United States, Italy united over Ukraine, with slightly different tones | Radio WGN 720

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MILAN (AP) — Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden this week in Washington as Europe faces another “all it takes” moment with Russia’s war in Ukraine making rage on its eastern flank.

Rome and Washington will underscore their historic friendship and shared desire to help Ukraine defend against the two-month-long Russian invasion when leaders meet on Tuesday. Energy, climate change and promoting global economic prosperity are also on the agenda.

Still, there are differences in tone on the war, and public sentiment in Italy against sending arms to Ukraine is growing.

Draghi is pushing for even a limited truce to allow talks to resume, also aware of the impact on Italy if the war spills over into Ukraine. Statements by Biden and his emissaries have been more aggressive, suggesting both regime change and the goal of weakening Russia.

These differences reflect not only Italy’s geographic proximity to the fighting, but also its historical political and economic ties to Russia. Italy gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia, and economic exchanges last year amounted to 20 billion euros.

“There are two currents regarding Russia,” Sergio Romano, Italy’s Cold War-era ambassador to Moscow, told The Associated Press. “There is the position of the countries which see in the war in Ukraine the possibility, or the hope, of the weakening of Russian power. I think this current is strong in the United States

“I don’t think that’s the position of the Italian government, which in the past has had cordial and positive relations with Russia.”

Draghi, a wise former central banker, is one of the only European Union leaders to visit Washington since the start of the war, and he can be expected to represent not only the perspective of Italy, but also that of Europe. His ‘whatever it takes’ posture as head of the European Central Bank saved the euro during the currency bloc crisis a decade ago.

Arming Ukraine has become a political issue in Italy, with growing public opposition to the shipment of Italian arms over fears of provoking a wider conflict that would spill over into neighboring EU member states and the EU. NATO.

A key government party, the 5 Star Movement, insists only short-range defensive weapons be shipped, and none with offensive capabilities, while right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, a former interior minister, is against more arms shipments to Ukraine. .

Public sentiment against sending arms to Ukraine has increased by about half, according to Renato Mannheimer, a sociologist at social and market research agency Eumetra. Part of that sentiment is rooted in pacifism, and part is tied to fears of starting a wider war, including fears of nuclear escalation, he said.

Italians over 40 have tangible memories of their geographical location close to Ukraine. Shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, nuclear contamination reached Italy and Italians were warned not to eat salad or drink milk for weeks.

Italy has previously invoked secrecy over its military support for security reasons. But Draghi can also point to parliament’s overwhelming support for helping Ukraine last month minimize any friction within its broad-based coalition.

“Perhaps the message Draghi will bring to Biden in these hours is, ‘We’re on the side of the Americans, but don’t make this a war of good versus evil, light versus darkness,'” he said. Alessia De Luca, a political analyst at the ISPI think tank in Milan.

“It’s a risk because Americans have this binary way of looking at things. For us Europeans, the consequences of the overflow of war are dramatic.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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