Italy shows how defense partnership works

Fri 3 Sep 2021

Italy shows how defense partnership works

New Atlanticist
Alessandro Minuto Rizzo

Italian sailors operate the Carabiniere F593 frigate in NATO anti-submarine warfare off Catania, Italy, February 24, 2020. Photo via REUTERS / Antonio Parrinello.

When Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini met his American counterpart at the Pentagon on Friday, he likely came up with a case full of evidence that Italy is a reliable defense partner for the United States and its allies.

Since 2013, for example, Italian commanders spearheaded the Kosovo Force, a NATO mission to support the stability of Kosovo and the maintenance of peace in the Balkans. Rome will also lead NATO’s new mission in Iraq after taking over from Denmark next year.

And in Afghanistan, Italy has been involved from the start, taking shifts as head of the regional command capital in Kabul as well as overseeing the International Security Assistance Force and the Resolute Support Mission. NATO in Herat (to the detriment of great resources and human lives). After this week’s withdrawal, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced that his country had evacuated nearly five thousand Afghans– that it claimed to be more than any other country in the European Union (EU).

Even at home, the Italians demonstrated their usefulness to the allies: the Naval Air Base at Sigonella in Sicily, for example, was a stopover along transport routes for evacuees fleeing Afghanistan, while Naples is home to a Joint Forces Command. NATO allies.

If one of the biggest lessons from the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the allies need to work more closely, then Italy does not need further instructions. One of NATO’s founding members, the country may well be among the United States’ most trusted allies in Europe, participating in core NATO activities, from air policing to the enhanced Forward Presence mission. (eFP) in the Baltic States, via its permanent maritime group. reaction forces.

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A partnership for the future

For the future, Rome wants the Alliance to become more involved in strengthening the countries of the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa, all areas which are the potential cradle of many threats. which could multiply over time.

This is why the Italian government intends to use the Group of Twenty (G20) in Rome next month to promote peacekeeping efforts and economic growth around the world. It will also provide a way to put pressure on the Taliban in Kabul to ensure that the group respects human rights and guarantees some form of political pluralism.

But there are many other pressing issues elsewhere, from a failed state in Lebanon and the endemic crisis in the Sahel to geopolitical challenges posed by China, Russia and Iran. Rome and Washington should set up periodic consultations to coordinate defense positions in all areas. NATO, for its part, must rethink its technological and operational strengths to remain the most successful politico-military organization in the world. Political dialogue must be strengthened to better harmonize the priorities of the thirty member countries.

As the founding nations of NATO, the United States and Italy must look to the long term. The “open door policy” which has enabled many countries to join the Alliance over the past 15 years is positive. But NATO is not the UN: it must continue to rely on its main contributing members to give it a sense of direction.

NATO’s effectiveness, rather than the horizontal distribution of positions or micromanaging secondary issues, is the priority. Its North Atlantic Council must return to the center of decision-making and retain full control over the functioning of the organization. But this must be done through greater periodic political consultation and shortened decision-making processes. We must also promote consensus voting and limit the opposition of a single allied state in the absence of a real conflict of national interest.

The United States and Italy must jointly lead the Alliance, with the help of other close allies. Part of this effort must include ensuring that NATO’s largest contributors, those most able to facilitate consent within the Alliance, have the strongest voice, including in office. of secretary general.

NATO will face new strategic and political challenges in the Indo-Pacific, where the Alliance has little experience, as Chinese threats continue to emerge. Addressing them will require skill and steadfastness, in addition to unusual diplomatic skills, which are best achieved through close cooperation between like-minded allies such as Italy and the United States.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Italian news publication Formiche.

Ambassador Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo is a former NATO Acting Secretary General, NATO Deputy Secretary General and Italian diplomat.

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