Giorgia Meloni is Kyiv-bound. The Italian Prime Minister is travelling to the Ukrainian capital, hot on the heels of US President Joe Biden, who appeared in Kyiv on Monday for a surprise visit. By contrast, PM Meloni has been openly planning the trip for quite some time, promising she would visit before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
- The Italian leader will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reiterate her support for the resistance he leads, as well as Rome’s commitment to aid with reconstruction efforts.
- The Western show of support for Ukraine underscores its commitment. Politico reported that the White House has urged Ukraine not to delay its counteroffensive to consolidate its success on the battlefield while arms and aid from Washington and Europe flow “unimpeded.”
Italy’s material support. Through its sixth military aid package, Rome is working on supplying air defence systems (including the high-end SAMP/T, in conjunction with France) as well as civilian aid. And according to Repubblica, the Meloni government has already earmarked five fighter jets on the condition of not being the first to provide them.
- The reason is political, in line with the government’s prudent line on managing its supplies to Ukraine: a strategy to appease the more Russophile wing of her government and keep public opinion over the continuation of the conflict at bay.
- London became the first to officially push for sending jets. And although Rome did not give officiality, it’s ready to provide Kyiv with jets – which places it several steps further ahead of the likes of Paris and Berlin.
The details. Rome can facilitate the process of sharing military aircraft with Ukraine in two ways. The first: not objecting to the UK’s possible dispatch of a few dozen Typhoons, already destined for decommissioning in the next two years (Italy is a member of the consortium that produces them). Moreover, if other countries do proceed with the first shipments of fighter jets, then Italy could join in.
- Excluding Italy’s top-of-the-line fighters (the Eurofighters and the F-35s), the Meloni government will likely select the AMX (made in consortium with Brazil) or the Tornados.
- General Leonardo Tricarico (former Air Force Chief of Staff of the Air Force and current president of the ICSA Foundation), told AdnKronos that the PM’s trip would certainly reconfirm Italy’s commitment to provide “valuable support” to Ukraine, and perhaps “be the occasion for a qualitative leap, [that] is, an aid in the capabilities of the air-tactical forces.”
- The SAMP/T anti-aircraft system, he explained, is “effective against all types of air raids. Then there is a less visible and even more valuable support, that of intelligence and consultation.”
Efforts for reconstruction. Another area where PM Meloni seeks to move rapidly and surely is the race for post-war reconstruction. Setting aside Washington, which will surely play a most prominent role, within Europe, Rome is rivalling France.
- While in Kyiv, the Italian leader intends to launch an international conference for the reconstruction of Ukraine with the intention of hosting it. That’s one of the topics she will discuss with President Zelensky.
- Business Minister Adolfo Urso had already laid the groundwork for this reconstruction drive (as well as the PM’s visit) when he travelled to Kyiv in January along with industrial leaders and Francesco Talò, diplomatic advisor to the PM.
- The group set up a new office that will coordinate industrial and technological cooperation between Rome and Kyiv, a springboard for future partnerships.
The Berlusconi effect. Over the past few days, the Meloni government’s stance on Ukraine has been clouded by the blowback that ensued after Silvio Berlusconi, a minority partner of the executive and longtime admirer of Vladimir Putin, launched into his latest pro-Russian tirade.
- On Friday, the leader of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, reacted to the event by cancelling the upcoming party meeting in Naples. Nevertheless, he also announced “full support” for Forza Italia (Mr Berlusconi’s party, member of the EPP) and its political leader, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
- On Sunday, Mr Tajani put on his fireman hat and sought to dispel the rumours of a breakup between Forza Italia and the EPP, announcing he had spoken with Mr Weber and reiterated his party’s unflinchingly pro-Ukraine stance.
- Forza Italia, he noted, “has always voted in both the European Parliament and the Italian Parliament in support of Ukraine and also in favour of sending military aid.”
- “It was wrong to cancel that meeting,” he added, before acknowledging the “difference of views, stating that “the clarification was useful” and his hope “that the incident is closed.”