He said what, now? Today (Tuesday, October 18), Silvio Berlusconi uttered a rather questionable statement at the Italian Lower House, in front of his party’s MPs. The audio was captured and leaked to LaPresse, who then made it public. Here’s the translated transcript.
“The Russian ministers have said that we are already at war with them because we supply arms and financing to Ukraine. I personally can’t express my opinion, because the press… […] it would be a disaster. But I am very, very worried. I have re-established relations with President Putin, a little, in the sense that for my birthday he sent me twenty bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter. I replied with bottles of Lambrusco and an equally sweet letter. He [called me] the first of his five true friends.”
- Allegedly, he also noted that Ukraine joining NATO would mean “world war.”
— Ultimora.net – POLITICS (@ultimora_pol) October 18, 2022
Deny and deflect. The leader of Forza Italia appeared to suggest beyond any doubt that he had reconnected with the Russian President, who has become a pariah among most Western leaders. This reconstruction, however, was flatly denied by his entourage.
- Party coordinator Antonio Tajani explained that Mr Berlusconi was recounting an old story to his MPs, about an episode dating back to 2008.
- Later in the day, Forza Italia Released a statement noting that its position, along with that of Mr Berlusconi, regarding the Ukrainian conflict and Russian responsibility “is known to all”: “in line with the position of Europe and the United States, [as] reiterated on many, many public occasions. There is no room for ambiguity, nor has there ever been.”
Not to be outdone, the newly elected, Putin-admiring Speaker of the Lower House, Lorenzo Fontana, noted on live TV that whereas Russia was “prepared” for sanctions, “we were not. It could be a boomerang.”
- He was toeing the line of his party leader, Matteo Salvini, who also had repeatedly criticised Western sanctions on Russia.
Not the best start. These incidents might reflect rather poorly on Italy’s yet-to-be-born new government, which is slated to take office as soon as next week. Giorgia Meloni, leader of Brothers of Italy and prospective prime minister, is aiming to stick to Mario Draghi’s Atlanticist foreign policy and promised Ukraine she would continue to support it, including through sanctions and military aid.