Stresa Front
Overview
 
The Stresa Front was an agreement made in Stresa
Stresa
Stresa is a town and comune of about 5,000 inhabitants on the shores of the Lago Maggiore in the region of Piedmont, northern Italy; it is situated on the road and rail routes to the Simplon pass, about 90 km north-west of Milan. Since the early 20th century, the main source of income has been the...

, a town on the banks of Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest of Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 km between Locarno and Arona.The climate is mild...

 in Italy, between French foreign minister Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

, British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

, and Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 on April 14, 1935. Formally called the Final Declaration of the Stresa Conference, its aim was to reaffirm the Locarno Treaties
Locarno Treaties
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war...

 and to declare that the independence of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 "would continue to inspire their common policy". The signatories also agreed to resist any future attempt by the Germans to change the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

.
Encyclopedia
The Stresa Front was an agreement made in Stresa
Stresa
Stresa is a town and comune of about 5,000 inhabitants on the shores of the Lago Maggiore in the region of Piedmont, northern Italy; it is situated on the road and rail routes to the Simplon pass, about 90 km north-west of Milan. Since the early 20th century, the main source of income has been the...

, a town on the banks of Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest of Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 km between Locarno and Arona.The climate is mild...

 in Italy, between French foreign minister Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government, signing orders permitting the deportation of...

, British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

, and Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 on April 14, 1935. Formally called the Final Declaration of the Stresa Conference, its aim was to reaffirm the Locarno Treaties
Locarno Treaties
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war...

 and to declare that the independence of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 "would continue to inspire their common policy". The signatories also agreed to resist any future attempt by the Germans to change the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

. Most importantly for Benito Mussolini, it was another opportunity to stage Fascist propaganda
Propaganda of Fascist Italy
Propaganda of Fascist Italy was the material put forth by Italian Fascism to justify its authority and programs and encourage popular support.-Use:...

 as the 'Duce' was portrayed as an elder statesman and a keeper of the peace (after the failed Anschluss of 1934).

Background

The Stresa Front was triggered by Germany's
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 declaration of its intention to build up an air force
Air force
An air force, also known in some countries as an air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military organization that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an army, navy or...

, to increase the size of its army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 to 36 divisions (750,000 men - much more than the amount prescribed by the Treaty of Versailles, the original figure set was 96,000 men) and to introduce conscription, in March 1935.

Mussolini believed that the signing of the Stresa Front would mean Britain and France would not interfere in the Abyssinian crisis
Abyssinia Crisis
The Abyssinia Crisis was a diplomatic crisis during the interwar period originating in the "Walwal incident." This incident resulted from the ongoing conflict between the Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Ethiopia...

.

Even though the ever increasingly belligerent Germany dominated discussions within the conference room, Mussolini was at his cleverest when outside. He discussed with Britain plans to pursue his aim of making Italy 'great, respected and feared' through the invasion and conquest of Abyssinia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 and ultimately create an all-powerful empire. Mussolini made sure not to discuss his expansionist plans within the confines of the conference itself due to the possible risk of the Western democracies issuing a veto over it. Furthermore, Mussolini couldn't risk the conference being sidetracked from its main aim of reaffirming Locarno and opposing any more breaches of international agreements. With this said, Mussolini got his way with his plans for invading Abyssinia not being brought up. The 'Duce
Duce
Duce is an Italian title, derived from the Latin word dux, and cognate with duke. National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini was identified by Fascists as Il Duce of the movement and became a reference to the dictator position of Head of Government and Duce of Fascism of Italy was established...

' therefore took the silence as justification for colonial war and launched his invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935. The importance of this is not to be overlooked as it was the turning point for Mussolini concerning his foreign standing as he drifted away from Britain and France, and into the camp of Hitler's Germany.

Results

The Stresa Front could be seen as a failure due to its vague terms and the fact that it wasn't clear how its aims should be upheld. It ignored all references to Germany as Britain was adopting a dual policy and did not want to antagonize Hitler. The hard line was provided by Mussolini, while Britain 'kept the door open' with Germany in order to obtain agreements. Hitler had used tactics that made Britain and France guess at what his next move would be. However, because of the vague terms, it kept Hitler guessing at what Britain would do. Britain didn't realize the advantage it had over Germany and this was lost with the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement
Anglo-German Naval Agreement
The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 18, 1935 was a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and German Reich regulating the size of the Kriegsmarine in relation to the Royal Navy. The A.G.N.A fixed a ratio whereby the total tonnage of the Kriegsmarine was to be 35% of the total tonnage...

.

Another reason for its failure was that Britain, France and Italy did not want to invade Germany. The only real way in which German rearmament could be ceased was by a full scale invasion of Germany. However, the British government was unwilling to pursue this option as it perceived anti-war sentiment to be strong among the British public.

The Front was not successful. Within two months the UK had signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, by which Germany was given the green light to increase the size of its navy to no more than 35% (by tonnage) of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and to build submarines. The UK had not discussed this with its Stresa partners and the front was seriously damaged. This highlighted the fact that the countries that made up the Stresa Front were pulling in different directions. It collapsed completely with Italy's invasion of Abyssinia.

Mussolini had harboured ambitions of controlling Abyssinia for a long time. He was enraged when Britain signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement without first informing him of its plans. Mussolini had held back on his invasion plans as Abyssinia bordered French and British Somaliland and he didn't want to anger his allies. However, he felt Britain had betrayed him and this removed all doubts he had regarding the invasion. He also believed that Britain's actions ended the conditions that were agreed in the Stresa Front.

On January 6, 1936, Mussolini told German ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

 that he would not object to Germany taking Austria as a satellite state so long as it maintained independence. Later, on the 22 February, Mussolini gave clearance for Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

, stating that Italy would not honor the obligations of the Locarno Treaty should Germany take such action.
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