The Pact of London, signed on April 26, 1915, represented a milestone for Italy, opening the doors to the intervention in the Great War. At a territorial level, the Pact, agreed alongside the Entente Powers (France, Great Britain and Russia), guaranteed Italy almost total dominion of the Adriatic Sea. Once victory had been reached, hence, Italy would have controlled both Adriatic coasts and its access from the south. After all, the Adriatic Sea had historically involved the Royal Italian Navy as an interpreter and instrument of Italy's foreign policy. Access from the south, through the Otranto Canal, and the Eastern shore, the Dalmatian coast, had traditionally played an important role in the interests of both the Italian government and the Navy itself. The collapse of the Habsburg Empire and the consequent birth of the Kingdom of SHS were crucial factors in the debate on the application of the Pact of London at the Paris Peace Conference. According to the very powerful United States, which was an Associated Power not recognizing the validity of the Pact of London, the disappearance of Austria-Hungary canceled the main naval threat to the Italian coasts, largely emptying the Pact of its strategic significance. Furthermore, in the US eyes, the Kingdom of SHS was a partner, not a rival for Italy. Yet, according to the Royal Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Paolo Thaon di Revel, the new Yugoslavian State could have represented a strategic naval danger in the medium-long term, at least providing its bases to the enemies of Italy. In Revel’s opinion, the strategic aspect of the Adriatic question constituted the greatest interest for Italy at the Peace Conference, more than the application of the principle of self-determination, openly supported - with many contradictions - by the US President, Woodrow Wilson. The position of the Royal Italian Navy evolved during the Peace Conference. Before the impossibility of fully applying the Pact of London and the US diplomatic support to the Kingdom of SHS, the Royal Italian Navy asked for the neutralization of the Dalmatian coast and the prohibition of fortifications (if existing, the dismantlement). Once again, the Navy’s requests were not agreed by the winning Powers. The Italian government reluctantly accepted the Allies’ resoluteness and Thaon di Revel was left with no choice but to resign from the position of Chief of Staff. His successor, Alfredo Acton, unsuccessfully reiterated the very same demands in the next months. In short, the "battle" waged at the Peace Conference by the Royal Italian Navy for the control of the Adriatic Sea was lost. The creation of the new Kingdom of SHS, which would practically control the entire Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, laid the foundations for the development of a possible future antagonistic maritime power for Italy. Consequently, the victory in the First World War turned out to be a “lost victory” for the Royal Italian Navy, which saw itself deprived of the total dominion of the Adriatic Sea.

Borsani, D., The Adriatic Question at the Paris Peace Conference: The Italian Royal Navy and the birth of the Kingdom of SHS, in Independence Wars since the XVIII Century, (Athens, 29-August 04-September 2021), Printing House of Greek Army, Athens 2022: 427-437

The Adriatic Question at the Paris Peace Conference: The Italian Royal Navy and the birth of the Kingdom of SHS

Borsani, D.
2022

Abstract

The Pact of London, signed on April 26, 1915, represented a milestone for Italy, opening the doors to the intervention in the Great War. At a territorial level, the Pact, agreed alongside the Entente Powers (France, Great Britain and Russia), guaranteed Italy almost total dominion of the Adriatic Sea. Once victory had been reached, hence, Italy would have controlled both Adriatic coasts and its access from the south. After all, the Adriatic Sea had historically involved the Royal Italian Navy as an interpreter and instrument of Italy's foreign policy. Access from the south, through the Otranto Canal, and the Eastern shore, the Dalmatian coast, had traditionally played an important role in the interests of both the Italian government and the Navy itself. The collapse of the Habsburg Empire and the consequent birth of the Kingdom of SHS were crucial factors in the debate on the application of the Pact of London at the Paris Peace Conference. According to the very powerful United States, which was an Associated Power not recognizing the validity of the Pact of London, the disappearance of Austria-Hungary canceled the main naval threat to the Italian coasts, largely emptying the Pact of its strategic significance. Furthermore, in the US eyes, the Kingdom of SHS was a partner, not a rival for Italy. Yet, according to the Royal Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Paolo Thaon di Revel, the new Yugoslavian State could have represented a strategic naval danger in the medium-long term, at least providing its bases to the enemies of Italy. In Revel’s opinion, the strategic aspect of the Adriatic question constituted the greatest interest for Italy at the Peace Conference, more than the application of the principle of self-determination, openly supported - with many contradictions - by the US President, Woodrow Wilson. The position of the Royal Italian Navy evolved during the Peace Conference. Before the impossibility of fully applying the Pact of London and the US diplomatic support to the Kingdom of SHS, the Royal Italian Navy asked for the neutralization of the Dalmatian coast and the prohibition of fortifications (if existing, the dismantlement). Once again, the Navy’s requests were not agreed by the winning Powers. The Italian government reluctantly accepted the Allies’ resoluteness and Thaon di Revel was left with no choice but to resign from the position of Chief of Staff. His successor, Alfredo Acton, unsuccessfully reiterated the very same demands in the next months. In short, the "battle" waged at the Peace Conference by the Royal Italian Navy for the control of the Adriatic Sea was lost. The creation of the new Kingdom of SHS, which would practically control the entire Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, laid the foundations for the development of a possible future antagonistic maritime power for Italy. Consequently, the victory in the First World War turned out to be a “lost victory” for the Royal Italian Navy, which saw itself deprived of the total dominion of the Adriatic Sea.
Inglese
Independence Wars since the XVIII Century
XLVI International Congress of Military History
Athens
29-ago-2021
4-set-2021
9786188196650
Printing House of Greek Army
Borsani, D., The Adriatic Question at the Paris Peace Conference: The Italian Royal Navy and the birth of the Kingdom of SHS, in Independence Wars since the XVIII Century, (Athens, 29-August 04-September 2021), Printing House of Greek Army, Athens 2022: 427-437
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10807/218246
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