Hitler had now decided that he had to provide his main ally Mussolini with military support – before there were political repercussions in Italy itself. The Italian army had suffered a series of reverses. It had been pushed out of Greece after its invasion from Albania on 28th October, and was now under pressure from Greek forces in Albania itself. And it had just been been comprehensively routed in Egypt and pursued back into Libya by much smaller British, Indian and Australian forces in Operation Compass. Hitler had no particular strategic interest in North Africa but he could not see Mussolini totally humiliated.
Erwin Rommel had demonstrated his zeal for aggressive independent leadership during the invasion of France, when he had surprised the Highland Division at St Valery. He was regarded as the ideal man to lead the relatively small Panzer force that would become known as the Afrika Korps.
Just as Hitler was making the political decision to intervene in the Balkans, Greece and North Africa, Churchill was making the political decision to divert troops from Libya and Egypt to support the Greek army. The British lost the opportunity to seize the whole of Libya and, in a weakened state, would soon face a long and difficult campaign against German troops. But Hitler was diverted and delayed from his main objective, Russia. The decisions made now would have knock on effects for the whole of the war.