365 days after

Exactly one year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine under the astonished and dismayed eyes of a Europe that after years was reckoning with a war “at home”. And if at the time someone spoke of a “blitzkrieg”, today the possibility of the conflict being short-lived seems at least unlikely. In fact, diplomacy seems to be stuck between crossed vetoes and faded promises that prevent the two warring countries from even contemplating sitting down at a table to negotiate a peace. To date, tensions are very high and no improvement is expected in the near future, on the contrary. For weeks now, Russia has been massing tens of thousands of soldiers in the Donbass and intensifying artillery attacks in the same area, probably in preparation for what several experts refer to as the “spring offensive”. Not to mention that in these very days, prompted by the upcoming anniversary, the leaders of the two superpowers, using a common Cold War lexicon, have been clashing at a distance accusing each other of starting the conflict. In the aftermath of Joe Biden’s historic visit to Kiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a long-awaited State of the Russian Federation address before a packed audience of dignitaries, military personnel and journalists. Putin described the war as «an inevitable consequence» of European and US actions, speaking of an ongoing «existential battle» to defend Russian values and culture against those of a corrupt and immoral West in the grip of chaos and a deep «spiritual crisis». And despite the seriousness of these mostly propagandistic statements, what caused the greatest concern was the announcement that Moscow will suspend its participation in the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement, the last one still in force between the US and Russia on the reciprocal reduction and monitoring of nuclear weapons. This echoes the specter of the nuclear threat that has been worrying many in the world for the past year. Biden for his part firmly reiterated American support for the Ukrainian resistance, calling it a necessary effort against autocracy. «The autocrats understand only one word: no. No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future. Brutality will never defeat the will of free people. Russia will never win in Ukraine. Never», Biden said at a particularly emotional moment in his speech. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who just this week visited Ukraine for the first time since the beginning of her term of office, was on the same page. After visiting Bucha, Irpin and Kiev, the Prime Minister met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer him once again her help both in this phase of the conflict and in the following, hopefully forthcoming, phase of reconstruction. In a mostly cordial and emotional atmosphere that sealed the understanding between Rome and Kiev, however, there was no shortage of unexpected events. During the joint press conference between the two presidents, Zelensky made a rather harsh and sarcastic comment on ally Silvio Berlusconi’s most recent statements on Ukraine when he said that if he – and not Meloni – were in government, he would never go to speak with Zelensky. These statements, which had already put the Meloni government in great difficulty, have once again caused embarrassment to the Prime Minister, who is forced to patch up the gaffe of an ally who once again seems to want to shift the center of gravity of the majority onto himself in a provocative manner. Meloni reaffirmed how on support for Kiev the entire majority has always voted «what there was to vote for and on this the coalition has always been united». In essence, according to Meloni, one must look at deeds and less at words. Despite this inconvenience, Meloni’s international mission achieved many of its goals, both symbolically and in substance, tightening the thread that binds Italy to the international community and confirming the leading role acquired by our country in supporting Kiev.

While the whole world is preparing today to commemorate the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, there seems to be only one certainty: Moscow will not stop the offensive and Kiev will continue to defend itself, but while Putin does not give the impression of having a clear strategy either to win or to exit the conflict, Ukraine has on its side the compact support of the West even if, for now, it has not yet taken the field directly.

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