Italy – the West’s weakest link?

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing La Lega party, at a campaign rally
Matteo Salvini, who has built the Euroskeptic, anti-immigation La Lega into Italy’s largest party of the right, regards Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “great man” (source: dpa)
  • Two of Italy’s three biggest parties, M5S and La Lega, have close Russian ties
  • Italy’s mainstream right and left also want to act as a bridge between East and West
  • But even if it flirts with Russia, Italy remains solidly anchored in the Western alliance

There is growing concern that Italy could turn out to be the weakest link in the Western alliance’s resistance to Russian misconduct, whether in Western Europe, Ukraine or Syria. Consternation at this prospect has increased with Russia’s use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, followed by diplomatic and military reprisals by the UK, the United States and their NATO allies in Europe.

“We’ll get rid of these absurd sanctions (against Russia) that are doing such incalculable damage to the Italian economy,” tweeted Matteo Salvini, one of Italy’s most powerful politicians, on April 2. Mr. Salvini is the leader of La Lega (formerly the Northern League), a Euroskeptic, anti-immigration movement that became Italy’s largest right-wing party and one of two antiestablishment groupings to top the polls in the March 4 general elections. La Lega is particularly strong in northern Italy, where many small manufacturers have lost export sales due to sanctions on Russia and are anxious about fresh U.S. restrictions on companies doing business with the Russian government or oligarchs in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

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