Kiev, Brussels, Madrid, the routes of the European future

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Headlines the New York Times in the aftermath of the visit of Draghi, Macron and Scholz to Kiev: “Europe offers Ukraine a hope, but not a vast arsenal”. Indeed, what Zelensky expected was not brought as a gift by the three top European leaders. Weapons. Ukraine continues to declare that it needs them large and immediately in order to defend itself against Russian invasion. As he has often done in the past, Zelensky set his dialectic on emotionalism. And the logistics of the trip demonstrated this as well. He wanted the three guests to experience firsthand the drama and horror of the war by having them escorted to Irpin, one of the towns most affected by the conflict. The travel report delivered to history images that will remain in contemporary iconography, such as that of the three presidents distraught in front of the mangled car in which an entire family had been killed.
But, once seated at the table, they sounded only promises. The promise of categorical support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union. That of sending military and economic aid. And that of engagement on the UN front to arrange the safe unblocking of Ukrainian ports. For the supply of armaments, Kiev’s best ally continues to be US President Joe Biden who, though without a trip to Kiev, has promised an unprecedented arms shipment. Joe Biden and the Atlantic Alliance are demonstrating that they are pointing the West’s star in a completely different direction: toward the “long war” that will perhaps restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and certainly fiacre Russia.

The visit to Kiev, however, was helpful in a definitive alignment of the three major European powers. Differences in positions, especially with Macron’s France, seemed to have been overcome and now they speak with one voice. But in reality, to assess the solidity of that partnership, it will be necessary to wait for the upcoming summits, for which the mission to Kiev was undoubtedly instrumental. We are talking about the European Council meeting in Brussels next week and the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of the month. The European Council will have to decide on Ukraine’s status as a candidate for EU membership, after the green light already received from the European Commission. But not only that. It will be crucial for the introduction of the price cap, the gas price ceiling so coveted by the Draghi-Cingolani axis, which could result in a definitive deterrent to Russia’s continued price hikes on gas supplies. With his denunciation from Kiev at a press conference (“There is a political use of gas and grain by Russia”) Draghi wanted to raise an alarm to strengthen support for the Italian proposal.

The NATO summit will be of strategic importance not only because it will be attended by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who will speak on the reasoning behind a security perspective in the Indo-Pacific that also involves Europe. But also for the future of Ukraine. Although Ukrainian officials are no longer talking about alliance membership, they stress that post-war Ukraine will need security guarantees against further Russian aggression. At present, only NATO, or at least its largest members, can provide such a commitment. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was made possible by the country’s isolation outside the Western political and security architecture. It has become clear that designating the country as a “buffer zone” or “bridge between the West and Russia” is not sustainable.

Draghi then returned to Rome, where the internal debate is dominated by the consequences of the round of elections for local government and referendum. The big defeated, Conte’s M5S and the Lega, are dreaming of a government crisis, the only move, according to many analysts, that could help them recover some support. But the important test of the Senate vote on justice reform showed that the balance still holds. With 173 yes, 37 no and 16 abstentions, the reform passed, with a text that, among other measures, partly introduces the principles of at least three of the rejected referendum questions (evaluation of magistrates, system for electing members of the Csm and separation of careers). However, this paradox did not stop the Lega and M5S from voting compactly with the majority. The appointment with the government crisis, at least for the moment, seems postponed.