ArchivedJune 28 2022, 14:58 pm

Putin’s War Is Forcing Italy to Rethink Historic Ties to Russia

US media is report­ing that Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine forces Italy to rethink its his­toric ties to Rus­sia, expos­ing a fis­sure over atti­tudes to Moscow that runs through Ital­ian busi­ness, pol­i­tics, and soci­ety at large. Accord­ing to a Bloomberg report:

June 25, 2022 “Italy has always been, if not the friend­liest coun­try for Rus­sia in west­ern Europe, then the most sym­pa­thet­ic,” said Ele­na Maslo­va, senior research fel­low at the Insti­tute of Europe of the Russ­ian Acad­e­my of Sci­ences. “Ital­ian entre­pre­neurs are famous for their flex­i­bil­i­ty and inven­tive­ness in deal­ing with Rus­sia,” she added. But now “it could get much more dif­fi­cult for them.”  […] As recent­ly as Jan­u­ary, when Russia’s mil­i­tary buildup along Ukraine’s bor­der was clear, Ital­ian exec­u­tives shrugged off an appeal from the gov­ern­ment in Rome and held a con­fer­ence call with Putin on invest­ment prospects. The head of the Russ­ian branch of Bonomi’s Con­find­us­tria lob­by was one of the few west­ern Euro­peans at the St. Peters­burg forum ear­li­er this month. […] Under the government’s guid­ance, state-owned com­pa­nies have per­formed a dra­mat­ic U‑turn on Rus­sia. Enel SpA sold its remain­ing stake in its Russ­ian unit this month, a dra­mat­ic rever­sal for the Ital­ian util­i­ty, which had been bet­ting heav­i­ly on Rus­sia since the ear­ly 2000s.

Read the rest here.

The Bloomberg report cites a study by the Euro­pean Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions, which says Ital­ians are the least like­ly to blame Rus­sia for the war, are the most in favor of find­ing a quick peace regard­less of whether it means ter­ri­to­r­i­al loss­es for Ukraine, and dis­play the great­est oppo­si­tion to Ukraine’s acces­sion to the Euro­pean Union. The report also cites a polit­i­cal risk con­sul­tant who says that Rus­sia has “a very com­pre­hen­sive and diverse net­work of sup­port­ers across Italy” and that “this net­work will not be swept away overnight.”

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report recent­ly report­ed that a com­plex pro-Russ­ian net­work is try­ing to influ­ence pub­lic opin­ion in Italy, iden­ti­fy­ing some of the most impor­tant pro-Russ­ian fig­ures in Italy. Oth­er recent GIOR report­ing on Russia’s influ­ence in Italy has included:

  • In May, we report­ed that pro-Russ­ian media cov­er­age in Italy had trig­gered the launch of a par­lia­men­tary inquiry to inves­ti­gate whether some Russ­ian com­men­ta­tors appear­ing on Ital­ian TV net­works could be on Putin’s payroll.
  • In March, we report­ed on leaked emails and doc­u­ments show­ing how Russ­ian influ­ence group Tsar­grad is coop­er­at­ing with Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the for­mer Ital­ian deputy prime min­is­ter, inte­ri­or min­is­ter, and cur­rent leader of the far-right Lega party.
  • In Feb­ru­ary, we report­ed that Mat­teo Ren­zi, for­mer prime min­is­ter of Italy,  had resigned from the board of Russia’s largest car-shar­ing ser­vice fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine.


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