Defeated during the Second World War, occupied by the United States after its liberation, integrated into NATO by force during the Cold War, compelled to dissolve into the European Union, Italy is today a prisoner of its past while international relations are speeding ahead. According to Tiberio Graziani, even though Rome may not yet be in a position to frame an independent foreign policy, the time is ripe to start contemplating an exit strategy in keeping with its historical and geographical characteristics. Italy feels the call of its natural environment … the wide Mediterranean sea.
A limited sovereignty country
In spite of its propitious geographical position and the peculiar morphology of its land, nowadays Italy does not have an own geopolitical doctrine.
This is a consequence of three distinct reasons: a) the involvement of Italy within the sphere of influence of the USA (the so-called western system); b) the profound crisis of the national identity; c) the scanty geopolitical culture of its managers.
As for the first point, it not only limits the sovereignty of the Italian state in several fields, from the army to the foreign affairs, only to name the most important ones having relation with the geopolitical aspects, but it also affects Italy’s domestic policy and economy, the strategic decisions in the matters of energy, the technological research, the realization of large scale infrastructures, and, last but not least, it restricts the political measures against the criminal associations. Up to now the Italian Republic has been following the golden rule of the “collaborative or lame realism”, that is to say that it has given up the responsibility to be in charge of its own destiny . Such abdication, that places Italy in a condition of “passive dependence” and binds its strategic choices to “the good will of the subordinating State” , is a consequence either of the peace treaty of 1947 or the ideological ambiguity of its constitutional law. According to the latter, the sovereignty belongs to the people, that is a socioeconomical and cultural entity, moreover changeable and faintly homogeneous, rather than to a well defined political subject such as the State is.
The second element invalidates one of the fundamental factors for the definition of a coherent geopolitical doctrine. The crisis of the Italian identity is due to complex reasons that date back to the unsuccessful combination of the several national ideologies (relying on catholic, monarchic, liberal, socialist and masonic values) that sustained the unifying process, the construction of the Italian state and, after the fascist period, the instauration of the actual republican order.
Moreover, the crisis of the national identity is also due to the not properly understood experience of fascism and to the shock of the military defeat.
The romantic rhetoric of the State-Nation, the myths of the Nation, and later, those of the “Resistance” and the “Liberation” were not favorable at all to the interests of Italy, which, 150 years after its unification, is still researching its own national identity.
Finally, the third factor, partly connected for historical reasons to the previous, does not allow to place the problem of the geopolitical guiding principles among the priorities of the national agenda.
Nevertheless, a kind of geopolitics – or better, foreign politics based essentially on the geographic position – is present throughout the variable events of republican Italy; it consists with foreign politics aimed at the national interests, therefore deviating from the USA indications targeting the hegemony of Washington on the Mediterranean Region.
In particular, political leaders such as Moro, Andreotti, and Craxi, as well as important commis d’État, such as Mattei, focused their attention on the countries of North Africa and of the Near and Middle East countries, even if only within the relationships of “good neighbourhood” and of “co-prosperity”. This attitude was totally in agreement with the geographical position of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea; it was also useful either for a potential, future and auspicious emancipation of the democratic Italy from the North American ward, or to the purpose of a regional role of Rome in the frame of a rigid bipolar system.
Such strategy, aimed at what the Argentinean Marcelo Gullo, studying the creation of the national powers, called “liberator realism”, could have been able, if realized, to form a basis for the transition of Italy from the condition of “passivity” to that of “active submission”, a stage, this latter, critical for the obtainment of a certain grade of autonomy in the international scenario.
The failure of the unassertive Mediterranean politics of the Italian Republic is due, other than to the interventions of the United States, to its inconstant action as well as to the contrasting behaviour and to the opposition of the internal pressure groups more pro-American and pro-Zionist. However, following the collapsing both of the bipolar system and the so-called first Republic, the above showed initiatives, aimed at the obtainment of a limited autonomy of the Italian foreign politics, definitely vanished.
Today Italy, being an Euro-Mediterranean country subjected to the interests of the USA, finds itself in a tricky situation because, being a member both of the European Union and of the NATO, not only suffers from the tension between the USA and the Russia involving the European continent, especially in the central-east area (see the Polish question concerning the “security”, or the energy problem), but also suffers from the consequences of Washington’s political strategies in the Near- and Middle-East.
