Italy has reportedly elected Giorgia Meloni, the far-right leader of the Brothers of Italy, as its next prime minister, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is likely to receive her political victory. Meloni is conducting all exit polls and has already delivered the victory speech.
“Italy chose us,” said Meloni, according to the Associated Press. “We won’t betray (the country) like we never did.”
On Sunday, Italians voted in their first national elections since 2018 and elected Meloni, a once-admirer of Putin, to be the country’s first female prime minister. The results signaled a turning point for Italy, a country whose last broad government of unity was led by Mario Draghi, the representative of an establishment that was vehemently opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The brothers of Italy came from post-fascist roots, making Meloni the first politician on the post-fascist line to rule the country since World War II. And while she advocated sending military aid to Ukraine, she also defended Russia as “part of our European system of values” in her diary last year.
“Given the current political climate, this is the best result the Kremlin can count on today,” said Eleonora Tafuro, research fellow at the Italian Institute of International Political Studies. Newsweek.
Tafuro explained that Russia has long viewed Italy as “one of the friendliest countries in an increasingly hostile bloc,” largely because of Italy’s willingness to play a “mediator” role and do business with a huge energy supplier.
While friendly relations were not so obvious under Draghi, Tafuro said “Meloni’s victory could mark the return of Italy as a more discrediting country to Russia.”
Tafuro said what makes Meloni so persuasive to Putin is that she has introduced herself as a defender of “Italian interests” that have suffered recently from “war fatigue” and soaring energy prices that have result from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin sees this and considers Meloni to be the best option in bad political relations with Italy for two reasons,” she said.
Even if Meloni took a more centrist stance, denouncing the invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to appeal to voters, Meloni’s political partners – Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini – are among those who were even less aggressive in their criticism. If the Brothers of Italy party wins a majority in both houses of parliament, led by Meloni, it will likely seek to adjust the European Union’s resolution fund program – and use its public support for Ukraine to do so.
Lawrence C. Reardon, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said that if Meloni fails to convince Brussels to cut Italian economic targets at the end of the year, “Putin and his internet trolls will no doubt try to aggravate the situation by dividing the EU and its sanctions. economic policy towards Russia ”, adding that the Kremlin might even consider offering Meloni cheaper barrels of Russian oil this winter.
At the same time, Meloni’s greatest opponent – the Italian Democratic Party – was much more frank in his anti-Moscow stance.
“A Meloni victory would not be a revolution, but of course Putin would be pleased,” said Michael Kimmage, a former staff member of the US secretary for policy planning. Newsweek.
So, while the Kremlin will not seek an ally in Meloni, the power struggle between the larger fraternity of the Brothers of Italy and the Democratic Party will give Putin a “right-wing coalition.” [that] at least it offers small racks that the Kremlin could try to use, ”said Tafuro.
Putin may interpret Meloni’s victory as “the arrival of a long-awaited new era in Europe” in which support for Ukraine is weakened, but Kimmage said the Russian leader looked forward to elections in other European countries.
Kimmage said Putin’s “big game” “lies in Germany and Britain.” Only when the political winds in these countries begin to change can Putin “have something to really work with, either drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, or get Ukraine to negotiate a deal on Russian terms.”
“But it’s still a long way,” he added. “And even Meloni’s triumph in Italy would not necessarily mean that, like Italy, the same is happening in Europe. It can still mean an isolated event and not a specific trend line. “
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