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How Meloni’s Italy tackled the first diplomatic tensions with Russia

Zakharova Meloni
Rome’s new government showed no signs of cosying up to Moscow, which attacked it for being excluded from the global working group for the non-proliferation of WMD. PM Meloni is expected to greenlight a new weapons aid package in the coming weeks

Moscow tussles with Rome over invites. On Wednesday, Italy withdrew the invitation to the Russian delegation heading to Rome for the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group session – a global effort to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. This caused Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, to react strongly. 

  • “We consider Rome’s step as unfriendly. This is another provocative attack against Russia” she noted, adding that Russia considers it an attempt to isolate the country – revealing the US and NATO’s intentions to hijack the PSI.
  • To make matters worse, the Russian declaration came at the exact same time when the Senate was discussing the vote of confidence for Georgia Meloni – which wouldn’t be the first time Moscow interfered with Rome’s political life.
    • Italy’s new government had yet to be confirmed, and its foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia was immediately put to the test.

Italy’s response. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a note stating that its decision was taken in accordance with the main countries that are part of the PSI, acting in its role of rotating President.

  • It also stated the exclusion is not solely related to “Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine, but also [to] Moscow’s increasingly polarising and non-cooperative attitude in the international fora on disarmament and non-proliferation”.
  • In 2014-2015, following “Russia’s intervention in Crimea” the Russian Federation was also temporarily excluded from similar sessions.

Tough choices for Italy’s new government. During her speech before the Senate, PM Meloni highlighted Italy’s full support to Ukraine, underscoring the importance for Italy of standing by its word to reaffirm its credibility internationally as a reliable partner.

  • “We will continue to do our part”, she told United States President Joe Biden during their call on Tuesday, reaffirming Rome’s intention to stand by Kyiv.
  • Guido Crosetto, the newly-appointed Minister of Defence and member of Ms Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy, nodded in full approval of her stance, stating, “we shall not be intimidated”. 

Meloni ready to walk the talk. The new PM will have the chance to demonstrate her commitment next week, by confirming a new military aid package to Ukraine. According to Italian media sources, her allies are pushing to have the decree approved by mid-November.

  • Defence Ministry leaks indicate the government will stand firm on this issue.

Coalition tensions. Senator Massimiliano Romeo, who’s in the ruling coalition as a League affiliate, attracted criticism for his call to start peace negotiations – which included the concept that the international community should have a say on what Ukraine deems acceptable terms.

  • In the same quote, he also reiterated Italy’s Atlanticist position and hoped it could use its diplomatic prowess to facilitate that dialogue.
  • “The statement of the Italian senator reflects his personal opinion,” wrote Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Facebook noting PM Meloni’s clear position on Ukraine.
    • “Almost every country will find politicians who will try to like Putin,” he added, noting those should realise that “by spreading Russian narratives, they are encouraging Russia to continue its crimes against Ukraine. But without peace in Ukraine, there will be no peace in Europe. Therefore, Italian senators should also be interested in the victory of Ukrainians if they really care about the interests of their country.”

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