Moreover, the subjection of Italy to the USA, that – it is necessary to insist on this point – is clearly shown by the limited sovereignty of the Italian State, enhances the typical weakness of the peninsular regions (due to the tensions between the continental part, even if of limited extension as in the Italian case, and those parts that are properly peninsular and insular), increases the centrifugal dispersion, making difficult even the basic State management.
The US military occupation– in the context of the North Atlantic “Alliance”- with more than a hundred military stations , the lack of relevant energy resources, the economic weakness, the social instability caused by the never-ending erosion of the “welfare”, all these reasons hinder the free development of the Italian geopolitical strategies along the more convenient pathways connecting the Mediterranean regions and the Adriatic-Balkan-Danubian areas. Whenever Italy is involved in these directions, it is always in the context of the trans-Atlantic interests, therefore with the absolute advantage of extra-national and extra-continental interests.
The opportunity for Italy to gain an its own geopolitical role seems therefore not depending on the will of Rome, but rather on the consequences that the evolution of the multi-polar world-wide scenario induces in the Mediterranean area and in the continental Europe.
The ongoing great geopolitical changes, mainly determined by Russia, could possibly enhance the strategic function of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, just in the contest of the organization and stabilization of the new multi-polar system and of the potential Euro-Asian integration. In fact it should be remembered that the building-up of this new geopolitical multi-polar system passes, for obvious reasons, through a process of disunity or contraction of the eastern system under the North-American leadership, starting from its peripherical regions. The Euro-Afro-Asian landmass, the peninsular Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Japanese insular arc are representative of these latter.
Russia and Turkey: The Two Geopolitical Poles
The recent changes in the global geopolitical frame produced some effects that could allow the “release” of most of the countries that belong to the so-called Western system from the control of the “American friend”. As a consequence of this new global context and according to it, Rome could possibly develop an own geopolitical doctrine. It is well known that the reaffirmation of Russia at the global level and the main roles played by China and India caused a new balance of the relationships between the great Powers and laid the foundations for a new order, based on geopolitical continental units obtained through strategic agreements rather than armed forces.
These changes manifested also in the southern part of the eastern hemisphere, formerly considered the yard of the USA, where the relationships between Brazil, Argentine and Venezuela with the above mentioned Euro-Asian Powers prompted the hypothesis of the South-American continental unit.
As far as the Mediterranean area is concerned, the most important new geopolitical factor is represented by the recent turnaround of Ankara in its foreign politics towards the Near- and the Middle-East regions. The separation of Ankara from Washington and Tel Aviv could act, in the middle term, as an important factor in the process aimed at the establishment of an Euro-Asian geopolitical system. In fact, it represents the first real event able to trigger the process of disunity (or contraction) of the eastern system starting from the Mediterranean basin.
Given the actual conditions, if Italy really wanted to get out of the North-American tutelage, it should pivot on the two geopolitical poles represented by Russia and Turkey.
An agreement between Rome and Ankara on the matter of Near-Eastern politics could give Italy the credibility that has been exhausted by the vassalage to Washington and that is necessary for impressing a turn to the worn-out politics of cooperation long adopted by the Farnesina towards the South-Mediterranean and Near-East Countries.
Furthermore, such an agreement could give both Italy and Turkey the possibility to re-negotiate the burdensome and unsatisfactory role within the Atlantic Alliance and to propose the conversion of the NATO military bases in an integrated military structure deemed for the defense of the Mediterranean area and therefore including all the Mediterranean countries, following the example of the Organization for the Treaty on Collective Security (OTCS). For the realization of this above simplified “exit strategy” from the obligations with the USA, Rome should find strong supporters not only in Ankara, but also in Tripoli, Damascus, Teheran and, obviously, in Moscow.
Moreover, Moscow would certainly sustain the exit of Rome from the North-American orbit, supporting its natural geopolitical projection towards the Adriatic-Balkan-Danubian areas.
Of course, all that would happen on the basis of an Italian-Turkish-Russian accord based on common interests in the so-called enlarged Mediterranean Sea (formed by Mediterranean, Black and Caspian seas).
* Tiberio Graziani is editor of “Eurasia” journal of geopolitics (Italy)