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Can Italy’s “Government of Change” Change All of Europe?

Elena Alekseenkova

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March 1st marks nine months to the day since the new Italian “government of change” came to power. Few in Europe would have believed that Italy, one of the EU founding states which had been governed by centrist cabinets for over 30 years, would end up with a coalition of right- and left-wing Eurosceptics, who would be calling for a revision of the fundamental principles of European integration. Even fewer believed that this coalition would hold out for more than six months while continuing to enjoy the support of over 60% of Italians. Today, Paris and Berlin refer to the new Italian government as Europe’s new leprosy, and Brussels is bracing for the European Parliament election this coming May, where the “Third International” represented by Eurosceptics, populists, nationalists, and “sovereigntists” from Poland, Hungary, and France, led by Italian agents provocateur, is expected to stage a European revolution. The Italians are undermining European solidarity from within by questioning the rules of financial discipline, the EU’s ability to tackle migration, and the advisability of sanctions against Russia. They are also damaging the EU’s reputation outside the union’s borders by publicly criticizing Brussels’ helpless policy in Africa and France’s “neo-colonialism”, by openly supporting the protest movement within France, by vetoing the EU’s common stance on Venezuela, and by allowing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which are not recognized elsewhere in the EU, to open representative offices in Italy. Now, nine months on, it appears that the EU has its own enfant terrible

Nine months in power: migration stemmed but economy in technical recession

The main election slogan of the “government of change” was that Italy should become more independent in resolving its domestic problems and securing its interests in the international arena. The key domestic issues were economic development and migration. The primary foreign issues were ensuring border security and building economic relations with countries outside the EU based on the interests of Italian business. This agenda was largely dictated by actual public demand. According to research, between 2013 and 2017, the share of Italians who view border security and curbing migration as the key national objectives ballooned from 30% to 66%. By the time the new coalition came to power, a majority of Italians disapproved of the migration policy being pursued by the previous center-left government and perceived a direct link between illegal migration and terrorism. The number of persons deported on suspicion of extremism had skyrocketed, from just two in 2002 to 106 in 2018. Polls conducted in 2017 and early 2018 indicated that 82% of the population did not believe that Italy could have any influence whatsoever on the drafting of a common European policy.

Ever since coming to power, the “government of change” has been persistently trying to influence changes to the EU migration policy. On the eve of the June 28–29 EU summit in 2018, Italy stopped allowing ships carrying rescued migrants to enter its ports and issued an ultimatum to Brussels, which included several specific proposals for creating “joint responsibility” for migration within the EU. The demands included a revision of the Dublin agreement; the maximum responsibility of the country of first entry; setting up EU-run migrant reception centers in coastal countries; and revising the rules of migrant resettlement between EU countries, among other things. After the summit, Giuseppe Conte stated: “Italy is no longer alone!” However, after a while it became obvious that the agreements that had been reached were as far from being implemented in practice as they had been in June 2018.

Then, in the autumn of 2018, the new government began to go it alone. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini closed Italian ports to non-governmental organizations, accusing the latter of smuggling people into the country. In addition, the so-called law on security (Decreto Sicurezza) was adopted in October, which revised the rules for granting asylum, the reasons for denying refugee status as well as the rules and terms of detention at refugee reception centers. This independent behavior on the part of the Italian authorities caused outrage not only in Brussels, Paris, and Berlin but also in the UN, as the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the Italian security law failed to comply with international law.

Nevertheless, surveys conducted in late 2018 suggested that the new Italian government had achieved its objective: only 16% of the respondents still believed that immigration posed a key threat to the country, even though 43% were still worried about it. Salvini regularly reports decreasing numbers of newly arrived migrants and growing numbers of those deported. The agency Frontex reports that only 150 migrants arrived in Italy in January 2019, down 96% year-on-year, and that the number of persons deported has already exceeded the number of new arrivals.

The Ipsos statistical survey published in January 2019 indicates that one out of every two Italians (51%) supports the government’s hard line on migrants, including the closure of sea ports, and only 19% of the respondents are not opposed to migrants making landfall in Italy. In fact, 60% of those polled believe that the migration policy is the prerogative of the Italian people and not the EU. That said, society remains split as to the safety law, with 43% supporting Salvini and 38% opposing his move. In addition, 55% of the population sees a difference in the approaches to migration of the Five Star Movement and Salvini’s League, with only 25% considering them to be similar. In other words, Italians tend to mainly attribute the resolution of the migration crisis to Salvini, which certainly boosts the popularity of his party. According to surveys published on February 11, 2019, the League’s approval rating stood at 33.8%, whereas the rating of the Five Star Movement was at 23.3% and continuing on a downward trajectory. Salvini has promised to propose a new migration bill this coming spring, this one dealing with migrant labour and seasonal workers.

