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The crisis of the Italian ruling class

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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No political, decision-making and economic crisis is devoid of cultural and spiritual implications. Moreover, the traits of this new and so-called elite are superficiality; the absolute ignorance of the depth and complexity of problems; the true psychosis and obsession for “communication”, advertising and the often useless presence on the media.

Nevertheless some structural data can be noted in the shift from the First to the Second Republic: the new irrelevance of the Italian strategic position; the total lack of autonomy in the old areas where in the past Italy operated almost undisturbed, such as the Middle East; the aggressive behaviours of those whom it thought were allies and friends both in the Atlantic Alliance and in the European Union.

If, however, currencies do not find a temporary and rational balance and we operate only with fixed rates – as, indeed, happens also with the  European single currency – the adjustments are always and only made with the reduction of the production base.

Italy celebrated the arrival of the Euro by passively and supinely accepting a Lira-Euro exchange rate that was influenced by the previous six months, when the Lira value had been too “high”, and it privatized its main assets at costs often not consistent with values.

Until the year 2000, the amount cashed from privatizations and securitizations totalled 178,019 billion liras, equal to 91 billion euros.

The first element of continuity between the First Republic and the  current phase is the excessive and often irregular funding of the ruling class, that is not matched by an internal meritocratic selection not based on family, clan, political group or faction criteria.

As Ennio Flaiano argued, to frighten a group of Italians just shout the word “merit!”.

Hence, while in the past the political parties acquired resources from companies with regular “withdrawals”, later the large privatizations permitted a single, but much more significant flow of funding.

The Second Republic emerged on the basis of the large distribution of resources to politicians in the Enimont affair, as the First Republic had been based on ENI and its US dollar transactions.

What happened later? Once the great donations were over, the ruling class – as petty swindlers or minor felons – lived on wiles and stratagems, modest transactions and friendships on the fringes of legality.

Furthermore with the Euro you could easily get again into debt, while on the international markets the old Lira had been ending up like the  Argentine Peso.

In is in 1986, however, that Italy came to rank fifth among the G6 countries, thus overtaking also Great Britain by 46 billion liras of additional GDP.

Since the early 1990s, however, Italy has been gradually losing ground vis-à-vis France (-21%), Germany (-29%), Great Britain (-11%), Japan (-27.7%) and the United States (-25.8%).

The other EU Member States used the Indian Summer of the 1990s to make structural reforms, while our politicians wasted time with their self-centred approach.

In 1987 Italy entered the EMS and its GDP rapidly rose from 617 billion  to 1,201 billion US dollars in 1991, with the Lira revaluing by 15.2% against the US Dollar and devaluing by 8.6% against the German Mark.

From 1991 to 1995, however, the Lira devalued by 29.8% against the German Mark and by 32.2% against the US Dollar.

The lack of guidance, understanding and control of the economic system by the ruling class – that is already in a phase of “renewal” – is evident.

Trade and monetary wars? Certainly so. Political leaders who are incompetent and often ignorant? Even more certainly so.

By now, however, the ruins in Italy obstruct the passage.

Nevertheless the dismantling of Italy’s civil society, ruling class and companies began in those years and it is continuing relentlessly.

The destabilization of the political system led to the choice of ignorant Parliamentarians and government leaders, often unable to understand and even decide on the various issues at stake.

Furthermore, the crisis originated in the United States in 2007 – which is not yet over – definitively destroyed the Italian economic and political system.

Since then the Italian economy has shrunk by at least 10% and production has fallen down to the level typical of the previous ten years, while 15% of the industrial capacity has been destroyed.

Also the approximately 200 billion euros of bad debts of the national banking system are a consequence of the crisis.

Against this background, also the rigidity of the labour market and its excessive cost are looming large.

An engine only producing friction and attrition – in an international context where no one has any interest in helping or supporting a friend or an ally.

Another naive or incompetent trait of Italy’s current ruling class is the idea that there can still be political, financial and strategic “White Knights”.

Since the year 2000 Italy’s foreign policy has been a perfect example of masochism.

Between 2000 and 2013 we finally recorded the closing down of 120,000 factories and the loss of one million and 160,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, our politicians think they can grant bonuses or tax exemptions for obvious electoral reasons. What a great idea!

