Minister for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini explained Italy’s position on the Ukraine crisis: “together with the West we can put an end to the escalation”. And Premier Renzi discussed international measures with US President Barack Obama by telephone: possible sanctions against Russia.
“Putin has to stop in Ukraine, we cannot risk war in Europe. I don’t believe anyone wants that, and everyone is hoping that there won’t be, which is why Moscow has to stop. A process aimed at keeping Ukraine united must then be launched”. Newly appointed foreign minister Federica Mogherini had just taken up her post when the Ukraine crisis erupted.
Madame Minister, the situation on the ground is still chaotic.
“There have been stops and starts that are very dangerous, because they jeopardise the dialogue already under way to halt the military crisis and move on to a stage of de-escalation. A week ago we were on the brink of full-blown war. Today it is possible that the crisis could be resolved, but we are still hearing reports of incidents on the ground, and of very dangerous positions. If just one of these were to trigger something unexpected, the whole thing could spin out of control”.
The Italian government has been very cautious so far.
“In the first place, there is Ukraine, a profoundly divided country; at times it has seemed the message was simple: all the “good guys” against all the “bad guys”. The reality is much more complex. I was in Ukraine 20 days ago as an MP; there is a great desire for Europe, for modernity, but there are also extremist, radical, neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi currents that are polluting. We have to prevent the country splintering, which would bring instability and military crisis right to the heart of Europe”.
Italy has been very careful not to openly criticise the Russian military intervention. Why? Are considerations on energy dependency and economic interests with Russia foremost?
“In the government’s assessments over recent days, there has been no one that has placed such concerns in either a prominent, important or even marginal position. We Italians are not dependent on the Russian economy, all Europeans are; and the Russians themselves are deeply dependent on our economies. That’s globalisation: interdependence obliges us to be responsible. Everyone knows today that a war would be impossible because it would be devastating for everyone. We are forced to work together and, as Kissinger wisely wrote: we must prevent another wall going up between East and West”.
Another pressing concern is the case of the Marines: you phoned the Indian foreign minister. Why?
“I telephoned him to let him know that we do not accept the way the case is being handled in India. And to keep the political channel by which we have repeatedly sent our message open: we do not recognise Indian jurisdiction, much less do we accept the counter-terrorist police’s involvement in the trial, and therefore the only way is through the internationalisation of the case. This is not a bilateral Italy-India issue, but regards the way in which the international community counters piracy”.
Minister Mogherini, the Ukraine situation intersects with another highly delicate crisis for Italy, that of Libya, perhaps the least successful of the so-called “Arab spring” movements. There was a UN conference in Rome this past Thursday.
“I agree with Emma Bonino’s interpretation of the Arab spring movements. Democratisation processes are long, complicated and take time. We should not have rushed into the a-critical celebration of a reawakened democracy, but neither must we hasten now to declare its utter failure. We have great expectations that the Libyans will manage to find their way to stabilisation”.
The other complicated “spring” is Egypt’s: back to military rule, to the heirs of Mubarak.
“I met in Rome with the Egyptian foreign minister, and what I insisted on with him is the need for inclusiveness. No one can pretend to govern such as large and complex country without recognising all its political components and, therefore even that one-third of the population that has supported the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not a question of the failure or otherwise of a government, but of giving all Egyptians their rights as citizens”.