Today in an extraordinarily self-obsessed leading article, Vzglyad’ ru declares that “Italy has chosen a man for the removal of anti-Russian sanctions.” Well, that man, Giuseppe Conti, is a lawyer with no real political experience of government and a very peculiar curriculum vitae – listing one month studying in the library of Girton College, Cambridge, for example, and similar at New York University, in his list of qualifications. Walter Mitty comes to mind. Not exactly a heavyweight with much self-confidence. Can he really save Russia from sanctions?
It is extraordinarily bizarre to think that the main preoccupation of the Italian electorate over the past year or so has been to put into government someone who would remove sanctions against Russia. It is true that banks like Intesa Sanpaolo or oil and gas interests in Italy such as ENI have been doing their best to circumvent if not bust the sanctions imposed on Russia by NATO for invading Ukraine and occupying the Crimea. Perhaps “that man” was actually elected by the Italian business community. If so, then undoubtedly a small section of it is very gratified. But the United States is Italy’s third most important export market at over 40 billion euros a year. The Italians sell Russia just over 7 billion. It is therefore most unlikely that Italy can hold out against US sanctions against Russia without sustaining severe punishment from the Trump administration and Congress.