Bonuses are always too expensive, but tax exemptions are a scam: if there is no similar reduction in public spending, the tax favours granted to a  group are paid by another one.

Not to mention public debt, which is approaching 140% of GDP.

There is no point in our politicians resorting to American experts – just to be fashionable – who recommend the sale of public debt securities only to Italians (as in Japan) and the usual “political stability”.

Let us not cherish illusions. Italian investors have not enough money to absorb the whole stock of securities issued, but political stability is impossible, owing to the old and new mass poverty existing in Italy.

Hence, on the one side there is the ruling classes’ old strategy of  selectively buying votes with favours and support; on the other, it is  impossible to keep this pace of electoral spending – even in the short term.

The typical Keynesianism of ignorant or too wise guys.

Furthermore, at a time when the ruling class is structurally weak, we witness an increase of non-transparent mechanisms and the strengthening of the lobby groups, who often draw up laws and influence the debate.

By now, instead of the old political parties, there is an intricacy of balances and power relations that are hardly perceived by voters, but which are now essential to pay for electoral campaigns and create the “image” of candidates.

Moreover, in Italy we are currently faced with a society of rentiers, namely those whose money come from investment rather than work: for the Italian Statistical Institute (ISTAT), the “wealthy” are the “employees” (12.2 million people) and the “silver pensioners” (5.2 million people). Finally there is a “ruling class” with a 70% higher income than the national average, made up of 4.6 million people.

Scarcely productive work, much widespread income from investment rather than work, no market and too much State.

However, the lower middle class and the working class are over. The working class is now fragmented into the wide – and apparently varied – population with temporary, low and insecure income.

The middle class – Italy’s historic axis – is now composed almost exclusively of retirees, while the old “bourgeoisie” is polarized between  the new rich and the future poor.

Just think of how much political ideology is vanishing, while the social classes that have built the modern world disappear and the politicians live their short time of glory by adapting to the most predictable and antiquated fashions and myths of mass communication.

Another essential aspect to note is the vertical drop of the school quality and the loss of value and quality of university degrees – another factor for which the current ruling class shall be held liable.

Hence all the old so-called “social elevators” – education, the now proletarized professions, crafts and specialized activities – do no longer work.

With this ruling class, the “foam” of the 1968 movement has come to power.

Indeed, while the 1968-styled Marxism wanted the “proletarianization” – so that the new poor would make the “revolution” – today we witness  impoverishment and proletarianization without any revolt or rebellion.

Paradoxes of history.

It is worth recalling that since 2012 over 800 entrepreneurs have committed suicide – a case out of four in Italy’s former rich North-East region.

Hence there are two possible options: either the current ruling classes work for the King of Prussia – but they still have to be elected here – or it is real inability, as well as lack of culture and experience.

The issue does not lie in singing the praises of small and sometimes unlikely economic growth in the last year. The indicator of severe material deprivation has grown by 0.4%, while the unemployment rate has decreased very slightly at national level (to 11.7% from the 11.9% of 2015), but it has increased by two tenths in Southern and island regions, thus reaching 19.6%.

In the future we will probably not have a “Mexican” Italy, with a small share of advanced industry, a mass of illegal economic activities and an old network of legal firms which, however, survive with underpaid labor force, deprived of any protection.

Conversely Italy is likely to become a fully deindustrialized nation, with its neighbouring countries taking over the best companies, and a large mass of population surviving on illegal economy or on the service sector.

 It is but a short step from decline to poverty.

And Italy will make this step as its ruling class is unable to control the “value chains” of large German or US productions in the North-East region, nor it knows how to effectively manage the non-tariff protection of the luxury goods it sells well in the world. It does not know the current monetary and geopolitical schemes and plots underway and finally it is  unable to create such a training system as to allow the evolution and technological upgrading we need in a world characterized by fierce global competition.

Hence what can we do to avoid Italy’s evident decline? First and foremost we need to talk about it and later imagine the programme of a new ruling  class.

It is difficult, but not impossible.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Italy escapes the ‘western propaganda trap’

Carter Chapwanya

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Authors: Carter Chapwanya and Arun Upadhyaya*

The Trump administration – unlike other US administrations – has clearly taken the ‘with us or against us’ stance particularly when it comes to their effort of taming China’s growth by denigrating the Belt and Road Initiative. As a result of this, the BRI had fallen victim to lots of criticisms from the West and other Trump sympathizers.

