In-depth analysis by Federico Punzi
The “scoop” of the BuzzFeed site is doubly worrying for Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. First of all, for what appears to emerge from the audio of the meeting at the Moscow Metropol. The suspicion that even an attempt to get Russian money to the League may have taken place is embarrassing. A “sovereign” party, which claims to be defender of the national interest (“Italians first!”), Takes money from foreign powers
Weaving political agreements and alliances, albeit questionable, is one thing. Taking money presupposes a relationship of dependence or conditioning. The contradiction would be evident – and lethal – politically, net of the criminal implications. The only identified person of the six participants in the meeting – three Italians and three Russians – is Gianluca Savoini, a friend for 25 years and former spokesman of Salvini, now president of the Lombardy-Russia association, without assignments in the League but still very close to the secretary with regard to relations with Russia, so much so that he accompanied him on his visits to Moscow. On behalf of those who spoke at the Metropol
It cannot be taken for granted that he made agreements for the League, but neither can it be ruled out. We cannot know in what capacity and on behalf of whom the three Russians spoke, given that they have not yet been identified with certainty (only L’Espresso has made a name), nor because they should have carried out a rather advanced phase of such a negotiation. in the hall of a hotel such as the Metropol, one of the most discounted and “attention-grabbed” places.
The Northern League’s defensive strategy against political attacks from the left – blaming Moscow’s funding to the old PCI – only works if in fact the League has not taken a ruble, as Salvini repeats, and therefore it is a question of unmasking the contradictions and the skeletons in the closet of the opponents. Who still wants to convince us today that a party financed for over 40 years by Moscow, in the middle of the Cold War, when the USSR was a far more threatening enemy for Italy and the West than today’s Russia can ever be considered. Putin, having been a fundamental pillar of Italian democracy, evidently does not have what it takes to be scandalized by the alleged Lega rubles.
But if the money had arrived in Via Bellerio, or if there had been an attempt, that the PCI received funding from Moscow as well up to thirty years ago, it certainly would not absolve the League today. Net of the penalties, politically the one with the PCI would certainly not be a comparison to be proud of. The Milan Public Prosecutor has been investigating the alleged negotiation for several months, since the Espresso has been dealing with it, so we’ll see.
There is, however, another aspect of this “scoop” that should worry Salvini (and interest journalists and analysts). Where does this audio come
from Whose hand that passed it to BuzzFeed
And why right now
On Atlantico we had already reasoned about the very delicate phase that opened after the European elections for the leader of the League, thanks to a broad consensus but in front of a crossroads that can very soon turn out to be a dead end: to go all-in, that is to try to go to political elections to “capitalize” the consensus gathered in Europeans and attributed to it by polls (now close to 40 per cent) and arrive at Palazzo Chigi, but with the risk of being unleashed against a total war capable of annihilating it; or, settle for realism with the status quo, procrastinate, hoping to be able to continue to squeeze the most out of a hand that has so far been favorable, but risking cooking over a low heat, the signs of which we see every day.
In this context, the audio of the meeting at the Metropol sounds like a sinister warning. But by whom
The alleged negotiation had already been reconstructed months ago with a wealth of details and names by l’Espresso, but now an audio file and a transcript have arrived, via BuzzFeed, an English-language site – and in fact they immediately bounced on the most authoritative European and American media.
The key question was posed by Daniele Raineri on the sheet: who was interested in releasing the audio and why right now
“Cui prodest
”. And why, we add, to an English-language media
To formulate some hypotheses, it is also necessary to consider the timing of the release.
Not even a month ago Salvini’s official visit to Washington, where he met the American Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo. A visit reasonably interpreted by many, and also by us at Atlantico, as an accreditation to the Trump administration of an Italian political leader in pole position to become the next head of government. A choice of field, and it seemed that of Salvini, to collect the trust and support of the USA, almost a “blessing”, before setting out to conquer Palazzo Chigi.
“Italy is the first, most credible, most solid interlocutor of the US in the European Union”, he declared in Washington, “the largest European country with which the United States can and wants to dialogue”. And, after the meeting with Pompeo, two statements completely aligned with the US positions and in stark contrast, instead, with the Russian ones: it is up to Putin to take “a concrete positive step in Ukraine before calling for an end to the sanctions” and commitment personnel for the recognition of Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela.
