Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi faces growing domestic unease over the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House, where the Russian invasion of Ukraineand divergent internal pressures when it comes to supporting kyiv, are expected to lead the discussions.
Tuesday’s meeting came as Draghi, who has taken a hard line against Russia, he faces growing dissent among his coalition leaders over supplying more Italian arms to Ukraine, with former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, whose 5-Star Movement is the largest party in parliament, calling on the prime minister to seek a diplomatic solution to the war instead of sending “heavier and more lethal weapons” that could further escalate the conflict.
For his part, Draghi has opted for a truce, albeit a limited one, between Russia and Ukraine to allow talks intended to end the conflict Resume. However, he ignored Conte’s requests that he address parliament before the trip to Washington to clarify the Italian position he planned to present to Biden.
Meanwhile, statements by Biden and his top officials have been more aggressive, suggesting a broader goal of weakening Russia. Biden is currently seeking an additional $40 billion from the US legislature to support Ukraine, even with military equipment. The United States has already provided more than $3.8 billion in direct military help Ukraine.
On Saturday, the League’s right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, an influential member of Draghi’s coalition, stepped up pressure on the prime minister.
“More weapons to Ukraine? No. They would mean more death, more war, more famine,” tweeted Salvini, who before this year used to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Even the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which has so far been more supportive of Draghi’s hard line, is showing signs of internal division and a gradual shift in position.
“Draghi should tell Biden not to escalate tensions,” prominent PD lawmaker Graziano Delrio said on Sunday, adding that a negotiated settlement was the only viable option and “Americans … should not think there can be a winner.”
Meanwhile, PD leader Enrico Letta told the Corriere della Sera daily on Monday that Europe “must not allow the United States to lead us” and called on the five largest EU countries to go first to kyiv and then to Moscow in a peace attempt. .
Observers have said that the differences in tone in Washington and Rome reflect not only Italy’s geographical closeness to the fighting, but also its historic political and economic ties with Russia.
Italy gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, and economic trade last year totaled $21 billion, much of that for energy purchases that Italy is trying to divert elsewhere. However, Draghi has pledged his support to any European Union sanctions on the Russian energy sector.
The meeting took place ahead of crucial G7 and NATO summits in Europe next month. The meetings are expected to cover aid to Ukraine and measures against Moscow, as well as the global economy, Europe’s energy security and climate change.
Opinion polls show that the Italian public is mostly at odds with Europe’s other G7 states, the UK, France and Germany, in their limited support for providing more weapons to Ukraine.
Personally, Draghi has particularly close ties to the US. He did his Ph.D. at MIT and has worked for both the World Bank and US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
During his stay in Washington, Draghi will receive an award from the Atlantic Council for distinguished international leadership.
It will be introduced by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a ceremony on Wednesday.