In true “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” fashion, western media platforms have constantly been awash with flawed, biased and often derogatory characterisations of the multi-trillion dollar project with an agenda of deterring its progress.

US vice president, Mike Pence is on record for calling the BRI a product of China’s ‘debt diplomacy.’ Last month, a White House spokesperson called it ‘China’s Infrastructure Vanity Project’ and this has made Washington’s position clear.

The recent signing of Italy to the BRI gravy train has predictably sent proverbial shivers down the spine of Washington as the White House and other US commentators have already started throwing spanners into the recent development.

The National Security Council of the United States held no punches in a scathing tweet against Italy’s decision to join the BRI.

“Italy is a major global economy and a great investment destination. Endorsing BRI lends legitimacy to China’s predatory approach to investment and will bring no benefits to the Italian people,” the tweet reads.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State last week lamented Italy’s move to join the BRI claiming that the people of the countries that join BRI would be the ultimate losers. 

It is clear that US policy makers are now grasping at straws in their futile attempts of stalling China’s growth because Italy and the Italian people stand to economically benefit commensurately if not more. Italy is set to get better access to Chinese markets, investments in critical sectors such as banking, natural gas, agriculture, steel and a balancing of the €16 billion ($18 billion) trade deficit.

Italyis not only the largest EU member but also the first Group of Seven country to join the BRI.  Some analysts have applauded the recent development and highlighted that Italy joining BRI means a lot for the world and it is a testimony of China’s success in major power diplomacy. 

Brussels has also been rattled by Italy’s decision to join the Chinese initiative. European Union commissioner, Günther Oettinger has floated the idea of an EU veto over future Chinese deals in Europe in order to protect the continent from growing Chinese influence. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also aired some reservations over Italy’s infrastructure deal with China suggesting that Italy – the third largest economy in the Eurozone –could eventually become dependent on China.

Analysts however say, without better proposals, both the US and Brussels cannot stop countries that engage China for their own economic development. The BRI offers literal pathways for economic cooperation that benefit China and the partnering countries in a ‘win-win’ type of arrangement.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang rightfully called the negative remarks by a White House official ‘ridiculous’ noting that Italy is a developed country that is fully capable of making its own policy decisions.

Wang Chao, China’s Vice-minister of foreign affairs also spoke out against the western ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric saying that China had neither the intention of dividing the European Union nor the capability of doing so. 

Last week Luxembourg also denounced the ‘debt trap’ allegations as it signed on to become the fifteenth European Union member to join BRI. It appears the western propaganda machine is failing to deter countries from making smart decisions that promote their respective sovereign national interests.

*Arun Upadhyaya is currently an International Politics PhD candidate at Shandong University

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The Rabidly Hypocritical EU

Eric Zuesse

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Unlike America under Donald Trump, who is proudly psychopathic and went so far as to blurt out that his followers would accept his leadership even if he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, the European Union is so rabidly hypocritical (Trump would probably call it “politically correct”) that its leaders routinely moralize about ‘human rights and democracy’ even while their governments indiscriminately rob and slaughter people in foreign lands (as will be documented here). EU leaders assist U.S.-led atrocities while using prettier language to describe their alleged motivation for these policies. Though the U.S. Government also occasionally employs such verbal sucker-punches (insincere or “politically correct” rhetoric), such moralizing is now the exception for the U.S. Government, and is no longer (as it had been under the immediately prior U.S. President, Barack Obama) the routine American practice — very much like the EU’s was, and still remains: such ‘idealistic’ hypocrisy.

But even Obama wasn’t as hypocritical as EU leaders still are. The biggest difference between the U.S. and the EU is that, whereas even under America’s Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning (and continuing to be predominantly sanctified) President Obama (the invader of Libya, Syria, Yemen, and more), America’s head-of-state repeatedly said that America is “the one indispensable nation” — meaning that all other nations are “dispensable.” By contrast, there is no EU leader, and not even any European head-of-state, who says, in the modern era, anything of the sort. Adolf Hitler infamously did it when reasserting “Deutschland über alles!” (i.e, that Germany is the one indispensable nation). But modern Europe’s leaders know better than to copy such rhetoric. (Trump’s version, of course, is “America first,” but this can mean many different things, and not only  mean that “America is the one indispensable nation.” Obama’s version was far less ambiguous than Trump’s is, because Obama’s clearly means that every other  nation is “dispensable,” and that only America is not. And, yet, still, Europe’s leaders accepted  it — they accepted  that their  nations were and are “dispensable.” After all: they are vassals.) 