In the economic sphere, however, the new government cannot yet boast about any breakthroughs. It came to power at a time when the country’s national debt amounted to a record 132% of GDP. The neoliberal course imposed on the country by EU financial institutions, Paris, and Berlin since 2011 had failed to help Italy overcome the 2008 eurozone crisis, which had effectively stripped Greece of its economic sovereignty. The 2016 and 2017 economic indicators are illustrative of why Italians chose a different course in March 2018 by supporting the Five Star Movement and the League. According to ISTAT, 46.1% of Italians could not afford a week’s leave in 2016; 16.5% could not afford heating in their homes; 14.6% could not afford to buy fish or meat every other day; and 32.4% said they were having difficulties making their monthly salary last until the next paycheck. The intra-regional imbalance that is so characteristic of Italy has also refused to go away. In 2007, the difference in per-capita GDP between the southern and northern provinces stood at EUR 14,255; by 2015, it had grown to EUR 14,905. The unemployment disparity also grew, from 20.1 percentage points in 2007 to 22.5 in 2016. In 2015, 42.7% of those residing in the south of the country were living just above the poverty line.

Italy’s national debt dynamics (as a % of GDP)

Italy’s per-capita GDP (in USD)

GDP dynamics

Budget deficit dynamics

Unemployment

Unemployment in 2018

2017 per-capita GDP by region in current prices (EUR)

Source: ISTAT Statistiche report. Anno 2017. Conti economici territorial. 13 Dicembre 2018.

2011–17 per-capita GDP dynamics by region (EUR 1,000)

Source: ISTAT Statistiche report. Anno 2017. Conti economici territorial. 13 Dicembre 2018.

In this situation, the “government of change”, having garnered the support of about 60% of the electorate, began to revise the fiscal austerity measures imposed by Brussels and implement de-facto Keynesian policies primarily focused on social and economic support for the vulnerable strata of the population as well as for small- and medium-sized businesses. It should be noted that their election promises had been much bolder. In particular, while still forming the yellow-green coalition, the proposal for Italy pulling out from the eurozone was taken off the agenda, and Giuseppe Conte has since repeatedly stated that Italy is not considering this move. This is precisely why Paolo Savona, who had described the euro as “a noose around Italy’s neck”, was never appointed economics minister in the new government. Conte has also repeatedly stressed that Italy is not pondering an “Italexit”.

Despite the significant backwards step taken on the euro and Italy’s presence in the EU, the protracted confrontation with Brussels that run from October through December 2018 resulted in the “government of change” adopting a 2019 budget which still fitted the logic of the coalition’s election promises. Even though Brussels did not allow Italy to set the acceptable budget deficit at 2.4% (the EU demanded 2.04%), the government still allocated financial reserves for introducing a guaranteed basic income for citizens, conducting a pension reform (the so-called Quota 100), and revising the taxation system, even in smaller amounts than originally planned.

It is obvious, however, that these measures of economic support for the population will not yield quick results by way of stimulating economic growth. In addition, society is split on whether the steps that have been taken can contribute to economic development. Surveys indicate that only four out of ten Italians are happy with the planned introduction of the basic income, while 55% do not support this measure.

Meanwhile, Italy is now in a technical recession based on the negative GDP dynamics seen for six months in a row (GDP stood at -0.2% for 4Q 2018). EU officials immediately reacted along the lines of “I told you so!”; in February 2019, they issued an even more pessimistic forecast for Italy’s 2019 GDP, predicting growth of no more than 0.2%, the lowest figure among all EU countries. Pierre Moscovici, the EU European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, promised that Brussels would be closely monitoring Italy’s economic dynamics. He added that the country’s economy was not yet demonstrating any signs of recovery, despite the new government’s measures to support domestic demand. Moscovici also noted that the EU had effectively rescued Italy from an even worse-case scenario by prohibiting it to adopt the original budget, which implied a deficit of 2.4%.

The economic measures introduced by the Italian government at the very end of 2018 were not the main cause of the GDP slowdown in the third and fourth quarters of that year. Rather, it was caused by the economic policies that had been pursued by the previous governments. Nevertheless, the protracted conflict with Brussels over the budget plan and the threat of EU sanctions against Italy for its failure to comply with financial discipline rules certainly played a part in international rating agencies downgrading Italy’s ranking as well as in the increased volatility on financial markets in 2018. One thing is clear: if the economic situation in Italy does not begin to improve soon, this will give Brussels additional leverage in its fight not only against the Italian “sovereighnists” but also against Eurosceptic forces in other countries who are calling for a revision of the EU financial discipline regulations. Within Italy, people are seriously concerned about the economic situation: in late 2018, 55% of the population cited the economic crisis as the main threat to the country. A lack of positive economic changes soon could seriously affect the government coalition’s standing both inside and outside the country.

