It’s warm out but… winter is coming. Excerpts from a book, to be published in Italy on Friday, leave no room for doubt: according to former PM Silvio Berlusconi “If Ukraine understood that it can no longer rely on support and weapons [from the West] and, instead, if the West promised to send hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild its devastated cities, perhaps, is this scenario Zelensky, might finally agree to sit at the negotiating table”.
- The book, appropriately titled “La grande tempesta” (“The great tempest”), authored by one of Italy’s most popular journalists, Mr Bruno Vespa, unequivocally reports Mr Berlusconi’s stance on the Russian war in Ukraine.
- Probing further, the journalist asked Mr Berlusconi if he agreed that President Vladimir Putin should leave the two occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which were annexed after Donetzsk and Luhansk. While he initially appeared to agree on this point, the former PM stated that Crimea belongs to the Russian Federation and this should not be questioned, adding that a new referendum should be held in Donbass, under Western supervision.
- Mr Berlusconi also noted his two failed attempts to reach out to Mr Putin over the phone since the beginning of the war.
A great tempest, indeed. While Berlusconi’s recent audio leaks on his position over Ukraine already stirred controversy, they could be ascribed more easily as incomplete conversations or as taken out of context by detractors. Mr Berlusconi’s, as reported in the book, comes across as a patriotic supporter of the West and its values while simultaneously describing Mr Putin as “a man of peace”.
- “In this situation” of war “we cannot but support the West in its defense of the rights of a free and democratic nation such as Ukraine”, stated Mr Berlusconi.
- Asked by Mr Vespa if he felt closer to the United States or to Russia, he recounted the moment he received five standing ovations at the US Congress – on 19 June, 2011 – when in his speech he mentioned that for his graduation his father took him to visit the US military cemetery at Anzio.
- On the exchange of gifts with Mr Putin, the former PM writes it off as a response he gave jokingly to MPs, “yes, of course [we exchanged gifts] twenty bottles of vodka and twenty of Lambrusco”, adding that it was clear to all those present that his response was a pun.
…meanwhile in Washington DC. Mike Pompeo, former United States Secretary of State and CIA Director, is known for speaking his mind. As guest of honour at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Gala venue in DC on 29 October, he stated “They are wrong [Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini] on Ukraine, and I told Mr Salvini so”. He added that he is “very worried” by the war and Russia’s nuclear threat.
- “To all Italians, citizens and political leaders, I wish to say that: they must understand that what is at stake is not only the freedome, security and survival of Ukraine but of Europe and of the entire Western world. Supporting Kiev is a priority that must come before internal political interests”, noted Mr Pompeo.
- On PM Giorgia Meloni’s election – who he already met in person – he commented “I am thrilled for Italians, I believe Ms Meloni will do a terrific job, it will be a tough winter for all of Europe but I trust she will lead Italians and stand by her electoral promises…She is a very special person”.
The US political front, divided on Ukraine. Similar divided views on Ukraine, as those present in Meloni’s government, with Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia, who do not support or are ambigous on what type of support should be given to Ukraine, also exist in the US. Mr Pompeo, who according to some is already planning to run for President in 2024, did not tame his words for them either.
- “Even if they belong to my same political party, on this issue [Ukraine] I believe they are wrong and they will damage US national interest if they continue to insist on their skepticism”.