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Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (centre) speaking at the Quirinale. Wikipedia

Major setback for Transatlanticism: Italian Five Star Movement splits over Ukraine policy

In Italy, the dispute over the Draghi government's Ukraine policy has led to a political earthquake: Foreign Minister Di Maio has resigned from his party, the Five Star Movement, after considerable squabbling over Ukraine.

Published: June 25, 2022, 11:55 am

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    Although the Five Star Movement is part of the government’s alliance of supporters, it is apparently on the verge of splitting. Di Maio now wants to create a new parliamentary group that wholeheartedly supports Mario Draghi’s course on Ukraine again.

    Di Maio’s party resignation follows disputes between him and former Italian Prime Minister and current Five Star leader Giuseppe Conte over, among other things, arms deliveries to Ukraine. On this issue, a deep rift has been running through the party for some time, but also through the Italian public at large. Di Maio accuses a number of star politicians of risking to weaken the country with their stance.

    During a press conference, Di Maio stated: “We had to choose which side of history to stand. The leaders of the Five Star Movement risked weakening Italy, putting the government in difficulty for reasons related to their own consensus crisis. I thank the movement for what it has done for me, but from today a new path begins.”

    The fact is that the Ukraine policy of the non-party head of government Draghi is particularly hotly disputed in the Five Star Movement. Party leader Conte recently called for no more weapons to be delivered to Ukraine and for diplomacy instead.

    Di Maio headed the Five Star Movement himself for almost three years from 2017 until he announced his resignation in January 2020. According to media reports, he now wants to take supporters of his camp from the Five Star Movement into the new party Insieme per il futuro [Together for the Future].

    In order to launch this parliamentary group in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, he must achieve a minimum number of parliamentarians. According to media reports, 60 Star parliamentarians have already pledged to join him.

    The Five Star Movement had been the largest party in Italy’s bicameral parliament since the 2018 general elections. In the meantime, it lost much of its importance. In local elections in the middle of the month in almost 1 000 cities and municipalities, it only achieved just over two percent.

    Not only Italy, but France too

    The Italian party system is once again in a state of flux – the case shows that the Russia and Ukraine policies of Western European governments are by no means set in stone. Also, as a result of the election results in France, the transatlantic camp in the EU is likely to be hit by further shocks soon.

    In public discussions, the hype around Ukraine has noticeably died down in recent weeks. Reports of disintegration and mass casualties among the Ukrainian armed forces have now dampened confidence that the Russian advance can be stopped with ever more excessive arms deliveries.

    This week, US Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis told Fox News: “There is no rational basis upon which to hope that the war can turn around because Russia is methodically moving through and destroying the Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbas, more than capturing territory, they’re destroying their ability to defend the country anywhere else. And even the sum total of all of the weapons that we have pledged, much less has shown up — it’s barely a 10th of what would be the minimum necessary.

    “And when you look at those two things right there alone, there is no rational path to a victory for Ukraine.”  Davis appeared on one of the most popular programs on American television with Jesse Watters Primetime.

    In the West, the realization is coming that all attempts to help Ukraine are simply irrational and cannot lead to a turning point at the front.

    Western war fatigue

    Munich-based military expert and political scientist Carlo-Antonio Masala considered a much more sobering scenario as conceivable. He did not rule out that the Ukraine support of Western countries could dwindle in the face of a prolonged war with many negative side effects.

    Masala therefore predicted: “The more this fighting drags on into autumn and winter, the more the people of the European states will ask themselves to what extent this support for the Ukrainians is still useful at all.”

    Especially in the event of a shift in the balance of power after the US midterm elections from the Democrats to the Republicans, the US would also ask itself to what extent continued support for Kiev would still be justifiable.

    “The more people feel this war personally in their gas bills, food and petrol prices, the more public support will possibly erode for Ukraine,” the military expert continued. This could lead to “some states breaking out of the [EU] front and saying, ‘now you finally have to start some negotiations; we have to accept that that territory is gone’.”

    Reports of Ukrainians welcoming Russian troops have furthermore eroded trust in Western mainstream reporting. The situation in Ukraine will be resolved through negotiations, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg admitted on Friday in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais.

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