Tuesday, August 30, 2016
ADSS 1.203 Valeri to Maglione: French Government re-shuffle
ADSS 1.203 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State
Reference: Report 9104/302, (AES 6564/39)
Location and date: Paris, 15.09.1939
Summary statement: Changes in gov’t. Daladier goes to For Aff; strong war cabinet predicted, exerting pressure on neutral countries; Italian neutrality relied upon but eventual pressure could lead to war; Daladier does not trust Mussolini.
I had already submitted my report Number 9100/298 of 13 September (1) when the news was broadcast of a change in the Government. The most important change concerns the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. M. Bonnet leaves the Quai d’Orsay to take over the Justice Ministry (2) and is replaced by the Prime Minister.(3) His assistants will be M. Champetier de Ribes, President of the Democratic Popular Party (4), M. Léger (5) and Ambassador Coulondre (6), who becomes the Chief of his Private Cabinet.
The rumour that M. Bonnet was to leave the Quai d’Orsay because of a disagreement with M. Daladier was current for some time, but then it was said that things would remain as they were. The change, however, has taken place and its importance will not escape Your Eminence. To perceive it, on the other hand, it would be sufficient to read M. Georges Bidault’s article in this morning’s edition of Aube (enclosed) (7) concerning the neutral countries. The Press of the same political colour as the Aube, for example L’Epoque and others, regrets that a proper and complete War Cabinet has not yet been set up but anticipate it by the end of November when the special powers, given by Parliament to the present government expire.
We must anticipate, therefore, that under the influence of Britain strong pressure will be exerted on the neutral countries so as to force them to declare themselves for or against the Allies. As for Italy, the Press continues, at least so far, to report everything, which shows M. Mussolini’s clear intention to keep out of the conflict. Well-informed circles are sure that Italy has no intention of bargaining away her neutrality, as it was asserted, but intends to stay out because this corresponds with her own interests and the interests of the entire world.
But how likely are those people who follow certain ideological currents, or believe that an eventual participation of Italy in the war would be favourable to the Allies because it would give them the opportunity to report some great success or force Turkey and the Balkan nations into the conflict, to take reality into account? It is impossible to foresee this at present and, on the other hand, a number of emergencies and very difficult moments are bound to develop. How many problems would be raised, for example, if tomorrow one or more German submarines should succeed in entering the Mediterranean?
But let us hope that God will limit the conflict preventing a general conflagration.
I continue my Report 9104:
M. Daladier has never attempted to conceal his profound aversion for Mussolini.
He says that Mussolini deceived him at Munich giving him to understand that when the Sudeten question was settled, Hitler would only be concerned with peaceful projects.
(1) ADSS 1.199
(2) Georges Bonnet (1889-1973), French Minister of Foreign Affairs 1938-39; Justice Minister 1939-40.
(3) Édouard Daladier (1884-1970), French Prime Minister 1938-40; Foreign Minister 1939-40.
(4) Auguste Champetier de Ribes (1882-1947), French Senator 1934-40.
(5) Alexis Léger (1887-1975), Secretary General French Foreign Ministry 1932-40.
(6) Robert Coloundre (1885-1959), French Ambassador to Germany 1936-39; Chief of the Private Cabinet of the Foreign Ministry 1939-40.
(7) Georges Bidault, “Les Neutres”, l’Aube, 15.09.1939: “If neutrality is not imposed on someone who is resigned to it because he is aware of his impotence, it is only the conclusion of stupid ignorance or faint-hearted calculations …”