Home » How Conte’s ambiguity on Ukraine could play into Putin’s hands

How Conte’s ambiguity on Ukraine could play into Putin’s hands

Giuseppe Conte
The leader of the Five Star Movement criticised the Meloni government for supporting Kyiv with military aid, glosses over Russian responsibility, and points at the risk of escalation – just as the Kremlin propaganda does

Back at it. Giuseppe Conte, leader of the Five Star Movement, has returned to criticise the posture of Giorgia Meloni’s government on Ukraine – which is “absolutely determined to go along with military escalation and fatten the war industry,” as he told Avvenire.

  • The former prime minister has long been critical of sending additional military aid to the Ukrainian resistance and voicing “pacifist” theses closely resembling key Kremlin talking points. This interview is no exception.

Voting on weapons supplies. Mr Conte maintained the 5SM had only voted for military aid once. That particular vote, however, allowed Mario Draghi’s government – where the 5SM was the biggest partner – to send five weapons packages in 2022. Thus, Mr Conte had actually cleared the executive to send as many materials as it and its NATO allies deemed fit until year’s end.

Kremlinspeak. The 5SM leader also maintained those first military aid packages “were to rebalance the military asymmetry between Ukraine and Russia,” whereas continuing supplies equate to “encouraging escalation. The only alternative to the carnage is negotiations for a credible, just and lasting peace,” he told Avvenire, calling for the “military escalation” to be stopped.

  • This concept, often coupled with the threat of nuclear war, is frequently found in the Kremlin’s own version of the events – an infowar operation designed to scare Allied countries out of supporting the Ukrainian resistance and thus increase Russia’s chances of victory.
  • Speaking in the Senate to present the 5SM’s own rejected motion, which called for an “immediate halt to the supply of arms,” Mr Conte had argued that “security to be guaranteed to all” and “the protection of Russian-speaking minorities” was at stake in Ukraine. The latters exist in Ukraine as in all former Soviet republics. But this, too, is something the Kremlin often refers to justify its war.

NATO’s fault. The 5SM leader also told the Senate that he did not question the Atlantic Alliance. Then, the inevitable but. The issue “is Italy’s posture in these fora,” supposedly inconsistent with the concept of a strong and sovereign Italy expressed by the government. Instead, he argued, “there seems to be a total acquiescence to Washington and a supine acceptance of the road of sending weapons.”

  • It is hard to imagine Mr Conte ignoring the fact that Italy’s military, humanitarian and financial contribution to Ukraine is far lesser than that of many countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Poland, France, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden) in economic terms.
  • Similarly, it is hard to imagine him ignoring the political implications of Italy stepping back from the EU and NATO’s line of support to Ukraine – which would open a breach in the Western front that Russia might exploit through “pacifism,” escalation risks and nuclear threats narratives.

Subscribe to our newsletter