Defence talks. On Monday, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke over the phone with the Italian homologue, the newly-elected Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, in an all-embracing conversation during which the latter reiterated Italy’s commitment both within NATO and the context of the European Union.
- Secretary Austin complimented Minister Crosetto on his appointment and “expressed words of great appreciation for Italy and its Armed Forces and for their enormous contribution to international security,” especially on NATO’s Eastern flank, according to a press release. The US, he repeatedly noted, sees Italy as one of its closest and most reliable allies.
- “We will continue to support Ukraine and its Armed Forces with conviction and determination, and we will be ready to continue our efforts for as long as it is necessary. Italy and the US will continue to work together to face international challenges,” replied Minister Crosetto, stressing that Italy “is a loyal ally the US can count on, today more than ever,” and that the bilateral relation “represents the future of our country.”
- The two agreed to meet in person as soon as possible to discuss the topics in depth and “further consolidate the friendship between Italy and the US, giving continuity to the constructive dialogue between the two countries in the field of Defence.”
Upping defence spending. In an interview with La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, Minister Crosetto said that Italy would “certainly” invest more in defence. “NATO [had] already said so. We thought we could do without these additional allocations, but recent events give strength to this option. NATO is right.”
- Under former PM Mario Draghi, just a few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the former Parliament had voted to raise the defence budget to 2% of the country’s GDP – aligning with NATO’s objectives.
- In its electoral programme, the centre-right coalition had explicitly promised to respect Italy’s commitments to NATO – including the “adjustment of defence allocations.”
- While speaking at October’s NATO ministerial meeting, Secretary Austin had called to increase that spending beyond 2% to replace the equipment that allies had sent to Ukraine and boost the expansion of the industry.
Industry is part of the game. Italy and the US are major partners. Rome was among the first to get onboard Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme, equipped itself with the fifth-generation fighter aircraft, and also hosts one of the only two assembly plants outside the US for the Lightning II version.
- Recently, the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Luca Goretti, urged the country to get on board the new X2 helicopter technology, under development in the US in the Future Vertical Lift Programme, to walk the same path as the F-35 project.
Way beyond bullets. In line with the Alliance’s latest Strategic Concept, a consistent chuck of defence investments is earmarked for ensuring the Allies’ competitiveness in leading-edge fields – such as space and cyberspace, the fourth and fifth operational domains – and ensuring security against emerging and disruptive threats. Italy is moving accordingly.
- On Friday, the government assigned responsibilities over aerospace affairs to Adolfo Urso, Minister for Business – who sees national security as a keystone of the economy, as we reported.
- Meanwhile, Rome is propping up the country’s cyber defences by expanding the relatively-new National Cybersecurity Agency.
- Last week, the NCA’s director Roberto Baldoni represented Italy at the second Counter Ransomware Initiative summit in Washington.