America’s leaders are simply more honest about their psychopathy than modern Europe’s are. In fact, ever since at least the time of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, “Greed is good” has been America’s unofficial, but clearly dominant, political philosophy — virtually the official American philosophy. How many European nations today publicly and proudly assert anything like that? Do any?

A recent example of the EU’s hyper-hypocrisy was headlined at the far-right UAWire Ukrainian news-site on March 31st, “EU urges Russia to stop attacks on Crimean Tatars”, which reported that, 

The EU decisively condemns the arrest of 23 Crimean Tatars in police raids by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea on 27 and 28 March, said EU Spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic in a statement.

“A court in the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia, has ruled that all 23 Crimean Tatars detained on 27 March and 28 March will be held in pre-trial detention until 15 May. They are accused of belonging to the organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine. The European Union does not recognise the enforcement of Russian legislation in Crimea and Sevastopol and expects all illegally detained Ukrainians to be released without delay,” Kocijancic stated.

“The recent detentions, as well as the prior searches of their private property, constitute the latest targeting of Crimean Tatars, human rights defenders, and people who have spoken out peacefully against the illegal annexation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula,” the EU spokesperson stressed. …

Here is what Wikipedia says about that banned-by-Russia group:

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic: حزب التحرير) (Translation: Party of Liberation) is an international, pan-Islamist political organisation, which describes its ideology as Islam, and its aim as the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah (Caliphate) to resume the Islamic way of life in the Muslim world. The caliphate would unite the Muslim community (Ummah)[4] upon their Islamic creed and implement the Shariah, so as to then carry the proselytising of Islam to the rest of the world.[5] …

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned in countries such as Germany, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey,[14] and all Arab countries except Lebanon, Yemen, and the UAE.[15][16] In July 2017, the Indonesian government formally revoked Hizbut ut-Tahrir’s charter, citing incompatibility with government regulations on extremism and national ideology.[17] …

They declare the necessity of jihad so that Da’wah will be carried “to all mankind” and will “bring them into the Khilafah state,” and the importance of declaring “Jihad against the Kuffar without any lenience or hesitation;” (Ummah’s Charter),[97][117] as well as the need to fight unbelievers who refuse to be ruled by Islam, even if they pay tribute (The Islamic Personality).[97][118]

Do Europeans really want people such as this to be increasing in the EU? The Ukrainian regime that Obama had installed in February 2014 thinks it’s fine, but do Europeans, really? Obama had fooled Russia’s Government, at least until his 2012 re-election, to think that he wasn’t aiming like all his predecessors since at least the time of Reagan were aiming — for the U.S. Government ultimately to conquer and absorb Russia into the steadily growing U.S. empire — but after the bloody U.S. coup right on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine in 2014, the EU has been clearly the U.S. regime’s vassal in this conquer-Russia enterprise — participating in it, though reluctantly.

The EU’s leadership has consistently been working in secret to assist jihadists — mass-murderers and terrorists — whenever jihadists are fighting in the U.S.-led international war against Russia and against any nation whose leadership (such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Nicolas Maduro) are either allied with or even just friendly toward Russia. Syria, and its President, Bashar al-Assad, constitute one particular example of this EU hypocrisy. 

Here are examples of this U.S.-EU support for jihadists that are trying to overthrow a Russia-friendly government:

On 10 December 2012, AFP bannered “Jihadists seize key north Syria army base”, and reported that, “Jihadists led by the radical Al-Nusra Front seized a strategic army base in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, in a fresh setback for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. … On the political front, the EU gave a vital boost to the newly-formed Syrian opposition coalition, describing it as the ‘legitimate representatives’ of the Syrian people following talks in Brussels with its leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.” 

