From Washington D.C. – A new relationship is developing between Washington D.C. and Rome. The Five Star Movement and the League’s victory was brought about by the same establishment that Donald Trump fought against during his campaign. Both countries now have governments intent on protecting their national interests. As a result, Italy and the United States also share important strategic goals.
They both oppose mass migration and Brussels’s current hegemony in Europe. However, on foreign policy, the two countries’ policies don’t necessarily align. We travelled to America’s capital city, Washington D.C., to speak to journalists and analysts from the White House’s perspective, to understand what this American presidency thinks about Europe and Italy’s new anti-establishment government.
“This presidency has a lot of respect for the new Italian government, especially its position regarding immigration,” said the White House correspondent for The Daily Caller, Saagar Enjeti. When Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited President Donald Trump at the White House, Enjeti noticed a particular affinity between the two leaders.
Immigration has been a central theme of Trump’s campaign. The American population is changing rapidly, and Trump has repeatedly expressed his concern for what is happening in Europe. “Trump cares about Europe’s problems, in part because of his origin, but also for strategic purposes: the issues with terrorism brought about by mass migration, for example,” said Daniel McCarhty, director of the Novak Fellowship.
The European Union is another central theme that makes Italy and the United States share common cause, in particular with regards to Germany’s control over the bloc. “Trump isn’t against the European Union as a project, but he’s against how it’s being governed now under Germany,” Enjeti said. “The relationship between this presidency and Angela Merkel is very difficult,” said the foreign affairs reporter for The National Interest, Curt Mills. Trump favored Brexit during his campaign, and he tried to impose tariffs on the European Union, in particular over Germany’s trade surpluses. Italy also shares a concern for how the European Union is being currently run, in particular with regards to the Eurozone. The new Five Star and League coalition has had constant disputes with Brussels over its spending plan. It’s no coincidence that the United States has expressed an interest in buying Italy’s debt. The two countries share common cause in opposing the European Union’s diktats on their economies.
Although Washington and Rome don’t necessarily agree on foreign policy, this hasn’t caused a strain in their relationship (at least not yet). This is likely due to the fact Trump’s foreign policy differs from that of the GOP establishment. Trump expressed a desire for less American interventions in the Middle East and a friendlier approach to Russia during his campaign, similar to Italy’s current foreign policy programme in its manifesto, but Trump began changing his approach once in office in order to appease the neonconservative members in his administration. Trump had used the campaign slogan “America first” to express his desire to fix his own country’s problems before those of others in distant, Middle Eastern lands, and Matteo Salvini used the same message “Italians first” to express his desire to help his own people before foreigners. But the two leaders have very different approaches to their relationship with Russia, a country that has dominated mainstream headlines since their elections.
“It’s no secret that there’s an internal conflict between the GOP establishment and the line of this president. The establishment is strongly opposed to Russia, and I see no chance of having a better relationship at the moment,” Mills said.
Nonetheless, Trump’s hostile attitude towards Iran was expressed during and after his campaign, and it’s a battle Italy wants no part in. Russia is an important strategic partner to Italy, and as a result it doesn’t want problems with Iran – its main ally in the Middle East. This is why Italy has always resisted sanctions against Iran, both from the European Union and the United States. But while Iran continues to be Israel’s main enemy in the region, America will continue to view the country with hostility. America has always supported Israel almost unconditionally as its main ally in the Middle East. So while Trump managed to achieve a more peaceful foreign policy than his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush, whether he will manage to resist the neoconservatives in the GOP establishment is yet to be seen.
A new Italian and American axis, together with other European populist powers, which share common cause like the fight against mass migration and Brussels’s control over the Western economy is developing. How this relationship will develop, however, still needs to be determined, particularly with regards to their approach towards Russia and their roles in Middle Eastern wars.