Italian Salvini says the West should rethink Russia sanctions – POLITICO

ROME — Western sanctions on Russia aren’t working and are actually hurting Italy, according to Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, suggesting allied countries should reconsider their approach.

Speaking during a conference political leaders on Lake Como on Sunday, Salvini claimed that sanctions intended to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine had in fact helped Russia, resulting in a $140 billion export surplus, over the year ending July 2022.

“Should we defend Ukraine? Yes,” Salvini said. “But I wouldn’t want sanctions to hurt those who impose them more than those who are hit.”

Salvini’s remarks come just weeks before Italians go to the polls on September 25 in a national election in which a right-wing coalition including the League is expected to win. His comments could therefore raise concerns about the determination of the future government against Russia among other EU politicians, especially since one of Salvini’s allies in the coalition, the leader of the Brotherhood of Italy Giorgia Meloni, promised to stand firm with NATO on tough measures against Moscow.

Salvini said the League had backed measures to help Ukraine at national and European level and that he would not break with Western allies if they continued to impose sanctions, but he also called on other leaders to rethink their tactics.

“If we enter government, will we change alliances? No. We remain deeply, proudly and firmly rooted in a free and democratic West that opposes war and aggression,” Salvini said. “But if we adopt an instrument to hurt the aggressor and after seven months of war , he was not injured, at least considering a change seems legitimate to me.”

He argued that a European response is needed to calm energy prices, otherwise thousands of jobs could be lost. “We definitely need a European shield, like during COVID,” Salvini said.

The League chief has made similar comments in recent days, raising doubts over sanctions, with critics saying he echoed a popular talking point used by the Russian government.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio of the rival Together for the Future party claimed that Salvini was opposing the sanctions in order to “make [Vladimir] Putin a favor,” and said his comments showed Salvini and his allies were divided on the matter.

“The issue of sanctions is very clear in the Italian right: they don’t have a line,” Di Maio told Rai TV Mezz’Ora in Piu on Sunday.

Enrico Letta, the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, also accused Salvini of Twitter on Saturday to do Putin’s job, referring to a video of Salvini saying the sanctions hurt Italy more than Russia.

“I don’t think Putin could have said it better,” Letta said.


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