Italy’s Atlantic commitment. On Thursday, after holding her first official meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged Italy’s “strong commitment” to the Alliance and promised it would continue supporting efforts to end Russia’s war of aggression.
- “Given our principal challenge today, Italy strongly supports the territorial integrity, sovereignty and freedom of Ukraine,” she said, before remarking that “the political cohesion of the Alliance and our full commitment to supporting the Ukrainian cause are, from our point of view, the best response that NATO allies can give.”
- PM Meloni’s words stand in stark contrast – and are also meant to neuter – the less clear-cut, more pro-Russian elements in her government, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi. Despite their Atlanticist commitments, they are historically admirers of President Putin, and both voiced Kremlin talking points repeatedly.
Stoltenberg praises Meloni (and Italy). NATO’s top official, who also attended NATO’s Cyber Conference Pledge, underscored the Italian PM’s “strong personal commitment” to the Atlantic Alliance and Italy’s “key role” within it, including via supporting Ukraine to the tune of millions of euros in financial and humanitarian aid.
- Ms Stoltenberg reviewed the Italian contributions to NATO’s international battalions, which encompass Latvia, heading a battle group in Bulgaria, conducting air patrol over the Black Sea and maritime surveillance in the Mediterranean, and partaking in the KFOR mission in Kosovo and the training of local personnel in Iraq.
Mind the Southern flank. The two discussed the challenges on NATO’s Southern border, which is a chief Italian concern. The Secretary-General noted that the Alliance is “vigilant” to “the challenges coming from the south […] with our operation Sea Guardian we regularly patrol in the Mediterranean,” he added, referring to the mission to counter illegal immigration in the Aegean Sea.
Ambassador Minuto Rizzo’s take. Reached by Decode39, Alessandro Minuto Rizzo – former Acting Secretary-General of NATO and President of the Nato Defense College Foundation – noted that “Italy is a peculiar country, a founding member of NATO that has always participated substantially in all of the Alliance’s operations,” but always refrained from “banging its fists on the table” or even taking the initiative in the past. “A good ally, in essence,” he commented.
- “Now there is this new right-wing government, which has been [promoted] quite badly around the world, and consequently the Secretary-General’s visit is surely useful to understand in which direction [Italy] wants to go,” he added, noting that Ms Meloni’s party is historically Atlanticist. Consequently, he concluded, the PM won’t have a hard time convincing SG Stoltenberg the country will maintain its Atlanticist line.
Italy, the EU, the US, NATO. Ambassador Rizzo believes Italy’s convenience is to “support a strengthened European dimension” (a reference to the European Common Defence) within a Transatlantic alliance. “We need to work more together with the Americans, so to speak.” And Rome is uniquely positioned to do just that, he added, as it “traditionally has a very good relationship with American defence, more than all governments.”