In his recent trip to Washington, DC, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini declared his government’s intention to forge an ever-closer relationship with the United States, with Salvini saying that the Americans can be certain that Italy is the US’ staunchest ally in a Europe that is in flux.
Salvini is fresh off a good showing in last month’s European parliamentary elections and is feeling confident about his prospects to soon lead the Italian government as prime minister after his anti-establishment Lega party came in in the first in the polls in Italy.
By successfully challenging the European Union’s establishment and their attempt to force Italy into following the EU’s Draconian fiscal compact, which stymies growth and would leave Italy in limbo in terms of job creation, Salvini has now taken steps to achieve his goal of finding a close dialogue with US President Donald J. Trump to forge a new comprehensive partnership with the administration in the hope that it builds strong bilateral relations while also helping Italy wean itself off its dependence on EU technocrats to help the economy, the third largest in Europe, return to robust growth after years of Brussels-imposed austerity and recession.
“At a moment when European Union institutions are fragile and changing significantly, Italy wants to be the most solid, effective, coherent and credible partner for the US,” Salvini said.
Though Salvini was unable to personally meet with President Trump, whom he enthusiastically and publicly supported during 2016 election campaign, he did meet with two heavy-hitters in Trump’s White House – Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where they discussed migration, terrorism, Venezuela, the Middle East, and – of course – closer US-Italy relations.
Italy has at times adopted a cautious line in its foreign policy to find a balance between its own national interests and keeping the country’s at times stridently anti-Western radical left at bay, while remaining in line with its NATO allies, the Italian government angered the Americans earlier this year when it opted not to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president at a time when it was still unclear whether Guaidó actually had the public’s backing.
Unlike he vast majority of his counterparts in the European Union, all of who seem intent on opposing Trump and the Americans’ at any cost, despite increasing credible warnings about the involvement of China’s intelligence services in the development of fifth generations cellular network technology, Salvini announced after his meeting with Pence and Pompeo that the Italian government could move to follow the US’ lead and ban Huawei Technologies from investing in its infrastructure projects.
“When you raise the issue of national security and also have a shared vision and shared values with the United States, then you reach a time when business deals have to stop,” Salvini said following his Washington trip.
The White House has lobbied the EU repeatedly about banning buying the Chinese Communist Party from allowing its companies to sell Chinese designed equipment to European countries for their 5G networks. Thus far Trump and the American intelligence establishment have been met with either silence open hostility despite threats from the CIA, FBI, and the NSA to restrict intelligence sharing with their own allies as they rightfully fear that China may use access to Europe’s wireless networks for the sole purpose of spying.
It has been clear since Italy’s coalition government first came to power last year that Salvini is the one who is calling the shots. The visit may have even provided Salvini with the external support that he needs, this time in the form of the most powerful country in the world, to break from his increasingly feeble coalition partner, the left-leaning Five Star Movement, which would lead to early elections in which the Lega would place first, according to recent polls.
The visit by Salvini to Washington was watched closely in Brussels amid fears that he would be able to find, not only a common ground, but also be able to forge the type of new close bond with the Americans that has eluded the EU’s technocrats since the political tectonic plates shifted following Trump’s election nearly three years ago.
There are few who could argue against the fact that Salvini is already the one setting the agenda in Italy – and to a certain extent in the whole of Europe – where he’s become a beacon for those EU members who wish to make a clean break from the bureaucratic purgatory that Brussels has become.
Salvini’s trip helps secure his place in the pecking order in Italy and does even more to contribute to his image that he is a responsible statesman who is carving out a new path for Europe as well as for Italy’s relationship with the United States.