Italy, Europe and the United States: the western front in support of Kiev

After a few weeks of controversy and hesitation, the governments of the United States and Germany officially announced on Wednesday their decision to send heavy tanks to Kiev, in a time-diluted manner, thus complying with President Zelensky’s requests. Forty-five in all, including thirty-one “M1 Abrams” on the US side and fourteen “Leopard 2s” on the German side, to which will be added those sent by other European countries, although in a number yet to be determined. These are military combat vehicles that are more powerful than those Ukraine currently has and therefore more suitable, according to Western governments, for resistance against the Russian invasion. While emphasizing that the decision has no offensive nature against Moscow, US President Biden, after having had a telephone conversation with four European leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Meloni, claimed the unity of the West on the issue, which now appears increasingly united in supporting Kiev. This outlines the perimeter of the renewed military commitment of NATO countries towards Ukraine, highlighting their even more active role in the conflict. As Paolo Mieli writes in Corriere della Sera: “It is not true that with the joint decision of the United States and Europe to send a few dozen new-generation tanks to Ukraine we have climbed a step on the ladder leading to world war. Perhaps Ukraine has been allowed to hold out for the current year, nothing more. (…) In absolute terms, what counts – and what irritates Moscow – is the symbolic value of the fact that once again the US and Europe have managed to stay together”. A consideration, this one, that is far from obvious and as such quite valuable.

Thinking differently, however, seems to be the Democratic deputy and coordinator of Article One Arturo Scotto who, in reference to the Ukraine Dl seen this week in the Chamber, stressed that this is a sign of military escalation and that «winning against a nuclear power is not possible, unless Armageddon is counted». A statement, this, that seems to highlight the differences of opinion within the party itself. In the chamber of Montecitorio, in fact, along with the Movimento 5 Stelle and the Alleanza Verdi e Sinistra, even among the ranks of the Partito Democratico, as already happened in Senate on the same measure, someone broke away from the group’s voting indication. In any case, despite the 46 votes against the measure, the text was finally approved by a large majority, sanctioning the extension of the arms transfer to Kiev until 31 December 2023. Parliament thus decided to remain in line with what had been established in the previous eleven months, albeit by a different government, once again strengthening Italy’s position in the Atlantic axis. In fact, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni decisively reiterated Italy’s «all-round support for Kiev» and, for this, received the American president’s appreciation. In the same spirit was Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, who held a hearing in Parliament on Wednesday to illustrate the policies of his Ministry. The sixth arms decree will, according to the minister, be «pacifist-proof», being the least belligerent of the previous ones and the only one that envisages sending only defensive weapons. The Minister also stated that, in light of the aid that Italy has provided and will continue to provide to Kiev, it is necessary to restore the stocks that are needed for national defense, as well as a profound evolution in an inter-force key of the military instrument in terms of order, logistics, technology and regulations. All with the objective, certainly not trivial but certainly desirable, of increasing Italy’s relevance and weight in international decision-making processes. 

The executive’s recent international trips, first to the Balkans, then to Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and, in the next few hours, to Libya, are part of this. As can be seen from the visits themselves, the focus of the Meloni government’s diplomatic action remains the Mediterranean. This was also confirmed by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who, responding to a question in the Chamber of Deputies on the issue, said: «The Mediterranean is the central hub of Italy’s and this government’s foreign policy, it is a millenary crossroads of relations and exchanges based on common roots. We want Italy to play an increasingly leading role in relations with the southern shore and in those between Europe and Africa. By acting otherwise, the gaps we leave will be made up by others».