Not your usual diplomatic visit. In normal times, Mario Draghi’s trip to Washington DC – scheduled for Tuesday – would have been business as usual, i.e. a PM visiting a friendly and allied nation. But these are not normal times.
- Back home, there’s a pro-Russia front in Mr Draghi’s government majority, and its existence hinders the solidity of Italy’s NATO-aligned stance.
- Matteo Salvini and Giuseppe Conte, leaders of the League and Five Star Movement, are the most heavyweight representatives of the ostensibly “pacifist” movement.
- Both have called to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine (thus abandoning its military resistance) and to open up to belligerent Russia – framing their stance as “pacifism.”
- Mr Salvini and Mr Conte are the political appendages of a broader phenomenon: the pro-Russian mediatic drumbeat escalating in Italy’s infosphere.
In comes the counterbalance. Given this context, when he steps into the White House, Mr Draghi won’t just visit US President Joe Biden as an allied PM: he’ll lend legitimacy to Italy’s pro-Ukraine stance, and the consequent actions, within the wider West.
- The Italian PM has always maintained a coherent posture in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine – unconditionally condemning the violence unleashed by Vladimir Putin and full adherence to Western sanctions against Moscow.
- His government reflects this: his Atlanticist direction is mostly upheld by key political ministers (Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini above all) rather than the “technical” ministers;
- an impressive diplomatic machine contributes to the excellent relations between the White House and Ambassador Mariangela Zappia.
- Mr Draghi also carries world-class economic expertise, and he shaped the most painful sanctions against the Kremlin, as the Financial Times revealed a month ago. It’s no surprise allies welcome his guidance on the economic war being waged against Moscow.
Holding the line. With the concreteness and pragmatism befitting an economist, the former ECB head will defend the work done so far and what’s yet to be done.
- ENERGY: Italy has successfully moved to find alternatives to Russian gas – diversifying towards Africa, Asia and Europe – in a more substantial and effective effort than Olaf Scholz’s Germany.
- It is no coincidence that Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni, will be alongside the PM.
- MILITARY & ECONOMIC SUPPLIES: Mr Draghi will have to explain to the American allies (who are well aware of the tug-of-war in the Italian Parliament) the limits and virtues of a parliamentary democracy. While being aware that Italy is doing its part as well as many key allies in Europe, and even more than most.
- Italy is among the biggest donors of economic, humanitarian and military aid in the West.
- The veil of secrecy covering Rome’s weapons shipments to Kyiv does not detract from the efficiency and effectiveness of Italian support, which has been acknowledged by Volodymyr Zelensky himself.
NATO MISSIONS: among the cards at the PM’s disposal is Italy’s prominence in the security of Europe and the Mediterranean, from NATO missions in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to intelligence and military projection in the East-Mediterranean area, North Africa and the Sahel.