Wining, dining, and shoring up the Alliance. On Monday evening, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hosted Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in his Brussels residence. The two talked for two hours as part of the former’s commitment to keeping in close contact with all of the Alliance’s leaders, as NATo sources explained.
- “Great to meet [PM Meloni] again after last week’s NATO Summit,” he later tweeted. “I thanked her for Italy’s key contributions to NATO [and] unwavering support to Ukraine. We discussed NATO’s response to challenges from all directions, including terrorism [and] instability in the south.”
Rome’s weight. While in Vilnius, Mr Stoltenberg took stock of the Italian leader’s take on the overlapping crises in NATO’s South (including African instability and the Wagner Group’s local influence), and asked her for help in bolstering the Alliance’s active presence in Africa in the area of security training. The summit’s final communiqué also vows to draw up a Southern Flank strategy by 2024, in line with Italy’s demands.
- Along the other G7 capitals, Rome pledged its military and financial support to Kyiv so as to modernise its arsenal – at least until it becomes a full NATO member.
- It also promised to bolster its patrolling the Alliance’s Eastern Flank, with the government approving a 10,000-strong increase in Armed Forces personnel right after the PM returned from Vilnius.
Timing is key. Ms Meloni’s talk with Mr Stoltenberg precedes her visit to the United States on July 27, when she’ll meet President Joe Biden and discuss many of the same issues – such as the support to Ukraine and the next steps for NATO, including the Southern Flank and countering Russian and Chinese influence in Africa (as well as South America).
- The latest issue came sharply into focus on Tuesday, as PM Meloni took part in the EU-CELAC (Caribbean and Latin American Countries) summit and had a chance to hear Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva’s words of condemnation for the West’s support of Ukraine.
- That argument, a classic Kremlin talking point, has found traction among Southern American States, long neglected by the EU but not by Russian propaganda.
Succession talks. Italy’s and the Alliance’s leaders likely touched upon the matter of nominating the next chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Italy’s candidate is Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, current Chief of the country’s Defence Staff, but last week the Netherlands called to renew Admiral Rob Bauer’s mandate for another year – as happened with Mr Stoltenberg’s – to preserve continuity.