3 MAY 1940, Page 2


THE decision by the British Government (the French haw so far taken no similar step) that British shipping shall avoid the Mediterranean route, so that British warships would, in the event of trouble, be relieved of the necessity to under- take convoy duty in that area, is a sharp reminder of the impres- sion Italy's equivocal attitude is creating. Repeated declara- tions, not only by flamboyant journalists but by more or less responsible politicians, that Italy does not intend to remain "on the side-lines," may be mere verbiage, but the fact remains that Italy, while still nominally adhering to the Anglo-Italian agreement concluded between Count Ciano and Lord Perth, is adopting a conspicuously unfriendly attitude towards Great Britain and France. Her motive is plainly sacro egoismo. She will join Germany if she thinks she can do so without too much risk and with a sufficiently good prospect of securing something for herself. Events in Norway will no doubt in- fluence her decision, but Signor Mussolini's hope that air- power (in which he has great belief) would in that campaign prove superior to sea-power has been disappointed. All that has been proved is that a Power with local air-bases has the advantages over a Power with none. The time, moreover, has passed when an Italian attack on Yugoslavia might have led only to a local war. Balkan unity is a new factor in the Euro- pean situation. On the whole the prospect is that Italy will do everything possible to benefit Germany without going to war herself. There are limits to the complacency with which the Allies can accept the situation. Important elements in Italy are opposed to war, and it is significant that Herr Hess said on Wednesday that Italy felt that her time had not yet come.