Whatever the case, the EU will still have to rescue the Italian economy. This is understandable: if the UK leaves, Italy will become the EU’s third largest economy, accounting for 15% of the Union’s total GDP. However, Brussels is growing ever more reluctant to save Rome: the EU has built up too much criticism of Italy over the past nine months: not only over the country’s failure to observe financial discipline and its stern migration policy but also because Italy has been discrediting the EU in the international arena.

Italy in the global arena: massive turmoil

During its first nine months in power, the Italian ‘government of change’ caused Brussels numerous headaches with its ‘sovereign’ foreign policy.

Conte became U.S. President Donald Trump’s greatest supporter in Western Europe. Trump’s first visit to Europe began in Italy. In 2018, Conte and Trump met at the G7 and NATO summits. Trump visited Italy in May, and Conte visited the White House in July. The U.S. president described his Italian counterpart as a “really great guy” who “will do a great job,” adding that “the people of Italy got it right”. It is no secret that the two leaders share a common view on migration: Trump has repeatedly expressed his approval for the border security measures taken by the Italian authorities. Conte supported Trump’s calls in the summer of 2018 for Russia to be accepted back into the G7, although none of the other G7 member states supported the idea. Trump also delegated to Italy the authority to manage the Libyan settlement, which understandably annoyed France, Italy’s long-standing rival in that country. It is no secret that Paris, Berlin, and Brussels view the new Italian government and Trump as the same breed of leprosy, which must be fought at any cost.

Italy’s relations with France had been steadily deteriorating under the yellow-green coalition. Things hit a diplomatic rock bottom on February 7, 2019, when Paris recalled its ambassador from Rome, citing months of “groundless attacks” by the Italian authorities. The last time such a thing had happened between the two countries was back in 1940, when Fascist Italy entered World War II against France and the UK on the side of Nazi Germany. This time around, the last straw came in the form of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio meeting with the leaders of the French yellow vest movement, who continue to protest the national authorities’ policies. France accused Italy of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs, but this came after Rome’s repeated allegations to the effect that France was violating Italy’s own national sovereignty. In March 2018, the actions of French police in an Italian refugee camp in Bardonecchia resulted in a major controversy. The countries continue to attack each other over migration issues. Macron described Italy’s refusal in June 2018 to accept refugees from the vessel Aquarius as “cynical and irresponsible”. Italy, for its part, regularly accuses France of deliberately returning migrants to the border with Italy near the town of ​​Ventimiglia. The ongoing squabbling affects bilateral economic cooperation: for example, Italy has been dragging its feet on a project to build a high-speed motorway between Lyon and Turin. Most importantly, the scandal between the two EU founding states threatens pan-European solidarity on the eve of the European Parliament elections and is damaging the international image of the EU. By publicly accusing France of a “neo-colonial policy” in Africa, and by urging Brussels to intervene, Italy is undermining the EU’s authority as an international actor. Now that even the core EU member states prefer public conflicts to compromises, such behavior may soon catch on elsewhere across the Union, and all the differences that have been resolved quietly up to now may become widely known outside the EU. In addition, with the conflict rhetoric escalating within the EU core, the Paris–Berlin tandem is finding it increasingly difficult to promote its model of European integration as a more appealing option to the existing national-level sovereignty ambitions.

At the February 1, 2019 meeting of the EU foreign ministers, Italy once again demonstrated its special position by refusing to support a proposal to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. The proposal was also blocked by Austria, Finland, and Greece. For several days preceding the meeting, Italian politicians and Foreign Ministry representatives had been voicing somewhat differing positions on the recognition of the self-proclaimed Venezuelan president, which reflects the historical complexity of the process involved in formulating a common stance in Italian politics. The final verdict stated that Italy could not recognize someone who had not won a legitimate election as president, but that incumbent President Nicolas Maduro has also lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the Venezuelan people. Therefore, Italy called for holding a runoff election in Venezuela as soon as possible. Thus, Rome once again sabotaged European solidarity in front of the international community.

