Rome readies to extend Ukraine support. On Monday, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto recalled that the decree allowing for weapons deliveries to Ukraine in 2023 is set to expire at year’s end. Now it’s up to Parliament to authorise it for 2024 well, he said, while assuring that the eighth military aid package “is being prepared,” will be submitted to the Intelligence Committee by the end of the year “and will then come into force.”
Context is key. Italy’s decision is a piece of the broader Western jigsaw. European Union capitals are currently stuck in negotiations over the multi-year budget, which includes €50 billion for Ukraine, because of opposition from Hungary (and national budget issues in Germany). Meanwhile, in the United States, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting the White House and attempting to woo Republican congresspeople who are blocking $60 billion in aid with border security demands.
- The matter of supporting Kyiv will also be a centrepiece in both the European and US elections in 2024…
- … all while Russia does not intend to engage in serious negotiations with Ukraine, as any negotiations on Moscow’s terms amount to Kyiv’s complete surrender and the end of Western support, according to analysts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War.
Back to Italy. Against this background, political tensions are likely to flare up in the coming weeks over the parliamentary vote to extend the framework law that ensures military (as well as civilian) aid. The institutions remain committed to Ukraine: on Monday, the Supreme Defence Council reiterated its “firm condemnation” of Russia’s aggression and Italy’s “full support” to Ukraine’s “defence against the aggressor.”
- Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s position is also clear and in line with her government’s tenure so far – as well as that of her predecessor, Mario Draghi. “I understand the difficulties, but it would be a mistake to take a step backwards,” she said on Monday.
- She also acknowledged the tiredness of public opinion but remarked on the importance of being “grateful to the Ukrainian people” and “proud of the work done.”
Elsewhere in Parliament, and specifically within the government, it’s safe to expect support – including from the League, which is unlikely to endanger the majority’s compactness by taking contrasting positions. The centrist parties are also likely to support the aid extension, as they did in 2022. Then there is the Democratic Party (PD), the main opposition force, where the Atlanticist flank is countering the few wobbles on supporting Kyiv.
- “There is no ‘repentance’ on Ukraine. On the contrary,” wrote Lorenzo Guerini, an influential PD member and head of the opposition-controlled Intelligence Committee, on X, recalling “those who are fighting against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for their [and] our freedom as Europeans. Slava Ukraïni!”
Over to the Five Star Movement (M5S), which has been the only major party to oppose military aid to Ukraine and adopt some Russian talking points. In fact, the difference in positions over Ukraine is the main obstacle to its convergence with the PD, as the influential M5S MP Stefano Patuanelli had remarked, accusing the other party of “lacking the courage” to interrupt military aid. It’s safe to assume the M5S will oppose the 2024 aid extension, at least going by its leader’s words.
- “They called us false pacifists, pro-Russians. They harassed us in the media. But if they had listened to us instead of making jokes, we would not be in this situation,” Giuseppe Conte told the party’s regional assembly in November.
- “In the US, they are already looking for the way out, which we have foreseen from the beginning. Only Giorgia Meloni has not noticed. Or rather, she pretends not to have noticed. Then she tells the truth to two comedians,” he added, referring to the phone incident involving two Kremlin-aligned “comedians”.
The supply emergency. The matter of political divisions may be dwarfed by that of supplies. “We have to verify what we can give with regards to what they need,” said Minister Crosetto in October. Rome has “done a lot,” chiefly focussing on anti-aircraft systems to stop attacks on civil and energy infrastructure, on cities, on schools, the minister added. “The problem is that [we] don’t have unlimited resources. And from this point of view, Italy has done almost everything it can do; there is not much more room for manoeuvre.”
- As is customary, the contents of the next weapons package are confidential. According to some hypotheses, including Ukrainian requests, the shipments could contain anti-aircraft systems or ammunition and anti-drone equipment.