How his outings were taken in the Kremlin
Not so bad it would seem, judging by the words Putin spent a few days later, before arriving in Rome, in an interview with Corriere della Sera: “Salvini has a warm attitude towards our country. We met in 2014 and since then constant contacts have been maintained between the League and United Russia, parties that collaborate within the framework of a cooperation agreement ”. As if to say: you had chosen us, remember
The audio published by BuzzFeed has among its possible effects that of raising more than a few doubts, in Washington, on the sincerity of Salvini and his attempt to be accredited as a reliable interlocutor in the White House: how we can trust, if only a few months earlier a man of his was negotiating a secret plan in Moscow to receive Russian funding
On the other hand, it is no mystery that well before Salvini’s visit, more or less since Donald Trump has been in the White House, the League got very close to Washington. Despite the Deputy Prime Minister’s ostentatious admiration for Putin and a strong pro-Russian current close to him, the League has probably never been so pro-American and Atlantic in its entire history (made up, let’s remember, of anti-NATO, pro Saddam and pro Milosevic). Just think of the Northern League undersecretaries chosen for the Farnesina and Defense, the “Atlantic” Guglielmo Picchi and Raffaele Volpi
. In the internal dialectic of the Executive and the League up to now to have played in the Atlantic field, trying to counterbalance the Ostpolitik of the 5 Stars: it expressed itself, even with its leader, in a peremptory way on Maduro and the Venezuelan crisis and highlighted the criticism of the memorandum of understanding with China on the Silk Road, inviting caution even though it cannot be blocked (since it is armored by Mattarella). True, he maintains a position clearly opposed to the European sanctions against Russia, but the yellow-green government has voted several times in the EU for the renewal of the sanctions, without any irritation on the part of the League.
In short, there is enough to think of a warning from Moscow for the disappointing Northern League tests. The League could pay a too casual game in its relations between the US and Russia at a time when the two powers are again competing for influence over Europe and, in particular, over the so-called sovereign, Eurosceptic parties.
But the audio also comes out in the middle of negotiations to complete the team of the new president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The League has come out of the European polls with all the numbers in order to express its own name as European commissioner due to Italy. The Savoini case does not favor this appointment, on the contrary it creates the conditions for a parliamentary Vietnam in Strasbourg. It strengthens the determination of the weakened and frightened pro-European parties and elites to tighten the medical cordon against the strongest sovereign party, suspected of having sold itself to Putin just as it approaches Washington. Not to mention the similarities with the Strache case, the Austrian vice-chancellor, leader of the Fpo nationalists, forced to resign on the eve of the European elections for a video two years earlier (released only in May of this year) in which he made promises to the fake nephew of a Russian oligarch close to Putin in exchange for funding his party. Of course, Savoini’s audio is not so explicit and, above all, Strache was there and Salvini was not …
The impression remains that the sovereignists are too naive and at the same time too unscrupulous, but the suspicion is also well founded that agents provocateurs are prowling around Europe in order to take them out (politically, of course) one by one. If it is difficult to imagine that someone could have recorded the meeting at the Metropol hotel a few hundred meters from the Lubyanka, then doing it right under the nose of the eyes, and ears, Russian services, it is also true that today a smartphone is enough for such a registration and it cannot be excluded that the “infiltrator” was one of the Italian participants.
Finally, it should be remembered that BuzzFeed is the site that on 11 January 2017, nine days before the inauguration of the new US president in the White House, published the Steele dossier to tarnish Trump, even knowing that it was a hoax, packaged by foreign services, with also Russian sources, commissioned by the opposing campaign. A dossier that traveled between London and Rome before arriving at the FBI in Washington and being offered to practically all anti-Trump media, up to BuzzFeed who published it when already discredited. It had served its purpose: to motivate the FBI’s authorization request to oversee Campaign Advisor Trump Carter Page. But BuzzFeed continued throughout Russiagate to publish burning “revelations” that fueled the narrative of collusion, which often turned out to be magnified.
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