By postfataresurgo for The Saker Blog
What is essentially a Banana Republic? Regardless of its agricultural products, whether it’s bananas or broccoli, the definition can be applied to a country that is politically unstable on a permanent basis and/or a country whose sovereignty exists only on paper, being a de facto colony of a bigger power.
There is a joke going around Italy these days, after the latest Iranian developments: Italy doesn’t really need a foreign minister, since the position is already taken by a guy named Mike Pompeo, whose origins are, after all, Italian. Pompeo seemingly spent two days on the phone doing his best to inform European allies of what happened, but didn’t have time for a call to his Italian counterpart. Seriously, why bother? Italy’s new foreign minister is new on the job, doesn’t speak English let alone a basic knowledge of world geography, why would anyone bother wasting his time trying to have a professional chat with such a world class diplomat named Luigi Di Maio?
Di Maio chose to become foreign minister after having served as deputy prime minister (a joint position held with Matteo Salvini) and Minister of Economic Development in the former government (2018-2019). His credentials to become foreign minister are nonexistent, to say the least. Matteo Salvini, now the leader of opposition parties – has called the current Italian government “the worst in Italian history”. He may be right about that but his immediate reaction after Soleimani’s assassination –clapping hands on command, calling Soleimani a terrorist, unconditionally aligned with the US – was also that of a banana republic lackey.
A somewhat more dignified and diplomatic comment has come from Giorgia Meloni, who said that the whole situation doesn’t require “cheering like fans in a football stadium” and requires serious ponderation. Meloni’s right-wing party (Fratelli d’Italia) is currently seeing a slow but steady increase in polls, certainly due to her leadership, recognized also by international press such as The Times as among the most influential leaders for 2020.
Comments aside, on the wake of an event that brought the world on the brink of a war, no Italian political leader would dare say anything about Italy’s real condition as a meaningless periphery of the Empire, occupied by well over 100 US military installations of various size, shape and purposes, including atomic stockpiles. These installations are a de facto extraterritorial pieces of US within Italy, thanks to peace treaties that go back to 1947, and still very much in existence. Italy’s presence in NATO is completely subservient to US interests and members of the Italian armed forces are present in various numbers around the world wherever the Empire deems them useful, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon with exorbitants costs for the Italian taxpayer.
No Italian political figure, present or immediately future, represents a possible critic to such a state of affairs. Then again, every time an Italian PM shows signs of – say – independent initiative, he’s quickly brought back to obedience, although we must say the methods have changed over time. The latest example was Berlusconi’s cooperation and friendship treaty with Libya, signed with Gheddafi in 2008. Both leaders were to be wiped out of the scene within three years, albeit with very different methods: bombs for the African dictator, an overnight downrating of the Italian economy for the Milanese tycoon.
Rewind back to the mid 80’s, when Italy’s was enjoying a robust economy and its own currency. In October 1985 the Sigonella standoff proved itself to be the last act of sovereignty of Italy, thanks to then PM Bettino Craxi, who was then rewarded for his act of bravery with a forced exile in Tunisia when in the early 90’s a well orchestrated judiciary coup commonly known as Mani Pulite brought an entire political generation to its knees and with that the end of Italy’s Prima Repubblica.
Back to 1978, our memory goes to Aldo Moro, whose body was delivered in the trunk of a car in the center of Rome courtesy of CIA infiltrated Red Brigades. Moro, who had been openly threatened by Kissinger for his attempts to have the Italian Communist Party (PCI) as member of the government’s coalition, had pursued in well over a decade a low profile foreign policy in the best interest of Italy, with a constant dialogue with Arab countries and a secret pact with Arafat’s PLO which kept Italy “protected” from possible Palestinian terrorists.
Moro was a low-key figure, quite the opposite from flamboyant maverick Enrico Mattei who worked tirelessly to make Italy energy independent and its state oil company ENI a leading player in a world dominated by US and British oil companies. Mattei was appointed after the war with the task of liquidating a little known state enterprise, AGIP, created by the Fascist regime. Instead, recognizing the potential of the company as a state asset in appropriating oil sources around the world, he reorganized it under the new name Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, introducing –among other things – the principle whereby the country that owned exploited oil reserves would receive up to 75% of the profits.
Needless to say, Mattei had many enemies around the world, and his death sentence was just a matter of time. In October 1962 his company jetplane exploded in flight as it was about to land in Milan coming from Sicily. Official enquiries immediately declared it was an accident. It took at least three decades to reclassify the accident as homicide by a bomb that had been hidden in the plane. We now know that it was – once again – the Mafia that acted on behalf of “foreign powers”.
Mattei, Moro and Craxi had been ordinary men who found themselves appointed in positions of high power. Each one had his different style, his many shortcomings and each one made mistakes during their career. But one thing they had in common: they worked in the best interest of their country, and they all payed for it. By comparison, today’s political scene in Italy is made of clueless invertebrates whose interests are only of sheer political survival.
Luigi di Maio may be Italy’s foreign minister for the next few months, or years. Regardless, he represents the nothingness of the country in the global scene. In 1911, a then young country formed only 50 years before claimed Libya from a decaying Ottoman empire. A century later, the Ottoman empire is back on the scene, and claims – together with other actors – to call the shots on the doorsteps of a decaying banana republic. What goes around, comes around.