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The state of relations between Italy and Russia is « excellent » : such was the declaration by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conté when he received President Vladimir Putin in Rome. The message was intended as a tranquilliser, even a sleeping pill, for public opinion. Fundamentally, the meeting was limited to the state of economic relations.

Russia, where 500 Italian companies are situated, is the fifth greatest extra-European market for our exports, and supplies 35 % of Italy’s need for natural gas. These exchanges – specifies Putin – were worth 27 billion dollars in 2018, but in 2013, they generated 54 billion. This means that they have been halved because of what Conté calls « the deterioration of relations between Russia and the European Union which led to European sanctions » (which are in fact decided in Washington).

Despite this, there exists between the two countries « an intense relation at all levels ». A reassuring tone, which echoes that of Conte’s visit Moscow in 2018 and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s trip to Saint Petersbourg in 2016, when he guaranteed that « the phrase ’Cold War’ has exited history and also reality ». So the farce continues.

In his relations with Russia, Conté (like Renzi in 2016) presents himself only in the function of head of government of a European Union country, dissimulating Italy’s membership in NATO, under command of the USA, which it considers a « privileged ally ». So at the Italy- Russia table there is a space reserved for the stone guest, the « privileged ally » with Italy swimming in its wake.

The Conté government declares that the state of relations with Russia is « excellent », even though less than a week earlier at NATO headquarters, he had once again accused Russia of having violated the INF Treaty (on the basis of « proof » supplied by Washington), thus falling into step with the US decision to bury the Treaty in order to install new intermediate-range nuclear missiles pointed at Russia.

On 3 July, the eve of Putin’s visit to Italy, Moscow published a law, signed by Putin, suspending Russian participation in the Treaty, a preventative act before Washington left definitively on 2 August. Putin also warned that if the USA deployed new nuclear weapons in European countries close to Russia, then Russia would point its missiles at the areas where these missiles are based. So the warning also affects Italy, which is presently preparing to house, from 2020, the new B61-12 bombs which are also available for the Italian Air Force - under US command.

One week before the confirmation of this « excellent » state of relations with Russia, the Conté government confirmed Italian participation in the NATO force – under US command – of 30 warships, 30 battalions and 30 aerial squadrons which can be deployed in Europe within 30 days against Russia as from 2020. Maintaining the anti-Russia function, Italian ships are taking part in NATO manoeuvres of submarine warfare. Mechanised Italian forces are part of the NATO battle group in Latvia, while two weeks ago, the Ariete Armoured Brigade was in training in Poland. Italian fighter aircraft - Eurofighter Typhoons – are deployed in Romania and Latvia.

All of this confirms that Italian foreign and military policy is not decided in Rome, but in Washington, right under the nose of the « sovereignty » attributed to the current government.

Relations with Russia, like those with China, are based on the quicksand of Italian dependency on the strategic decisions made in Washington. We only have to remember how in 2014, on orders by Washington, the Russia-Italy South Stream gas pipeline was sabotaged, causing billions of Euros of loss for Italian companies. In the absolute silence and consensus of the Italian government.

Pete Kimberley
Il Manifesto (Italy)