Divide and Conquer
Ahead of Sanctions Vote, Putin Plays Italy

At the G7 meeting in Germany over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was conspicuously silent among his peers on the question of extending the sanctions regime against Russia for its continuing aggression in Ukraine. The silence was all the more notable given that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be traveling to Milan on Wednesday to meet with Renzi and attend the Milan Expo.

Ahead of his trip, Putin granted Corriere della Sera an exclusive interview. Some choice excerpts, courtesy of the Times of London:

“We are co-operating actively in the energy sector, in an array of fields. Italy is the third largest consumer of our energy resources.

“We also have many joint high technology projects — in the space and aircraft industries, and in many other sectors,” Mr Putin said, in a naked attempt to weaken Western resolve over continuing tough sanctions against Moscow.

“We are, of course, ready to reciprocate and go further in expanding our co-operation as long as our Italian partners are willing to do the same. I hope that my forthcoming visit to Milan will help in this respect,” Mr Putin added.

The interview ends with an appeal to national interest: “My Italian partners have always put the interests of Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they must maintain friendly relations with Russia,” Putin said.

If we were thinking proactively about Europe, we would have long ago developed proposals to help countries like Italy and Greece renew their attachment to the West. There is a huge gap between the perils we face and the efforts we are making to secure the EU and our closest allied relationships. While Russia is nowhere near the threat that the Soviet Union was, it is a disruptive actor seeking to challenge the European order, which is one of the bulwarks of global prosperity and peace. Given the state of the world today, the U.S. needs a strong, confident, and united Europe. Right now we don’t seem to be doing very much to keep it that way.

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