Ukraine, exam passed by Italy. The Meloni

Bilateral on the sidelines of the G20 in Indonesia after the one between the US and Chinese leaders Xi, who will meet the Prime Minister tomorrow. The diplomatic commitment and the communiqués released tell of the willingness to collaborate but also a certain attention on some issues on the part of Washington. The American diplomat Eric Terzuolo, former minister adviser for political affairs in Rome, explains that, before reading the notes from Palazzo Chigi and the White House, he needs to look at the internal contexts

Giorgia Meloni And Joe Biden met today on the sidelines of the G20 taking place in Bali, Indonesia. The two had spoken by phone last October 25th, when, as soon as the confidence in the House was won, the Italian Prime Minister had received congratulations from the US President. On the American side, the will for a meeting has been strong from the outset, and it is positive for the Italian leader that the controversies in the American media on her alleged fascist sympathies have not compromised this decision.

The press releases released by Palazzo Chigi and the White House are quite different, they tell of the willingness to collaborate but also a certain prudence in the light of some positions in the Italian government on the war in Ukraine.

Palazzo Chigi’s note is broader. He opens by explaining that “the talks focused on the solidity of the transatlantic alliance and on the excellent cooperation to face global challenges, from economic growth to common security”. He continues by setting the topics for discussion, with the war in Ukraine and its economic consequences at the top of the Italian agenda: “At the center of attention is continued support for Ukraine, stability in the Mediterranean and in the Indo-Pacific and relations with the China”. He concludes by underlining that the two leaders “reaffirmed the deep and lasting ties between our nations and the strong interest in further strengthening the partnership in the many sectors of mutual interest”.

The White House statement is more dry. Biden, we read, met with Meloni “to coordinate responses to a series of global challenges, including those posed by the People’s Republic of China, the climate crisis and Russia’s use of energy as a weapon. The two leaders also discussed their commitment to continue providing Ukraine with the support it needs to defend itself and hold Russia accountable for its aggression”.

Two substantial differences emerge: Meloni’s need to reaffirm the solidity of the transatlantic alliance also in the light of the positions of his allies Matthew Salvini And Silvio Berlusconi on the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia; the American emphasis on China, before Russia, demonstrating that Moscow’s aggression against the sovereignty of Kyiv did not divert Washington’s attention from Beijing.

The meeting between Biden and Meloni comes the day after that between the US president and Xi Jinping and on the eve of the face-to-face between the Chinese leader and the Italian Prime Minister, who before the elections, in an interview with the Taiwanese news agency CNA, had defined the memorandum of understanding with China as a “big mistake” on the Silk Road signed in 2019 by the yellow-green government chaired by Joseph Conte. “If I had to sign the renewal of that memorandum tomorrow morning, I would hardly see the political conditions”, he added with reference to the renewal scheduled for 2024.

In the meeting with Xi, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that the competition between the United States and China does not lead to a conflict, managing it “responsibly” and maintaining “open lines of communication”. Xi stressed that China’s stance on the Ukraine crisis is “clear and consistent, advocating ceasefire, cessation of war and peace talks,” China’s official news agency Xinhua reported. De-escalation may have begun. The announced visit to China by Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, could confirm this. But distances remain, on issues such as Taiwan and human rights (in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong) but also on the economy. The note from the White House does not dedicate much space to this aspect, but that little is also sufficient for the European allies, starting with Italy, the first and only country to have joined the Silk Road (established by the previous government led by Mario Draghi): “Biden also expressed his concern about China’s non-market economic practices, which harm American and global workers and families.”

Comparing the communiqués of Palazzo Chigi and the White House, “it must be borne in mind that such documents are always addressed to a large extent to the internal public of the respective countries”, he comments to Eric Terzuolo, professor at the American University of Washington, retired US diplomat with a past as minister adviser for political affairs in Rome, former director of the course on Western Europe at the Foreign Service Institute. “That the Italian and US governments have decided to send slightly different messages to the Italian and US voters respectively seems quite normal to me”, he explains, underlining that these are “two communiqués that arise in very different contexts and with rather different purposes” .

“The White House”, he continues, “is trying to accentuate the global role of the United States and the collaboration of allies in the exercise of this role, and it must be borne in mind that the meeting with Meloni did not take place at a NATO or European summit , but at the G20 summit. The emphasis on China can be explained at least in part by the fact of the meeting with Xi which aroused great attention in the United States and during which Biden clearly wanted to point out that the United States is at the head of a strong coalition of countries like-minded”. As for the Italian government, “it is clear that it rightly wants to underline Atlantic solidarity and the bilateral relationship with Washington, at least in part for internal and also intra-European policy needs, especially after the recent squabbles with France” , Terzuolo observes again, also underlining the importance for Italy of speaking about the Mediterranean, an issue in which the United States, on the other hand, have little interest. “For Washington, in relations with European allies in particular, the key consideration is the support they give to Ukraine. I would say that so far Meloni and Italy are passing the exam well ”, he concludes.

Ukraine, exam passed by Italy. The Meloni-Biden meeting according to Terzuolo –