How far would you agree that Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia was his greatest success in foreign policy in the period 1922 – 1943

Mussolini made foreign policy a major part of his political strategy in the 20’s and 30’s. It was allowed to dominate the character and direction of the Fascist state. Mussolini’s foreign policy aims included: to expand his influence over the Balkans and the Mediterranean and to use this policy as a means of securing domestic policy. One of Mussolini’s great aims was to rebuild the Roman empire and this meant that the African empire was going to have to be developed. Mussolini was also a revisionist, i.e. he wanted the treaties at the end of WWI to be reversed.Abyssinia lay between the two existing Italian colonies, of Somaliland and Eritrea, it had yet to be conquered by a European country. Italy had had a history of bad relations with Abyssinia, and many Italian attempts to dominate it had failed, so this was the ideal opportunity for Mussolini to show just what a great power he was.Before the Abyssinian campaign Mussolini set out clear aims. He wanted the military prestige to enhance his position of Duce in and outside of Italy; he wanted to be feared by other nations. Mussolini also wanted the Italian economy to benefit from the new markets and resources that Italy seriously lacked.In 1934 the opportunity for conquest came, Italian Abyssinian troops clashed. Abyssinia appealed to the League of Nations but in 1935 Mussolini launched an attack. By 1936 Italy had taken over the capital and the Emperor was forced to flee.This at first seemed like a fantastic success for Mussolini, a great victory had taken place where many Italian leaders had failed before; this boosted the Duce’s prestige greatly and bolstered his domestic policy in the short term. The territories gained tied the already existing Italian colonies nicely together, further enhancing the Duce’s image helped along with the ever-ready propaganda machine. Very importantly on the Domestic side was the view of the church whom Mussolini had had a bad start with. The church praised the civilising mission stating that Mussolini was doing his thing for the people of Abyssinia bringing them the opportunity for Christianity.Although what the Italian people saw as a success at that time had more to reveal. The war took 6 months longer than Mussolini’s advisors had stated, also twice as many men, 5000 Italian troops were killed. The economic impact was severe for an already weak economy; the war had cost nearly a year’s national revenue and proved to be a drain on Italian military resources, which would later be needed.Fatally for Italy, the alienation of the British and French would later lead to more serious consequences. As soon as the attack was launched Britain, France and other members of the League of Nations condemned the events and sanctions were introduced, these reduced the supply to Italy, although coal and oil were still allowed to get through and Britain didn’t close all trade routes. This alienation lead to closer relations with Hitler and, later lead to Italy being brought into the WWII. Also if Mussolini hadn’t of attacked Abyssinia relations with Britain and France may later have lead to the Italian colonies in Africa anyway due to the Stresa Front Pact. Even when Abyssinia was taken over in the publics’ eye the war still went on, a guerrilla war was fought until 1941 when the British took it over.Other foreign policy successes included the successful take over of the Port of Fiume, which Italian Nationalists had wanted since the end of WWI. Mussolini was also determined that Italy should dominate Yugoslavia. This would have been a great help Domestically for Mussolini as this was just after the Matteotti Murder and there were conspiracy’s circulating about Mussolini. Yugoslavia later signed the Pact of Rome and Italy gained the Port of Fiume, this pleased the Italian nationalists greatly.Yugoslavia was a very successful foreign policy venture. Mussolini had been determined that Italy should dominate Yugoslavia for a long time in order to consolidate power over the Mediterranean. The Italians backed an Albanian Chieftain, Zog so that he became king of Albania. This was careful policy designed to intimidate Yugoslavia as Albania bordered them. Italy also supplied money to the Croats who wanted to break away from Yugoslavia and form an independent Croatian state.This was highly successful. Not only was it so carefully designed that Mussolini didn’t anger the British but he still remained in the League of Nations, also Mussolini was then inspired to sign more pacts with the British and the French to remain as a power player.From the above evidence it is clear that Abyssinia was not Mussolini’s greatest foreign policy success from 1922- 1943. Blunders such as Abyssinia copns[pire towards the Second World War. After the propaganda machine rolled out with news of Abyssinia, informing the public of how great the Italian army was, people began to get an over inflated sense of how strong they actually where and more importantly Mussolini himself began to believe these claims of how great the army where. Mussolini then would enter Italy into wars that Italy physically couldn’t perform in. I agree with Martin Clark’s opinion in that Abyssinia was costly on the economy and that the conflict gave Mussolini and many Italians an inflated sense of their own military capability.As a result of Abyssinia there was a break down in relations with Great Britain and France, later deciding the outcome of the Second World War for Italy. Mussolini’s greatest foreign policy success was the tactics used to gain control over Yugoslavia, careful planning of how other Major European powers would react was taken into account and Mussolini avoided any direct conflict with them, keeping all options open for the future. His greatest decision although was initial the decision to remain out of the Second World War in 1939; this was later ruined by the decision to enter Italy into the war in 1940.