On that very same day, December 10th, Britain’s Telegraph headlined and sub-headed “Syrian rebels defy US and pledge allegiance to jihadi group: Rebel groups across Syria are defying the United States by pledging their allegiance to a group that Washington will designate today a terrorist organization for its alleged links to al-Qaeda.” That report opened: “A total of 29 opposition groups, including fighting ‘brigades’ and civilian committees, have signed a petition calling for mass demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group which the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” So: no one could reasonably doubt that America’s alleged ‘rebels’ in Syria were, in fact, loyal to al-Nusra. Yet, the EU and U.S. continued supporting them.

Also on that same day, Bill Roggio at Long War Journal bannered, “Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo”, and he reported that, “The Syrian government has warned that rebels may also use chemical weapons after the Al Nusrah Front took control of a chlorine factory in Aleppo last week. Islamists hold sway over new rebel military command.” So: it was already clear, even then, that the ‘rebels’ were interested in perpetrating against civilians a chemical-weapons attack that their supporters in the U.S. and EU could then blame against Syria’s Government as being an alleged reason to invade Syria by their own forces in order to ‘protect the Syrian people and establish democracy and human rights there’, or similar lies.

The next day, December 11th, Roggio reported that “The Al Nusrah Front has by far taken the lead among the jihadist groups in executing suicide and other complex attacks against the Syrian military. The terror group is known to conduct joint operations with other Syrian jihadist organizations.”

And, on the very next day, December 12th, Roggio headlined “Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation”. Anyone who, after this, didn’t know that the U.S. and EU were supporting jihadists to take control over Syria, was very deceived, because the truth was now known, and was then being subsequently hidden from the public, by almost all of the subsequent ‘news’-reporting. But there were a few exceptions:

On 26 January 2013, Roggio reported that,

The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 46 of the 55 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011, according to a tally of the operations by The Long War Journal (note that multiple suicide bombers deployed in a single operaton are counted as part of a single attack).

Al Nusrah spearheads military assaults

Al Nusrah has also served as the vanguard for jihadist forces in the major attacks on Syrian military bases. In concert with allied jihadist groups such as the Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Vanguard, Mujahedeen Shura Council, the Muhajireen Group, and Chechen fighters, the terror group has overrun three large Syrian installations since last fall. 

On 20 April 2013, Reuters headlined “Rebels battle with tribesmen over oil in Syria’s east” and reported that, “The EU said this week it wants to allow Syria’s opposition to sell crude in an effort to tilt the balance of power towards the rebels.” The EU supported and backed the ‘rebels’ seizure and black-market sale of whatever oil they could steal from Syria. This was the EU’s ‘humanitarianism’.

On 22 April 2013, the AP headlined “EU lifts Syria oil embargo to bolster rebels” and opened: “The European Union on Monday lifted its oil embargo on Syria to provide more economic support to the forces fighting to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. The decision will allow for crude exports from rebel-held territory.”

On 1 May 2013, TIME bannered “Syria’s Opposition Hopes to Win the War by Selling Oil” and reported that, “Without an embargo, European companies can now legally begin importing barrels of oil directly from rebel groups, which have seized several oil fields in recent months, mostly around the eastern area of Deir Ezzor. That would provide the opposition with its first reliable source of income since the revolt erupted in Feb. 2011, and in theory hasten the downfall of Bashar Assad’s regime.” No mention was made, in any of this reporting, that this constituted aggression by the EU against the sovereign nation of Syria under the U.N.’s Charter and was therefore an international war-crime. The Western press didn’t care about such things — but only about ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ and other such billionaires’ bumper-stickers for suckers.

On 22 February 2019, one of the U.N.’s top experts on international law, Alfred de Zayas, was interviewed for a half hour on the ways in which America and its allies are blatantly violating international law by attempting a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s Government, and by going even further and imposing sanctions against Venezuela’s Government because it was resisting this (in effect) economic invasion-by-means-of-sanctions. The EU is one of these invading countries, but some of its constituent states oppose the U.S.-sponsored invasion. 

On 31 March 2019, I headlined “EU Joins NATO’s War Against Russia” and reported on the EU’s knee-jerk increase of economic sanctions against Russia as being the initial phase — the sanctions phase — of the U.S. regime’s wars to overthrow the leaders of nations that are friendly toward Russia (e.g., Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Viktor Yanukovych, and now Nicolas Maduro), and now (ever since the 2012 Magnitsky Act sanctions fraud against Russia) increasingly to apply Washington’s economic sanctions against Russia itself. 

