Italy acting a more constructive role in EU strategic autonomy

Although Italy has kept a low-profile in the global affairs, it is one of the major member states of the United Nations, the NATO and then the European Union. It is also one of the major economies of the world since it joins the G-7 group which is seen as the “rich nations club” of the globe. Historically, as historian Norman Davies argued, “The Renaissance which was originated from Italy was the spiritual force that cracked the mold of medieval civilization, setting in motion the long process of disintegration which gradually gave birth to modern Europe.” In terms of the EU evolution, Italy has played a pivotal role from drafting The Treaty of Rome to balancing the equilibrium between France and Germany, the dual-engines of the European Union.

Since the Russo-Ukrainian war started two months ago, the EU has followed the fiat of the United States to impose all kinds of sanctions on Russia. As a major member state of the EU, Italy has to act in line with shared principle that the EU stands united in its solidarity with Ukraine and provides Ukraine and its people with political, financial, humanitarian and all sorts of weapons as well. For example, during his visit to Kiev, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrel, reiterated that the war would be resolved not through negotiations, but on the battlefield. His remarks are totally opposite to the spirit of European classic diplomacy referring to negotiation, persuasion, compromise and the use of force only as the last resort in case.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, Italy has supported the agenda of “the Greater Europe” that is open to welcome Russia as a partner or associate with the EU and the NATO as well. In terms of economic ties, Italy was the second largest trade partner of Russia in Europe. It is noted that Italy has paid a great deal of attention to the relations with Russia, including seeing Russia and a major power of the world in terms of military, politics and particularly energy. Yet, since the war broke out, the U.S., the NATO and the EU have been extremely hostile to Russia and Putin particularly.

Under such a scenario, it is natural for Italy to make some remarks to denounce the war in Ukraine including reducing the diplomatic staff. Yet, on April 16, Gen. Leonardo Tricarico, former chief of staff of the Italian air force and currently chairman of the think-tank Fondazione ICSA (Intelligence Culture and Strategic Analysis), put it that the Anglo-American-NATO axis has been working against peace in Ukraine. As the war keeps ongoing, the word “negotiation” has never been spoken either by U.S. President Biden nor by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, nor by Secretary of State Blinken, nor by U.K. Prime Minister Johnson. This is very serious and also dangerous because the first efforts to reach an agreement have occurred in a quite improbable way. It is self-evident that Biden does not want peace.

Born in 1942, Leonardo Tricarico first served in Italian military and then the NATO. After he retired from military services, Tricarico has acted as the president of ICSA with a view to creating a new-type of mechanism to coordinate security, defense and intelligence effectively. He has argued that a defensive strategy should involve immigrations crisis, terrorism and cyber security while accenting the role of laws in the international affairs. He also opines that it is unwise to exclude Russia from the comprehensive security of Europe as the NATO should be a defensive alliance.

However, it is apparent that since the war started, Russia and Ukraine began to hold talks on a peace deal. Even though, the EU, the NATO and particularly Anglo-American axis have never made serious efforts for a major structuring of negotiations. Gen. Tricarico observed that if the West reviews all public and non-public statements involved, the world can’t find words such as ‘negotiation’ or ‘ceasefire.’ Evidently, they do not want peace. If Biden does not want peace, nobody else wants it, because Stoltenberg is the direct resonance room for Biden and the British are even more aggressive and imperative than the Americans. This is the reality and it is useless to dance around it: Biden wants “Putin in the dust.”

However, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has shaken relations between global powers beyond Europe. On the one hand, Washington has threatened Beijing with sanctions should the latter decide to aid Russia. China, on the other hand, has noticed intensifying US official interactions with Taiwan with consistent provocations from the United States, which has intended with Japan’s complicity to start a new hotspot between Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Actually, Shinzo Abe has appealed to station of U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan in case of the Taiwan crisis.

In sum, the war in Ukraine is more widely seen as marking the end of the long peace that followed the end of the Cold War. The U.S. primacy and unipolar world order will be challenged by more military powers or economic centers. It is true that neither Russia nor China is strong enough to openly resist the United States, yet Beijing and Moscow will be more interdependent with each other simply because the U.S.-led NATO has expanded eastwards with scant regard for Russian concerns. Now it is much more difficult if Russia succeeds in incorporating the Donetsk and Luhansk as a land bridge to Crimea. Looking into a near future, no country can save Europe except itself but the precondition is that the EU must be independent from the yoke of the United States. To that end, the dual-driving forces of France and Germany seem insufficient since the EU needs more member states to hold strategic responsibility. Italy is sure to be expected to do something to broker a peace deal if it could and particularly act to fight against the savage vandalism of Europe now which has discriminated Russian culture outrageously.

Catherina Hu
Catherina Hu
Research associate in Italian Studies, SIPA at Jilin University.