THE AXIS BEGINS TO CREAK
Although the Italian colonial demands on France are not likely to precipitate an immediate war crisis i Europe, this sudden irredentist campaign for Tunisia and Corsica gains added significance in its relation to the Rome-Berlin axis. That Mussolini should pick a fight with Paris at the very moment the Reich has signed a Franco-German Agreement indicates that the interests of the two dictators are diverging. As junior partner in the axis, Italy must rely more on German support than Germany on Italian support. Thus, while Mussolini had no choice but to swallow the distasteful Austrian "Anschluss," Hitler is in the position to refuse aid to any Italian claims which hinder his own aspirations.
The Nazi government realizes that, should the Italian peninsula and Tunisia be joined under the same rule, Mussolini would obtain strategic control over the Mediterranean. And the dominance of this sea by any single nation would imperil the "drang nach Osten." Recent events have only emphasized the importance to Germany of maintaining the divided control there is at present; for the Reich, barred by a hostile Rumania from access to the Black Sea, is now trying to make Yugoslavia her vassal and Mediterranean outlet. German interests have thus come into conflict with the Italian dream of a "Mare Nostrum"; and a direct result of this clash has been the French Agreement which aims to maintain the present "status quo" in the Mediterranean.
It is not surprising, then, that Mussolini should so violently press his claims to French colonies in the hope that Germany may yet back him. In all probability, Hitler will give him some support in regard to his minor demands; but that the axis will function as smoothly in obtaining Tunisia for Italy as it did in the Sudeten crisis is extremely doubtful.