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PostMussolini's and Hitler's Involvement in Spain (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 08/18/17 7:49 am)
Since the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in April 1931, Mussolini adopted an inimical position toward the new Spanish regime. The "aphorisms" which he kept until his death clearly show this. From his a prioristic intellectual position he went on to take, albeit gradually, more active measures in Spanish matters. In part, he was encouraged by some anti-republican Spaniards, basically Monarchists and Carlists. The attempted coup d'etat of August 1932, led by Gen Sanjurjo, had a small Italian connection. Mussolini intensified intelligence gathering activities in Spain (examined by Prof. Mauro Canali) and agreed in March 1934 to support with money and arms an uprising against the Republic. (The agreement became known during the Civil War.) This uprising didn´t occur as envisaged and Mussolini started financing under cover the Spanish Falange (a typically para-fascist movement). Obviously Spain wasn't at the center of Mussolini's attention during the Abyssinian war but it gained saliency afterward. This led to the signing of contracts on July 1, 1936 to supply aircraft to the Spanish conspirators and to the movement from the Northern airports to Sardinia of the first wing. All this before the coup of July 18. For a part of the conspirators, basically Monarchists, Italy was the country and regime to emulate.
The reasons why Italy took second place in the insurgents´ perspective are complex. Let´s put it this way. Franco was pleasantly surprised by Hitler´s assistance and by Hitler´s decision to support him. He also greeted enthusiastically the shipment of the Legión Condor in November 1936 and was taken in by the Germans´ apparent lack of interest in meddling in domestic Spanish political matters. Nevertheless, the Italian material support was greater than the German one. Italian inability to project a worthy project in Franco´s eyes also played a role. Franco was more attuned to some features of the German dictatorship which he tried to copy as much as possible.
JE comments: Would Hitler have stayed out of Spain if the Italians were not already involved? Granted, this is venturing into the territory of the hypothetical. Eugenio Battaglia (next) sees Mussolini's priorities as keeping Madrid away from the influence of both Berlin and Moscow.