The Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on 1940 Sep 27. By this time, Germany had already invaded Poland, conquered France, conquered Denmark and Norway, and the Battle of Britain was well underway. Italy had already invaded Albania and had begun invading Egypt, not to mention an attempted invasion of southern France (which was repulsed).

What took so long? It seems to me more sensical to formally ally, with Italy at least, before those major operations in Europe and Africa.

  • Opportunism I would think. The British Empire looked on the ropes..."to the victor goes the spoils." Interestingly Hitler did nothing after conquering France in a mere matter of weeks until 1941. Stalin was pretty busy though...making one mistake after another as it turned out. Nov 17, 2016 at 3:03
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    @user14394 Interestingly Hitler did nothing after conquering France in a mere matter of weeks until 1941. The Battle of Britain was not nothing. The conquering of France in 6 weeks in fact encouraged Hitler that an invasion of Britain was feasible.
    – DrZ214
    Nov 17, 2016 at 3:46

1 Answer 1


This is answered in the Wikipedia article lede: The Tripartite Pact was directed primarily at the United States. Since the US finally entered WWII in late 1941, the pact can be considered very early, foreseeing eventual conflict with the US.

Before this, Germany already had alliances with Japan and Italy (Anti-Comintern Pact) as early as 1936. Prior to the invasion of Poland, Germany and Italy allied in the Pact of Steel. Japan was invited as a signatory, but because this pact was aimed at Britain and France, and not USSR as Japan wanted, they declined. Later when war with the US was becoming inevitable, despite their popular support for isolationism, the three parties signed the Tripartite Pact.

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    I was unaware of the Pact of Steel until now. I thought I had found all the important Pacts all the way back to the Anti-Comintern Pact, but no. Anyway, so Germany and Italy already had an alliance before WW2 officially began. But then this begs the question: Shouldn't Japan have simply joined the Pact of Steel in 1940? Why a whole new Pact?
    – DrZ214
    Nov 17, 2016 at 5:04
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    The difference is that the Tripartite Pact is defensive; the language used in the articles is "if <so and so> is attacked". The practical impact is that it did not compel Japan to go to war with USSR, which is also spelled out in article 5. Nov 17, 2016 at 5:25

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