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Italy, NATO and Europe-Russia relations

Dr. Olga Nickole Kuyan

23 Dec 2021

Italy may play role in Russia-NATO, Russia-EU talks
The Russian president called the relations between Russia and Italy "good and stable".
Italy might help normalize relations between Russia and the European Union and even between Russia and NATO during future talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin said
The European Union has little leverage with Russia over Ukraine, but needs to keep talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin to calm tensions, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
Draghi told reporters that Europe did not have a major military force of its own and said he saw little prospect of using sanctions on Russian gas imports as a way of forcing Putin to back down in his confrontation with Ukraine.
"What deterrence can Europe deploy? This question should give us pause for thought," Draghi told reporters at an end-of-year news conference.
"Do we have missiles, ships, cannons, armies? At the moment no," Draghi said, adding that NATO's strategic focus was not on Russia but rather on the Indo-Pacific region -- an area embracing the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
"We Europeans have at most some sort of economic deterrence. But even here, we need to think a moment. If we want to impose sanctions that also include gas ... are we really capable of doing it in a strong enough fashion at the right moment? Clearly the answer is 'no'," he said.
Given these limitations, the European Union needed to maintain "a state of engagement" Putin, Draghi said, adding that he thought it was still possible to avoid "irreversible decisions" regarding Ukraine. (Reporting by Gavin Jones and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Crispian Balmer)
The U.S. in recent weeks has been warning European allies that a Russian troop buildup along its Ukrainian border may be a prelude to an invasion, perhaps similar to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The U.S., EU and G7 nations have all warned Russia of severe consequences if it takes such a step.
Draghi, however, argued Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conduct did not indicate someone preparing “for action.” Instead, he said, Putin appears to want to negotiate, citing a video call the Russian leader held last week with U.S. President Joe Biden.
“The fact that there was this call, the fact that Putin sought out Biden by phone shows that he wants to be part of the decision-making process,” Draghi told the lower house of the Italian parliament. “This is not the behavior of someone who is disengaging and is ready for action. It is the behavior of someone who wants to explore all the possibilities of diplomacy to reach a balanced solution.”
Moscow has denied any intention to invade, arguing it is merely responding to provocations such as the acquisition of weapons by Ukraine and military maneuvers by the U.S. in the Black Sea. Putin has demanded guarantees that the NATO military alliance will not expand further eastward, including into Ukraine, and that weapons systems posing a threat to Russia will not be deployed close to its borders.
Draghi said Western allies should follow a “policy of engagement” with Russia, a point he said he conveyed to Biden last week during a phone call on Ukraine with other leaders. Draghi added that EU leaders should jointly call on Russia to de-escalate when they gather Thursday for a summit.
Draghi has engaged with Putin regularly since becoming prime minister in February, with the two speaking by phone four times since August. Draghi also spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about the standoff.

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