Italy’s hostility to NATO is building

The war in Ukraine has caused an unholy convergence of the left and right in Italy. While there is nothing formal so far about this alliance of enemies, it nevertheless threatens to destroy the unity of Nato.

The most high-profile participant is -Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega – the party with the second-highest number of MPs in Italy’s parliament – which is invariably defined as ‘far right’. Salvini, who has been one of Vladimir Putin’s strongest supporters outside Russia, condemned the invasion of Ukraine and has now come out as a pacifist. He opposes Finland and Sweden joining Nato, or sending more arms to Ukraine, on the grounds that both would make peace less likely. Giuseppe Conte, leader of the alt-left Five Star Movement, which has the most MPs, is also on board – as is a chunk of the old left, especially if former communists.

This coalition is hugely popular, not just with Italian extremists, but with Italians in general. Its most ardent supporters, who include most Italian journalists it sometimes seems, demand above all that Joe Biden and Boris Johnson – those warmongering ‘Anglo—Saxons’ – agree that Nato countries should stop sending arms to Ukraine. This would force Volodymyr Zelensky, they insist, to start peace talks with Russia even if it means he loses a large chunk of his country.

Indeed, this was precisely the message Italy’s unelected Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, sensing the power of the sentiment in his country, took to Washington when he met President Biden on 10 May. As a right-wing Italian daily headline put it: ‘Draghi warns Biden: Europe wants peace.’