In short, everything was seen from the point of view of the Axis. This underwent its definitive “test” with the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia and the proclamation of its protectorate by Hitler (15-16 March 1939). The act, which came entirely by surprise to Rome, if it was a challenge to the Western powers, was a slap in the face for the fascist government, the main author of the Munich agreement. The impression of Mussolini and Ciano was great: they too were asked the question of whether it would be convenient to change course. But the regime was now too busy against “Western plutocracies, Mussolini’s rancor towards them was too deep for such a change to occur. On March 26, in a speech to the squadristi at the Mussolini stadium, the duce, he declared the period of waltzes definitively closed, he reaffirmed the total solidarity of the two regimes: the Axis, he said, “is the meeting of two revolutions that are announced in clear antithesis with all the other conceptions of contemporary civilization”. The fall of Czechoslovakia, he added, was fatal. Moving on to Italian-French relations, he said that the problems of Tunis, Djibouti and Suez arose between Italy and France; if they had not been addressed, the gap between the two countries would have become difficult to bridge. Statements which, by keeping silent (i.e. abandoning at least by then) the claims on the French metropolitan territory and not specifying the colonial demands, would have themselves given way to negotiations, had they not been made in a deliberately aggressive tone, especially for the contemptuous words against any idea of Italian-French fraternity. The French reply came on March 29: Daladier repeated the message in a radio messagejamais regarding territorial transfers, but added that France did not refrain from examining proposals submitted to it.
Fascist foreign policy now adopted the criterion – particularly advocated by Ciano – that the best way to balance the violent expansion of Hitler Germany was for Fascist Italy to carry out similar acts on its own. The counterweight was found in Albania. Suddenly there was a serious disagreement between King Zogu and the fascist government: on 7 April Italian troops landed in Albania and on 8 they occupied Tirana and Elbassan; Zogu took refuge in Greece. On the 12th a constituent assembly in Tirana proclaimed Victor Emmanuel III king of Albania, and on the 16th he accepted the crown, granting a constitution to Albania on 4 June. It was announced that it was a personal union of the two crowns; in reality there was a pure and simple annexation, which,
Already before the end of March, Hitler had begun his pressure in a new direction, the Polish one, making demands for Danzig and the corridor. The Fascist government, on the other hand, just a short time earlier, had shown its friendship for Poland with the official visit to Warsaw, at the end of February, of Count Ciano, the bearer of a message from the Duce exalting the new Poland and the friendship between the two countries. The official communiqué of 1 March also referred to this friendship, expressing the resolution to continue developing the Italian-Polish collaboration, based on common affinities and interests. On 28 April Hitler announced to the Reichstag the requests to Poland, as well as the denunciation of the German-Polish non-aggression pact of 1934, and the naval agreement with England of 1935. The England had already proclaimed a commitment to support Poland against aggression: and the same had subsequently done for Greece and Romania. It and France resolved to negotiate with Russia, thus creating the possibility of a new anti-German “Triple Entente”. As for the Albanian occupation, it was badly received by public opinion in France and England (it did not even match the Italo-English agreement of the year before for the Mediterranean status quo); but there were no official protests.
In the meantime, negotiations with Japan for the tripartite alliance had dragged on, and finally stalled, in the face of a substantially negative response from Japan. Ribbentrop then (April 25) proposed to conclude in twos, between Italy and Germany. Mussolini accepted, postponing the official resumption of the Italian-French conversations proposed by France until after the signing of the treaty. However, in a memorial to Ribbentrop he made known the need for Italy to postpone the war for at least three years, given its state of military unpreparation (of which there had been clear proofs in a tiny enterprise like that of Albania).
According to ITYPETRAVEL.COM, the Ciano-Ribbentrop conference of 6-7 May 1939 followed in Milan. The second made optimistic declarations about the danger of Polish war: the German side was not thinking of initiatives, but of allowing the question to mature; in a few months neither a French nor an Englishman would march for Poland. Germany too was convinced of the need for a period of peace, which should have been no less than four or five years. It was agreed that Ribbentrop would send out a blueprint for the treaty of alliance, to be discussed together. Mussolini, however, wanted the immediate announcement that the alliance was decided, and he obtained it from Hitler.