The White House anxiously watches Meloni’s rise to power
« It’s a NATO ally, as you know, a G7 partner and a member of the EU, » White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in her Monday press briefing. “We will therefore work with the new Italian government on the full range of global challenges, including support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.
But Jean-Pierre never mentioned Meloni’s name. And the Italian leader’s victory, the first for the country’s far-right since World War II, underscored for the White House what it sees as a worrying trend for the continent, which has also seen right-wing victories in Sweden and Hungary and breakthroughs made in countries like France.
And that has potentially served to further destabilize the G-7, which stood strong this summer at its summit in Germany in support of Ukraine against Russia. Since that moment in June, France’s Emmanuel Macron has seen his power take a hit, Britain’s Boris Johnson has been ousted by Liz Truss – another Tory even more deeply skeptical of Europe – and now the Prime Minister Italian Mario Draghi is on his way to be replaced by Meloni.
So far, Western unity has held. But the stunning victory in Italy comes as the alliance’s resolve will be tested by what promises to be a cold and bleak winter for Europe – with the continent cut off from energy supplies from Russia, its determination tested by rising prices and falling temperatures.
Biden aides feared Meloni would begin to question Italy’s commitment, arguing that the country’s resources should be used at home, especially if Europe plunges into a recession this winter. If a major G-7 player begins to lean on Kyiv to find a negotiated settlement to the war – instead of funding its resistance – it is possible that other nations will follow suit and the continent’s resolve will weaken. weakens.
At least for now, White House aides hope Rome will stand firm with Kyiv and have publicly dismissed suggestions that the alliance could fall apart. But at a minimum, the Americans recognized that Italy could no longer offer the unabashed support provided by Draghi.
Under Draghi, Italy has played an important role in a Europe devoid of many strong leaders, helping to shape the continent’s response to the Covid recovery, economic troubles and Russia’s assault on Ukraine. But Italy has now turned away from the European mainstream and could ally itself with nationalist leaders in Hungary and Poland.
Meloni promised she had moderated her views and said she supports NATO and Ukraine. She also expressed little affection for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, unlike other members of her coalition, including former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Currently, around a third of the seats in the new parliament belong to parties that have not outright condemned Moscow’s war effort.
The change in Rome comes amid an ongoing sham referendum for Ukrainian territories seized by Moscow to vote to become part of Russia. The vote, which ends this week, worries Western allies who believe Putin could then use any fighting in those territories – which he would label an assault on Russian lands – as a pretext to expand the war.
Putin also once again threatened to use nuclear weapons in the event of an attack and authorized the mobilization of up to 300,000 reservists for the war effort. But that call led to scenes of chaos across the country as thousands of serving-age men tried to flee Russia to avoid the draft, further underscoring how failed the invasion of Moscow was.
Since the start of the war in February, Biden has consistently pledged unending solidarity with Ukraine and urged other nations — friend or foe — to stand against Moscow. He addressed the United Nations General Assembly last week and blamed one man, the Russian president, for the war that has rocked the world.