Military support for Ukrainians causes public unease in Italy

Demonstration of support for Ukraine, invaded by Russia on February 24, in Milan, March 13, 2022.

Always impeccable, smiling and cordial, the former chairman of the board Giuseppe Conte is not usually accustomed to bloodshed in public. However, Thursday afternoon, live on Instagram, while the political leader of the 5 Star Movement (antisystem) was questioned about his relationship with his coalition partner, the Democratic Party (center left) suddenly lost his temper: ” It does not work like that. We are not the branch of any other political party, we are no substitute for anyone! »

A few hours earlier, the secretary of the PD, Enrico Letta, had called“irresponsible” the M5S’s reluctance to take measures to bring Italian military spending to 2% of GDP, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “To think that we are instrumentalizing this question of military spending is beyond all logic (…), that means we don’t know each other! »

A retreat

Finally, after days of tension between the M5S and the head of government, Mario Draghi, a compromise was reached in order to avoid endangering the government during the vote in the Senate on “Ukrainian decree”which was finally adopted on Thursday by a large majority (214 ” Yes “ against 35 ” no “).

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But, in fact, it is difficult to see in this arbitration anything other than a step back: while the initial text provided for raising the military effort to 2% of GDP by 2024, this increase desired by the allies of Italy is no longer defined as “gradual” and the deadline is postponed to 2028. An eternity in these times of war in Eastern Europe.

Despite this vote, which offers the majority a little respite, the question is far from settled. Because, implicitly, it is indeed the Italian position in the diplomatic game in progress which is in question. Supported by sanctions against Moscow despite its dependence on Russian gas supplies (40% of Italian supplies), the government of Mario Draghi seems to have more difficulty in maintaining unity in its ranks on the question of the opportunity to supply arms to the Ukrainian army.

The question provokes reluctance on the right, especially within the League (extreme right), once openly pro-Russian. But above all it agitates the 5-Star Movement, which is constantly losing influence in public opinion (polls now credit it with 15% of voting intentions), but which remains by far the leading formation in the Italian Parliament.

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Pacifism and reluctance

In its early days, the group founded by humorist Beppe Grillo professed radical pacifism, going so far as to question the alliance with the United States and Italy’s membership of NATO. Also the reservations expressed by Giuseppe Conte do not come from nowhere. We could even speak of a return to basics for the movement, less than a year from legislative elections which promise to be high risk for it. It is also, for the former chairman of the council, the opportunity to strengthen his position at the head of the party, by overriding his main internal adversary, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, forced by his position to align himself strictly with the positions of Mario Draghi.

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