In international affairs, the EU therefore is clearly a stooge of the constantly aggressive U.S. regime.

After all, the U.S. regime had initiated and led the creation of the European Union. This scheme started as soon as FDR died and Harry S. Truman became America’s President. The death of FDR was also, in a sense, the death of any real democracy in the United States. Truman was forced onto the Democratic Party’s Presidential ticket in 1944 by the Democratic Party’s centi-millionaires against the will of FDR. Truman and Churchill started the Cold War, which increasingly became mass thought-control in America (culminating with Joseph R. McCarthy) and with the CIA’s operations Gladio in Europe and Mockingbird in the U.S. itself. First, NATO, and then the EU, were born as part of that secret U.S. strategy to conquer Russia even after the end of the U.S.S.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact counterbalance to America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance. Ever since that time (1991), America’s controlling owners of international corporations (our billionaires) have also controlled — via European nations’ own super-rich — first, Europe’s national Governments, and then the EU itself. It secretly remains true even after the 1991 end of the Cold War on Russia’s side. 

Consequently: when there’s a choice to be made between supporting jihadists (or other extremists such as — in Ukrainenazis) or else to side with Russia (or any nation that’s friendly toward Russia), the American team always back the jihadists or other extremists, and they say it’s being done ‘for human rights and democracy’ and other such hypocrisies, while they perpetrate actual war-crimes, and make fools of their own publics, in order ultimately to conquer Russia. That’s doing it the “diplomatic” way, and they don’t like Trump’s doing it the “Greed is good” way. The directness of his greed makes themselves look bad. That’s why these super-hypocrites preferred Obama.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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Why Italy Needs to Enhance Its Strategic Vision

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Modern Diplomacy meets the Italian Undersecretary for Defense Raffaele Volpi. Mr. Volpi, a senior official of the ruling Italian party “Lega”, is an authoritative voice inside the party and is highly respected by its Leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini.

In this brief conversation, we will talk about the future challenges that the Italian Armed Forces will have to face in the near future, the political and industrial effects on defense stemming from the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen, and concluding with reasons why Italy needs a strong strategic system that supports its key defense industries.

What are the financial challenges that the Italian armed forces will have to face in order to maintain their efficiency and advanced operations?

The operational capacity of the Armed Forces must inevitably be linked to what are strategic choices. Today, no country can think of doing everything, except perhaps the three major global powers of the United States, China, and Russia. Therefore, each country must have the opportunity, together with allies, to choose what its key strategic missions are and allocate its resources accordingly.

Making this more difficult is that no mission is the same: obviously, capacity on preserving and security national territory must remain primary. So, the bigger question remains in terms of choosing what other perspectives do we need to focus on and how do we link these choices back to the main objective, which is ultimately about how to positively and productively project our power. One must know how to choose and it is not simply a financial issue.

Let me give an example: there is a huge demand from the international community for a renewed commitment from Italy in the Mediterranean. Well, looking at the Mediterranean and the northern part of the African continent means choosing how we want to be present in the area in an intelligent and strategic way. This is not a talk about war: we are talking about power projection. Therefore, resource acquisition and allocation is key. Surely, as in all countries, resources are infinite or limitless. Therefore, very careful planning must be done: we must move beyond mere posturing, as we tend to say in diplomacy, and move on to mutual respect. We must make strategic, even geo-strategic, choices that align to effective programming.

Do you look favorably upon the development of a common European defense? If so, what role will Italy have to play, taking into account the French power of nuclear deterrence and the signing of the French-German Treaty of Aachen?

A common defense is an interesting idea. It is part of amore complex idea that can be called Euro-Atlantic, which would be a capable, strong, and authoritative Europe within a greater Atlantic Alliance. Europe needs to understand what it wants to become at a strategic level, looking both historically at organizations like NATO, which looks mainly toward Russia as the primary challenge, and how NATO itself has recognized the need to look beyond Russia, towards a southern front. This is the new front of concern for the Mediterranean, both from an ISIS standpoint and other extremist groups and also in terms of problematic immigration/refugee challenges.

