President Roosevelt to the Premier of Italy (Mussolini) [45], [Telegram], WASHINGTON, April 29, 1940, 6 p.m.


I am requesting my Ambassador in Rome to deliver this message to Your Excellency. Because of the long delays in the transmission of mail, I am conveying to you in this manner a message which under more normal conditions I would have transmitted by means of a personal letter.

During the past days the scope of the conflict in Europe has further widened and two more neutral nations which had done their utmost to avoid involvement in war have been drawn by force into the scene of hostilities.

The people of the United States, as I have already sent you word, have seen with the deepest satisfaction the policy of the Italian Government in exerting every effort to prevent war from spreading to southern and to southeastern Europe. I fully recognize the profound truth of the statement you made recently to my representative, Mr. Welles, that because of Italy's determination to limit, so far as might be possible, the spread of the conflict, more than 200,000,000 of people in the region of the Mediterranean are still at peace.

A further extension of the area of hostilities, which would bring into the war still other nations which have been seeking to maintain their neutrality, would necessarily have far-reaching and unforeseeable consequences, not only in Europe, but also in the Near and the Far East, in Africa, and in the three Americas. No man can today predict with assurance, should such a further extension take place, what the ultimate result might be-or foretell what nations, however determined they may today be to remain at peace, might yet eventually find it imperative in their own defense to enter the war.

I am, as you know, a realist. As occurs inevitably in every contest, the participants themselves are far less able to predict the eventual outcome of the struggle than the onlookers who are near at hand, and these latter perhaps are not in as good a position to determine which may be the winning side as those onlookers who may be still farther away. By reason of its geographical position, this country has a panoramic view of the existing hostilities in Europe. Because of the many imponderables involved, I see no reason to anticipate that any one nation, or any one combination of nations, can successfully undertake to dominate either the continent of Europe or much less a greater part of the world.

I earnestly hope that the powerful influence of Italy and of the United States-an influence which is very strong so long as they remain at peace-may yet be exercised, when the appropriate opportunity is presented in behalf of the negotiation of a just and stable peace which will permit of the reconstruction of a gravely stricken world.

With the assurance of my highest regard, believe me

Yours very sincerely,


[45] Transmitted in a telegram from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy (Phillips).

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 518-19

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