The sad and notorious vicissitudes of the non-existence of an Italian foreign policy have hit rock bottom over the last three years, thus destroying even the minimum that we had managed to create after the disappearance of the serious and experienced political class born out of the Resistance Movement and lasting until the early 1990s.
The initial low profile of Italian foreign policy in the international scenario in the aftermath of the Second World War was certainly not due to phantom injustices of history or the inability or acumen of politicians or diplomats at home. For Italy, the reason was the necessary outcome of the Yalta alignments and the presence in our country of the strongest Communist Party in the West.
The values of patriotism, Nation and flag – where they proved to be fundamental for the political-economic reconstruction of the countries that had really fought and had been severely tried by the conflict (China, France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, USSR, etc.) – were removed and erased in Italy by “a foreign nationalist party, inadmissible in the democracy of our countries”, as Gaetano Salvemini and Ernesto Rossi put it.
Even the liberal epic of the Risorgimento was lost: try asking the 30/40-year-old man in the street, let alone a younger one, about Cavour, Mazzini, King Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, etc. He may know something about Garibaldi, thanks to TV programmes produced by the long wave of Bettino Craxi, a fan of the Italian general born in Nice.
The heritage of the country’s unity and Mussolini’s rhetoric reminded of the very concept of Nationhood and Fascism. It was therefore in the interest of the Kremlin and therefore of the Italian Communist Party – when the Bolshevik revolution in Italy was just a chimera to be administered to the voting masses – that its point of reference set political parameters that guaranteed the international commitments of the Sarmatian region. Over the years they came to brand words such as “Italianness”, “tricolour Italian flag”, “lost former unredeemed lands”, and the like, as right-wing synonyms for grief and tragedy.
The Soviets’ party of reference in Italy then decided that, in order to remain credible before voters and members who still wished in good faith for the mýthos of proletarian catharsis, we had to at least destroy the only non-military or economic-industrial expression of the bourgeoisie, i.e. the sense of homeland. At the same time, for the superpowers’ equilibria, the rest had to be left intact and unchanged.
From 1945 to the events of 1989-1991 – the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion and collapse of the other homeland, the Soviet one – Italy’s foreign policy, while praising and exalting the skilful and refined experience inherited from Lorenzo the Magnificent, from Westphalia, etc., had to move maimed and lop-sided, deprived of the national interest motivation that, on the contrary, other States placed and still place at the core of their actions.
For almost half a century, Italian politicians and diplomats were the protagonists of fundamental engagements and commitments around the world. It was not Italy – as the exclusive subject – that dictated policy lines as pars contrahendi, but there were specific schools of foreign policy, following the lines of De Gasperi, Nenni, Fanfani, Moro, Craxi, Andreotti, De Michelis, etc. The fear of arousing even the slightest top-down nationalism, albeit formal, was the blackmail to which governments were subjected on the sacrificial altar of the internal equilibria desired by the Italian Communist Party.
Over the last thirty years, the end of the bipolar system, based on weapons of mass destruction, the opening up of new international scenarios, and, in particular, the stance taken by the Italian President of the Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi – with his heartfelt appeals for rediscovering Italy as a value and pride to be flaunted not only at the football stadiums when the national team was playing – have overturned the mannerist minimalism, in which – as Achille Albonetti has been arguing since April 2005 – Italy’s downgrading, which “is neither admitted nor discussed”, has been developing for some months “in the almost general indifference of institutions, politicians, journalists and experts, including historians and diplomats”.
However, just as it took almost half a century after the Resistance struggle to bury the past, we hope that it will take fewer years for Italy to resume the leading role it has uninterruptedly played since Unification until a few decades ago. Three are the most evident symptoms of Italy’s progressive downgrading.
Firstly, the three Summits between President of the Republic Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in June and September 2003, and later in February 2004, which led to some important agreements in the crucial defence sector.
Secondly, the negotiations with Iran, which began at the level of the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom in October 2003, on the sensitive nuclear issue.
Thirdly, Germany’s candidacy as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, supported by France and the UK.
What happened in those years between the great three European countries, which excluded Italy, was the beginning of its downgrading, which would be a severe mistake not to record.
