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Published on Mar 15, 2010
In September 1937, Mussolini visited Germany. Hitler put on a major display of military power for Mussolini and by the end of the visit, Mussolini became convinced that Germany was the power he should ally with. He was sure that an alliance with Germany would lead to Italy becoming more powerful throughout Europe.
As Germany had left the League of Nations in 1933, so Mussolini left the League in 1937 after the League had imposed economic sanctions on Italy for the invasion of Abyssinia.
In 1938, Germany occupied Austria in the Anschluss (forbidden by Versailles). Hitler did not forewarn Mussolini about what he was going to do and this upset Mussolinis belief that he was an equal partner. However, there was nothing Mussolini could do about the Nazi occupation of Austria and it was clear from 1938 on that Mussolini was definitely the minor partner in the relationship.
However, Mussolini achieved real fame for the part he played in the Munich agreement of September 1938. War seemed a real possibility in the autumn of 1938. The major powers took the opportunity to meet in Munich an idea suggested by Mussolini. The outcome was the "Piece of Paper" which at the time seemed to everyone to guarantee European peace. Mussolini got the credit for this. After Munich, Mussolinis reputation was at its peak. To many he seemed to be Europes saviour a reputation that he assumed made him Europes premier statesman.
Hitlers invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 angered Mussolini because it was clear that Germany was carving out its own empire and Italy was not.
To compensate for this, Mussolini took over Albania on Good Friday 1939. To him, this was a sign of Italys expanding power in Europe. King Victor Emmanuel was offered the title of King of Albania. Italian propaganda made a great deal out of this but in reality Albania had been under the influence of Italy for years and this was barely an Italian military success.
Mussolini made it clear to Hitler that he expected Italy to have the Adriatic Sea as a sphere of influence.
In May 1939, the Germans and Italians cemented their friendship with the Pact of Steel. This pact committed both countries to support the other if one of them became involved in a war. The Italian Foreign Minister, Galleazo Ciano, Mussolinis son-in-law, realised that this pact was potentially very damaging for Italy but Mussolini was more concerned with the prestige of allying with Europes most potent power rather than the politics of it.
Mussolini also considered that Hitlers Non-Aggression Pact with Communist Russia meant that somehow that involved Italy and he saw it as a three-nation treaty though Italy never signed it (nor was Italy even told that it was going to take place).