Brussels perceives Italy’s relations with Russia as another sign of the new government’s deviant behaviour. The new Italian authorities had begun calling for the lifting of EU sanctions against Russia even during the election campaign. Then they promised to bring the issue up at the EU summit in June 2018. However, even now, after the December vote to prolong the EU sanctions, Italy has not yet attempted to veto them. This is understandable: both in June and December 2018 Italy had to address much more important issues in terms of the country’s future development than relations with Russia. In the former case it was negotiating with the EU on migration, while in the latter Brussels was deciding on Italy’s 2019 budget. In both instances, Italy could not have possibly used its veto on the sanctions without losing bargaining chips on the other issue. Nevertheless, Conte’s high-profile visit to Moscow on October 24, 2018 resulted in the signing of new agreements on economic cooperation. Prior to Conte’s visit, Salvini had paid a visit to Moscow, where he met with Italian businesspeople operating in Russia. Italy is trying its best to return to the Russian market despite the sanctions, including by actively using the Made with Italy concept, which involves the launching of joint ventures and localization enterprises in Russia. However, these efforts to date have only resulted in mutual trade being restored to half of the pre-sanctions level, and the Italian government is very much annoyed by the fact that France and Germany – consistent supporters of the sanctions – effectively hold a much greater portion of the Russian market. It has been recently reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make an official visit to Italy in the first half of 2019 at Conte’s invitation. Should the visit take place prior to the EU parliamentary election, then Russia may well come under criticism for its alleged attempt to once again meddle in the EU’s internal affairs, divide the Union from the inside, and provide support to European pro-sovereignty forces ahead of the polls.

Another topic of extremely high relevance to Rome is energy cooperation with Russia, which supplies 40% of all gas consumed in Italy. Gazprom’s 2018 exports to Italy exceeded the volume supplied to Turkey and ranked only second to deliveries to Germany. The possibility of extending the TurkStream pipeline to Italy via the Balkans will most certainly be discussed in 2019, which could provoke a new confrontation with Brussels, which seeks to reduce dependence on Russian energy while preserving the share of transit via Ukraine.

Italian exports to Russia

Another irritating factor for Brussels is the northern Italian regions’ interaction with the authorities of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DNR and LNR) as well as visits by northern regional delegations to Crimea and Russia’s Krasnodar region. Back in May 2016, the council of the Italian region Veneto, whose capital city is Venice, recognized Crimea as part of Russia. The DNR’s second Italian representative office opened in Verona on February 9 this year (the first was had opened in Turin in 2016), and another Italian delegation is expected to visit the Krasnodar Territory in the spring of 2019.

What to expect from the enfant terrible

Political turbulence and frequent government changes have become integral features of the Second Italian Republic, with both Europe and the world now accustomed to these factors. Little wonder, therefore, that even before the new “government of change” actually came to power, people both in Italy and in the EU started wondering how soon the yellow-green coalition would collapse, the assumption being that a political coalition cemented by a common aversion to the EU could not possibly form a reliable foundation for any long-standing cooperation between the right- and left-wing populist forces.

The coalition partners have indeed been manifesting differences since coming to power, and the Italian media have repeatedly highlighted these discords as possible reasons for a split. The first nine months have in fact resulted in the parties swapping places in terms of popular support: the Five Stars Movement’s approval rating stood at 32% in May 2018 versus 24% for the League, whereas the current situation is exactly the opposite. The ongoing series of regional elections could result in another conflict: in the recent gubernatorial polls in the Abruzzo and Sardinia regions, the League candidate won by a landslide, leaving the Five Stars rival far behind. The leaders of the ruling parties have reportedly disagreed on such issues as budget planning, the introduction of a basic income, the Lyon–Turin highway, refugees, and the security law. However, each time the two parties would make statements emphasizing the government’s unity and their readiness to negotiate on all key issues. By all appearances, Salvini, Di Maio, and Conte all understand that if the coalition collapses, they will not be able to stand against Brussels on their own, which would convince the EU leadership of the sovereignty supporters’ inconsistency, egoism, and inability to reach an agreement even amongst themselves. The coalition’s collapse would bury the idea of a broader, pan-European coalition of Eurosceptics, whose positions in the European Parliament would be weakened. In the meantime, a survey published on February 14 clearly indicates that the coalition of the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists will not secure a majority in the new European Parliament for the first time in EU history and that the “sovereignists,” or Eurosceptics, stand a good chance of securing a combined total of up to 130 seats. In fact, the Five Stars Movement’s share of the vote could prove decisive in forming the new European People’s Nationalist Party plus “sovereignists.” In this situation, the Italian leaders are much more interested in strengthening their coalition than splitting it. Should they succeed, the yellow-green coalition could truly become a “government of change” for all of Europe…

First published in our partner RIAC

PhD in Political Science, RIAC Program Manager, Research Fellow at Centre for Global Problems Studies, MGIMO-University

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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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