Home » What Italy’s Defence Minister said on China, Russia

What Italy’s Defence Minister said on China, Russia

Guido Crosetto
The Italian government is unlikely to renew the Belt and Road Initiative agreement, said Minister Crosetto in an all-encompassing interview, where he also touched on Russia’s behaviour – and Italy’s support for Ukraine

Meloni “unlikely” to renew the Belt and Road agreement. Thus spoke Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, co-founder of the ruling Brothers of Italy party. Among other things, he touched upon the Italian government’s position on China in an all-encompassing interview with Il Foglio.

  • “We will remain consistent with what we said when others wanted to sign that memorandum,” he said, referring to the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding signed between China and Italy.
  • That deal marked Rome’s entrance into the Belt and Road Initiative and was opposed by Brothers of Italy. More recently, PM Meloni called it “a big mistake.”
  • The MoU will renew itself in March 2024 unless either Italy or China have anything to say about it. If PM Meloni is still at the helm by then, said Minister Crosetto, “our position will not change”. Thus, he sees “a possible renewal as unlikely.”

Consolidating the new direction. Minister Crosetto is the first member of PM Meloni’s government to talk of her meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit. On Monday FM Minister Antonio Tajani spoke with his counterpart Wang Yi; the Italian readout only focuses on bilateral commercial ties and the importance of a dialogue on human rights.

Here’s a brief collection of Mr Crosetto’s other takes on foreign affairs matters.

On Russia’s Putin. The minister noted the Russian attacks on the country’s electrical grid are meant to erode the resistance of both the Ukrainians and the Europeans – hoping the formers, when fleeing into the EU to survive winter, will weaken the latters’ resolve to support Kyiv.

  • “With that same cynicism, [President] Putin could also use the other corridor he controls, the one to the south.”

On Italy’s support to Ukraine. Rome will continue supporting Kyiv, said Minister Crosetto, in accordance with its allies. The Italian Defence will propose to renew the law that allowed Italy to send civil and military supplies to Ukraine, which expires in December. His aim is to extend throughout 2023.

On military spending. Rome will pursue, albeit gradually, the target of 2% in relation to GDP, said the minister. At the EU level, he believes defence investment expenditure must be excluded from debt rules; he discussed this with other EU defence ministers, as well as Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, and “some countries […] were very supportive.”

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