The idea of Europe at this time needs to definitely be rebuilt, with the treaty of Aachen revealing the possibility of introducing the nuclear element. I do not have the impression that France and Germany are becoming closer friends. Ironically, this is shown by the need to make a treaty every few years. Behind this constant treaty-making is also the conditioning to think about the US commitment in Europe, especially on the issue of a nuclear umbrella. From the Obama administration to present day, there has been the strategic retreat of the United States, at least in concept if not yet fully implemented, from many international commitments.

Personally, I have as a secondary thought that this French-German agreement in Aachen also serves to guarantee its own possible nuclear coverage. I think the United States will not leave Europe because the alliance is too strategic for it, and not just from a military point of view. There is, however, an important aspect that France and Germany, regardless of any treaty, are already doing when it comes to their philosophy about a common defense and the joint defense project that is the construction of a common military tank. If Europe wants to be authoritative, then it must make decisions that lead to a more definitive foreign policy. We must have more aligned common goals, both diplomatically and militarily.

From an industrial point of view, what effects will this Franco-German understanding have on Italy’s defense industry?

There are difficulties in other countries. For example, Germany has an internal difficulty in having strong investments in defense, especially when they are juxtaposed against the new political and social composition of the country.Thus, concerns and perceptions can never be purely or exclusively focused on industrial development. The world of defense, not only in Europe but on a global level, is a very competitive world. It is a world that cannot be read in newspapers where, for example, two companies from different countries are allied to bring a product forward in one country smoothly while in other situations these companies and countries are competitors.

Ours is a country that ranks seventh overall in size of defense industry, so we have a capacity that derives from two factors:

First, is our talented and highly-skilled defense workforce, our people, that are incomparable. Unlike technology that can be copied, knowing how to work effectively, THIS cannot be copied.

Second, is our huge technological capacity. We have national champions that are not necessarily the largest companies, but are small and medium-sized companies that develop excellent products and are in demand all over the world.

Creating a more cohesive European defense industry could enable us to be more competitive. But I believe that this is not the chief problem. Our problem is different. Italy needs a defense system that is strong and coordinated, which focuses above all on the information communication/technology part. This brings the possibility of being aggressive in some key markets, while also having the ability to continuously monitor all the actors moving within and across these markets. We still lack such a system and this must be the challenge we address over the next few years for the defense and security industries as a whole. We are capable of having great products but we must learn to run together.

I think that in life you have to be able to always learn and see how other systems work. We have very aggressive competitors. France, first of all, with its tried and tested system, that allows its defense industries to be massively supported by government, intelligence infrastructure, design development, and further incentives. However, when I say this, we are also talking about nothing extraordinary, except the commitment to offer aid that is available to the French defense industry every day, twenty-four hours a day. Our government must realize that same set of guarantees for our national security industry.

To face increasingly competitive foreign groups, how do you view the potential creation of a national champion through the alliance of Leonardo and Fincantieri?

I do not see a need for it. I think there must be moments of important confrontation between groups. It is not necessary to create a super national champion. The important thing is to work together, to have the ability to relate, thanks to a strong and cohesive Italian system with other major international players such as Boeing, Lockheed, and Airbus. The defense industry is a projection industry, as in imagining what competitive challenges will be emerging in the future. It is now wise to project thirty years forward with accuracy, so a strong systemic national security industry means it can also be an effective competitor/partner with other global companies.

There is one aspect that we must always remember: the defense industry is a sector that concerns national security and national interests, so you cannot choose wrong in terms of alliances. Those choices are best guaranteed when both the future of technology AND geopolitics are taken fully into account. It is important that political choices are made in a very serious manner, strictly linked with national interest. Our national interest comes to us from history: from my point of view, this is chiefly an Atlantic Alliance with a strong Europe at its center.

Are you in favor of the development of nuclear energy for military purposes in Italy?

I believe that Italy has a complementary opportunity compared to what the general choices of the Alliance can be. We have a strategic unique position and have a capacity for multilateral dialogue that other countries do not have. So our form of deterrence is where we are and with whom we talk. Our strength is a calm, reasoning force with respect for sensitivities that is not common even to our allies. This is because we are a country within the Mediterranean region that has a unique capability to have relationships with everyone, even in the most difficult moments. So, nuclear power exists, it will persist and remain, even though it tends to be a rather blunt instrument. We, on the other hand, must play the card of “Italianness” within the geopolitical context with the strategic deftness it deserves.

Co-author: O. Rafaggio

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