It is reminiscent of Mussolini’s pre-World War ii fascist government’s involvement in the Balkans. Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is considering the deployment of Italian military forces to aid in securing Balkan stability.
During a whirlwind visit to the U.S., Berlusconi was given a tour of the Pentagon, viewing damage caused as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Following Berlusconi’s meeting with President Bush at the White House, U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz declared, “Italy has played a very big role in the Balkans, and obviously that’s one of the places where we’re feeling a certain amount of strain, so that’s obviously a place where Italy might play a larger role” (International Herald Tribune, Oct. 16).
Earlier, conveying his eagerness for the Italian government to play a wider role in the situation that has developed since September 11, Berlusconi stated, “I’m here to express to you our desire to be as close as possible and to provide both moral and material support” (ibid.). The Italian leader obviously left no doubt that his defense forces were ready to serve on the soil of their Adriatic neighbors.
Italy has traditionally had a close relationship with
Albania. It would therefore not be surprising to see them involved to a greater extent supporting the effort to secure Kosovo.
Such a move by Italy would suit the European Union perfectly. With a German general in charge of the peace-enforcement exercise in Macedonia, and the EU currently seeking a theater in which to launch its new rapid reaction force, the die is cast for an EU takeover of security and defense in the Balkans pending an imminent U.S. pullout. Having Italian (EU) troops on the ground in the Balkans will just hasten and support this scenario.