit, and then crushed Norway, the Low Countries, and France, Mussolini saw the prospect loom of a reordering of Europe’s power relations without Italy’s participation. Hence, he declared war on Britain and France on 10 June 1940, so that “a few thousand [Italian] dead” would entitle him to a seat at the peace settlement that he believed to be imminent. The result of this military intervention was that Italy was embroiled in disastrous wars with Britain in North Africa and with Greece that went so badly Germany had to intervene to prevent a total debacle.
   See also World War II.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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