One of the most significant consequences of the war in Ukraine is the downsizing of Italy’s role in Europe in a year that should have relaunched its political influence after an extended period of tarnishing.
Concurrent events such as the presidential elections in France, where Emmanuel Macron is (was?) expected from a delicate re-election, and the advent of the new chancellorship of Olaf Scholz in Germany, after Angela Merkel’s season, seemed to constitute an unrepeatable opportunity to polish the Italian rank in the Old Continent.
The idea, which later turned into a blunder, was that Prime Minister Mario Draghi would use all his authority and international prestige to relaunch Italy in the gatherings that matter. Starting with the negotiation on the interpretation of the 2022 Stability Pact, where Rome and Paris aim to counter the hypothesis of regression to austerity that excites Berlin and Nordic partners.
On the contrary, the outbreak of the war has reshuffled the cards, sweeping away any prospect of Italian leadership. In addition to strengthening the thesis of the European Union’s inconsistency in the face of crises that threaten the interests of individual member states, the conflict has confirmed Italy in its proverbial continental marginality. What is worse, the inability to being accepted at the decisive diplomatic tables in Europe clearly contrasts with the presence in Palazzo Chigi of a head of government who had been acclaimed by the whole West for his thaumaturgical skills.
The impression is that our partners, starting with the Franco-German axis and with all due respect to the powers of Super Mario, are strongly reluctant to include Rome in the fundamental decisions of the Euro-Atlantic forum now that the continent is crossed by the winds of war.
Italy has for years cultivated the illusion of being able to consider its main supranational organizations of reference and belonging – NATO and the EU – as ends in themselves and not as means to achieve an objective. World champion of camouflage appropriately declined into “multilateralism”, Italy could not hope to be called to sit face to face with real powers, albeit in serious crisis or decline, without knowing what it wants. It is the drama of those who have long since lost all culture of the State and with it also the sense of national interest – without which it is impossible to stand comparison on the planet without rules, where everyone thinks for himself.
Excluded from the tables that matter, the prime minister did not lose heart and called a tactical summit with the Mediterranean countries in Rome to assert the Italian point of view at least in the very delicate issue of gas imports. The goal is to arrive at the European Council in Brussels on 24-25 March (concomitant with the NATO summit in which US President Joe Biden will also participate) with a common position between Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal.
Today the much-maligned “Pigs” of the euro crisis boast an enviable geographical position to intercept hydrocarbon supplies from North Africa and the Middle East, the contribution of which is considered crucial in allowing Europeans to break free from dependence on Russian gas. Presenting in Brussels as the representative of the countries of the area could be an effective way to try to get out of the diplomatic corner in which the Ukrainian crisis has confined us, as well as to sketch a semblance of Mediterranean politics that our country has been waiting for decades.
At the same time, Prime Minister Draghi announced his upcoming trip to the United States after meeting in Rome with the American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The White House official had just met in the Italian capital with the director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Yang Jiechi, to discuss the war in Ukraine and Sino-US relations.
The summit could be useful to Italy if it ended positively (the outcome was not disclosed) or at least not badly as it happened during the disastrous meeting in Anchorage in 2021. The goal of the Italian government is to demonstrate to Washington to be able to contribute to the difficult dialogue with Beijing, from which it distanced itself (especially on the technological front) shortly after joined the new silk routes under the first government led by Giuseppe Conte.
Strengthening the axis with the US will help not to lose further positions in Europe and to manage with greater serenity the delicate phase connected with the announcement of the end of the Covid emergency, and the beginning of the emergency linked to the war in Ukraine. After almost a month of fighting, the conflict can freeze the recovery with its consequences. The energy bill could radically transform the national scenario, exposing a large part of the production sector to the risk of suspension of activities and consumers to review their willingness to spend.
During the press conference in which the government announced the removal of prevention measures and restrictions, Draghi admitted that the price of the war unleashed by the Kremlin could prove to be much higher than it seems so far, especially for Europeans.