Global Independent Analytics
Giuseppe Zaccaria
Giuseppe Zaccaria

Location: Italy

Specialization: Balkans, Yugoslavia

The Italian connection

There are also many problems, of course, but if you allow we shall discuss in one more time

Whatever the nostalgic past of nations that domestic right-wing groups like or dislike , Italy  ceased to be a great power a couple of millenniums ago, and it is improbable she will regain her throne in the political and military arenas. At the same time, however, regardless of our stance towards the new Western fundamentalism, Italy is a key country for the rest of the world. That elegant little boot, rich in art, expressive with music, designs exquisitely delicious food for the rest of the world.

There are also many  problems, of course, but if you allow,  we shall discuss them at another time.

Today, it is more important to  emphasize another aspect of the question, that might prove useful to everyone: believe it or not, Italy is a country that expresses great wisdom.

Its wisdom accumulated throughout many centuries of history, cross-cultured with many foreign dominations under whose influence it suffered but nonetheless also learned from many interesting things. To exemplify in a simple way, it is worth quoting Ernest Hemingway - positioned across all the splendors and the ignominy of the Renaissance- Nicolò Machiavelli, the Borgias, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. : "In those centuries, Switzerland lived a phase of peace and prosperity, and invented only the cuckoo clock."

A few days ago, that wise country which unfortunately did not invent the cuckoo clock has awakened from a lengthy hibernation and conversed to Europe: "Enough with the automatic, the renewal of sanctions against Russia should be discussed." And for those who had not understood, starting from the lords of Brussels this meant realizing that the child has grown. Or at least, that he is now able to put his foot down.

For almost two decades of internal fighting between Silvio Berlusconi and the left, in the big black hole of the political, Italy had been right in its international role: Berlusconi, of course, cultivated personal friendships, however, he has never been able to distance itself from the choices of others (Second Gulf War, intervention in Libya, etc.). But when the left was in power, the absence of major figures and especially of ideas made the Italian foreign politics  made from time to time by the United States, from NATO or from Union (which until now has meant USA plus  NATO).

That 's why the broadcast from Rome to Coreper- the meeting of the ambassadors of the 28 member countries - is a relevant fact and almost unprecedented. And it is as if Italy's, Matteo Renzi woke up: from now on the theoretical renewal of sanctions will no longer be automatic, but must go through a "political debate." And in this debate, it is understandable that Rome will have different allies.

It remains to be seen whether the discussion will be repeated at the ambassadorial level , addressed by the Foreign Ministers  or most probably  by the heads of state and government at the summit scheduled for the 17th and 18th December.  Renewal, as well as approval of sanctions, needs unanimity.

Mind you, Matteo Renzi did not discover suddenly the vigour of a great statesman: he has not the same friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin as his rival Berlusconi, but he is simply a person with a political "nose" and he realized that a condition in international relations in which the United States imposes sanctions and Europe pays the price is no longer sustainable. Or to  put in plain terms: in the recession that has lasted more than seven years,  Italy is no longer able to withstand losses that are likely to exceed 12 billion euro a year of export deficits.

These, according to best estimates, are the state costs of interruption of business relations with Moscow and at European level the cost is obviously much bigger.

The question then is not just about money, as Jean-Claude Juncker, a few months ago, had lost the aplomb to say that "the EU cannot continue to be dictating its policy from the United States.” At that time the president of the European Commision spoke as a banker, but since then many other topics have come on the table.

France now has a strong interest to mitigate the friction with Moscow and to strengthen military cooperation in Syria. Hungary, Slovakia and Czech republic wish to break the anti-Russian front of the "pact of Visegrad" and to resume economic exchanges. Small Cyprus protested for months, and even Germany - that the sanctions entailed great damage - after all, not all  view the Italian initiative with disfavor..

Of course, this is still a first step. After the "political debate" sanctions may be prolonged for another six months, but the signal is clear: enough with the passive adapt to Washington’s policies, it's time to think of Brussels - provided the capital of Belgium is seen by Europeans as the capital of a covenant between the most advanced countries in the world.

Furthermore, the relationship between Russia and Italy has always been particularly warm, although the two countries have been adversaries in World War II: one traces the origin of this human contact to the fact that one of the most revered saints of all Russia, St. Nicholas, is buried in Bari. Others speak of mysterious affinity of character  between the oldest Latin people and the largest Slavic nation. Who knows.

But the fact is that at this stage of the new "cold war," Italy today is the first major European country to rebel against this idiotic system of economic sanctions.

Matteo Renzi, until a few years ago, was just the mayor of Florence, but he is obviously a quick learner, and his diplomatic adviser is Armando Varricchio, an ambassador who has had a successful experience in the East, Belgrade namely.

Today, Italy seizes with readiness - and if you will, with a certain cunning - a malaise that is widespread in the EU.  Like it or not, this is an important step. And who knows if one day, with the eternal crisis of Libya, there will be really need to help from Moscow ...

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