Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Italy has been in line with the German approach, based on four main convictions. A political solution as the only solution. Military intervention though NATO is an extreme option and only a very last resort. International institutions and forums, such as OSCE and G7/G8 should be involved. And finally, like Berlin, Rome also seeks a constructive dialogue with Russia. The Italian government is convinced that its “important convergence” with Germany on Russia and the Ukraine crisis has been successful in mitigating the tougher approach that some other EU countries would have chosen.
And Ukraine is not an exception. Traditionally, Rome and Berlin have shared common views on many European and international issues. This is especially the case with their Russia policies because of both countries have always had strong economic ties with Russia. Germany and Italy are respectively Russia’s first and third biggest trade partner, and Russia is Germany and Italy’s main energy supplier. Both countries have always recognized the importance of Russia as a bilateral partner as well as an interlocutor in the EU context and in international forums.
Although in recent times Germany and Italy had some misunderstandings, mainly due to Germany’s eurocrisis resolution policies and insistence on austerity, Italy is not likely to see Germany’s new perspective towards Russia as dangerous for the current state of negotiations and dialogue. Both countries are aware of the fact that if relations with Russia deteriorate further, Ukraine is in the biggest danger, so both Rome and Berlin want to avoid any “fatal” hit that would put Kiev on its knees, politically, economically, and geo-strategically. And it is also true that Italy is aware of the delicate and complicated historical relations between Berlin and Moscow and fully understands them.
Finally, the sanctions issue should not be underestimated. Germany and Italy are not the only EU member states with strong economic interests in Russia. In fact most EU member states have them. With a view to a tougher approach towards Moscow, all member states, Germany included, will face a difficult challenge to balance economic interests with geostrategic ones.
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