Will a new Italian government be lenient towards Russia?

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we look at what a new Italian government would mean for Europe’s Ukraine policy, a breakthrough for Ukraine’s grain, and Sri Lanka’s new prime minister.

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The new Italian guard

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we look at what a new Italian government would mean for Europe’s Ukraine policy, a breakthrough for Ukraine’s grain, and Sri Lanka’s new prime minister.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

The fall of Mario Draghi has again shaken up Italian politics. His resignation comes as the European Union as a whole tries to prevent its united front against Ukraine from unraveling.

“The Russians are celebrating right now for bringing down another Western government,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Politico last week. “Now I doubt we can send arms [to Ukraine]. This is one of many serious problems.

Polls indicate that a snap election in the fall will favor a far-right government, a political bloc traditionally more favorable to Russia across Europe.

This warmer attitude towards Russia is already present among the Italians. Among Europeans, when it comes to Ukraine, Italians are the less likely to blame Russia for the war and in a June poll, about half of those polled opposed sending defensive weapons to Ukraine.

The Italian business community is also seen as favorable to Russia. senior business leaders met Russian President Vladimir Putin as recently as January 26, just weeks before Russia launched its invasion.

So is Italy about to play the spoiler? From the rhetoric of those who could replace Draghi, that seems unlikely. Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Italian Brotherhood, who is currently leading in the polls, has done her best to distance herself from Vladimir Putin and has describe the invasion as an “unacceptable large-scale act of war by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine”.

Meloni’s approach is in line with Pew polls which show that, despite Italy’s historic ties to Russia, few trust the Kremlin man. In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 11 percent of Italians surveyed said they trusted Putin to do the right thing in world affairs.

Although Meloni’s party is widely described as far-right, in part due to its ties to Italy’s neo-fascist movement, she rejects the label. Like her counterpart in France, National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Meloni has tried to project an image more palatable to the public.

“I don’t see what elements can support the definition of the Brothers of Italy as a far-right party,” Meloni said. Foreign Police last year, “we are a member of the European Conservative and Reform Party… which is the family of European and Western conservatives, joined by over 40 parties in several countries, ranging from Likud in Israel to Conservatives in the UK and the GOP in the United States”

By toeing the dominant line on Putin, Meloni stands out from Matteo Salvini’s League party which has struggled to make inroads beyond its right-wing base. And although the League currently trails Italy’s Brothers by eight percentage points in the polls, the two would likely enter government as coalition partners, alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

Dario Cristiani, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said that although Salvini and Meloni represent different positions on Russia, the League’s internal factions hold enough Euro-Atlanticist supporters to keep Italy on a similar path. where she is now. “My personal view is that there won’t be a strong change or anything hugely visible,” Cristiani said.

Still, as the September 25 election nears, Cristiani said public opinion of the war would likely trump all ideological considerations: “It might be easier for war fatigue in the public opinion to play a role in shaping the choices of the next government. So it may not be: we will leave the transatlantic consensus, but it could be fewer weapons for Ukraine from 2023.”

What we follow today

Ukraine’s cereal breakthrough. An agreement allowing Ukraine to resume grain exports via the Black Sea should be signed today in Istanbul following UN-brokered talks between Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials. Under the terms of the deal, Ukraine will escort vessels through mined waters to reach its ports, while Russia has agreed not to target vessels involved in shipping grain. As a confidence-building measure, Turkish officials agreed to inspect the ships to clear up any smuggling issues.

The new government of Sri Lanka. New Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is set to appoint Dinesh Gunewardena, former foreign affairs and education minister, as prime minister as the country continues its political reshuffle following the fall of the Rajapaksa dynasty following weeks of public protests .

It is not yet clear whether Gunewardena’s appointment will represent enough change to appease the protesters, as he is seen as an ally of the Rajapaksas. For his part, Wickremesinghe appears to be pursuing a zero-tolerance approach after sending hundreds of security forces to dismantle a protest camp set up near the presidential palace in the early hours of Friday morning.

Lavrov in Africa. On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Minister begins a five-day tour of Africa, with stops in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. His trip comes as Russia’s arms sales to the region have begun to falter, as FP’s Jack Detsch reports.

The presidential race in Brazil. On Thursday, the Brazilian Workers’ Party officially appointed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a candidate in the October 2 presidential election. Even though he leads incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro by a healthy margin in the polls, Lula has chosen former São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, a centrist, as his running mate to broaden his appeal outside of his leftist base.

The War on Drugs in Colombia. Six of Colombia’s main criminal gangs have offers a ceasefire to the new government of President-elect Gustavo Petro, who said he would begin peace talks with the groups once in power as part of his reflection on the country’s war on drugs.

“We cannot be indifferent to the clamors of Colombian society and the thought of its democratically elected president, in order to achieve the desired peace with social justice, among others”, the six groups, including the Clan del Golfo, the Caparros and the Rastrojo said in a statement.

A brewery and pub in East Germany offer beer in exchange for cooking oil, as the country faces a shortage of sunflower and rapeseed oil due to the war in Ukraine and Russian sanctions. The Giesinger brewery in Munich offers one liter (about 33 ounces) of beer for one liter of oil and has so far received 400 liters of oil as part of the deal. “It all happened because we were just running out of oil in the kitchen and that’s why we have to be inventive,” pub manager Erik Hoffmann told Reuters TV. “Getting oil is very difficult…if you need 30 liters a week and you only get 15 instead, at some point you won’t be able to fry a schnitzel anymore,” Hoffmann said. .

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