Matteo Salvini applauds Donald Trump’s Iowa showing. On Monday, the former United States president and likely Republican nominee for the 2024 election consolidated his lead at the Iowa caucus with a landslide victory over his rivals. The Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the League was the first major actor in government to react, congratulating and applauding Mr Trump on X for the result (despite the latter’s preference for his own social network, Truth Social).
Team Giorgia Meloni is silent – but “trustable.” As of Tuesday evening, neither the Italian Prime Minister – who has built an excellent relationship with current US President Joe Biden – nor anyone among her closest collaborators had reacted to the Iowa news. But as Il Foglio reported, “there have been some discreet, albeit indirect, contacts” between her team and Mr Trump’s.
- The matter is thorny, as the Italian PM’s staunch Atlanticism and support for Ukraine clash with the former president’s promise of disengagement. She and her party have so far refrained from engaging in the elections.
- She had even reasserted the urgency of standing by Ukraine at the 2022 CPAC Republican convention in Florida, when she was at the opposition, speaking right before Mr Trump.
- Still, a Florida-based MP from her Brothers of Italy (FdI) party reportedly met the Trump team at Mar-a-Lago and came back with the message that the latter deems PM Meloni a “trustable” figure.
What about Antonio Tajani? In the past days, the other deputy PM (who’s also foreign minister, head of Forza Italia, and the third major leader in the governing coalition) told journalists he doesn’t think Mr Trump would make good on his repeated threats to withdraw the US from NATO. “Maybe [he] wants a greater commitment from Europe and, from this point of view, I agree: I think Europe must have its own defence and its own army,” be more active on foreign policy, count more within the Atlantic Alliance and avoid only “asking for help,” he added.
- He then touted Italy’s close alliance with the US, stressing that relations “are and will be positive regardless of who will be the winner of the elections.” Rome’s friendship with Washington “is unbreakable” – as demonstrated by the ongoing coordination on issues such as the Red Sea crisis – and that Americans “have the right to choose the president they want,” he noted.
Political mechanics in play? As the June European Union elections come into view and politicians position themselves to consider future allies in the European Parliament, the three leaders are being extra mindful of their political posturing. Minister Salvini, whose party is down to 9% compared to 2019’s 37%, has been especially active in branding himself as the right-wing go-to politician in Italy, likely to rival FdI and FI’s more moderate conservatism and adherence to the Europeanist and Atlanticist field.
- That might have been the reasoning of the League leader in promptly assuring Mr Trump of his support so early in the Republican race.
- That, and the fact that Mr Salvini’s positions on Russia – especially prior to entering government in 2022 – did not not differ that much from the former US president’s.