It is worth recalling that Italy has always been present in the leading groups and among the great European powers, ever since its birth (1861). It has therefore been assured a position similar to the UK, French and German positions. Over the last 140 years, regardless of its internal regime and actual strength in relation to the others, Italy has played important and decisive roles: the Triple Alliance in 1882; the Algeciras Agreement in 1904; the Pact with the Allied Powers in 1915; the Treaty of Locarno in 1926; the Four-Power Pact in 1934; the Munich Mediation in 1938; the deployment of the Euro-Missiles in 1979-80, etc.. As seen above, as early as 1882, Italy made a pact with the Central, Austro-Hungarian and German Empires. However, it was contacted by the Triple Alliance and, from 1915, it secretly switched to supporting France, the United Kingdom and Russia.
In the Fascist period Italy had important, albeit harmful and damaging allies, i.e. the Nazi Germany and Japan. In the post-war period, it enthusiastically joined all the major European ventures: the Council of Europe and OECE in 1948; the ECSC in 1950. After the failure of the EDC and EPC in 1954, it promoted the European relaunch in Messina in 1955, which led to the signing of the Treaties of Rome in March 1957, i.e. the European Economic Community and Euratom.
Italy joined the European Monetary System in the late 1970s; the Single European Act in 1985; and the Treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1996) and Nice (2000). It is one of the countries that have joined the Euro. Since 1975 it has been a member of the G5, later to become G7 and G8, and G14. In the sensitive military sector, as early as 1957 Italy has been the architect – with France and Germany – of a project for a nuclear military capability. In 1969 it adhered to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with twelve conditional clauses, including the European clause, etc..
However, when a Foreign Minister performs his assignment – not knowing, and not even understanding what we have mentioned above (acronyms included) – it is natural that the downgrading process continues. It must also be said, however, that the responsibility does not lie with the Minister, but rather with those who placed him in this role of utmost responsibility.
The opportunity to try to make up for lost time and lost face at the Foreign Ministry could be the creation of the new government that – based on the recent outcome of the polls – could even lead the country to have a woman as Prime Minister. It would be an epoch-making turning point, as well as an opportunity missed by the Left, which from the Liberation to the present day, has expressed only Nilde Iotti, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies from 1979 to 1992, as its highest female leader.
At this juncture, as some media claim that any right-wing government would be an expression of the nostalgic Right, I wish to point out that the alleged historical references of the future government’s protagonists were erased from history by the USA and the UK, while the current leaders of the winning coalition are perfectly in line with the wishes of the White House and the liberal-capitalist West.
In the meantime, let us take a look at the Foreign Ministers of previous centre-right governments and try – based on our experience as former observers of foreign policy and international relations – to provide some advice to the future Prime Minister.
There were four Foreign Ministers in the centre-right governments: Antonio Martino (Ω 2013), Renato Ruggiero (Ω 2013), Franco Frattini and Gianfranco Fini. The latter was also Deputy Prime Minister: a double responsibility that had previously been held only by Giuseppe Pella (1957-1958) and later by Massimo D’Alema (2006-2008), thus proving the skills and experience of the three aforementioned politicians. Gianfranco Fini was also Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies from 2008 to 2013.
When I organised the face-to-face meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini (November 24, 2003), Sharon emphasised Italy’s balanced position, praising it as an important contribution to the advancement of the peace process. Furthermore, during his stay in Israel, Fini spoke of Italy’s faults regarding the “infamous racial laws wanted by Fascism”, for the implementation of which the decisive signature was not that of Mussolini, who proposed them, but of King Victor Emmanuel III of Savoy, who approved them.
It was Maria José of Savoy who, during one of my visits to Switzerland, made me aware of King Victor Emmanuel III’lack of decisiveness, as well as his spouse’s preponderant aspect of mater familiae.
A cowardly act that disgraced that King and his coat of arms indelibly before History. On the contrary, when the idea of marking the Jews with a Star of David was floated, King Christian X of Denmark (who ruled from 1912 to 1947), declared: “If that emblem is used, then we shall all wear it”. The government of that Nazi-occupied country did not implement racial laws.
It is good to remind ourselves of History, but it is also edifying to highlight the value of some Italian politicians who have taken on their responsibilities in the right fora (although they may have made some personal mistakes which, however, were unrelated to their political actions).
At a time of political void, it would be good to pick up the broken threads of a discourse of serious continuity of Italian diplomacy, which has recently undergone considerable stages of total embarrassment.