The US-Italy-China triangle: Italy between the two superpowers

The friendship between Italy and the USA is quite rooted. In fact, the two nations have worked side by side since the postwar period to fight external dangers: from the fight against the Soviet Communist Party in the 40-50s to that against Islamic terrorism, which saw the Italian troops engaged in Iraq as the third most numerous ones, after US and UK.

Washington has also acted several times in favor of Italy, both in economic aid (let”s take for example, the 100 million dollars check given to Prime Minister De Gasperi) and as a supporter of Italian requests in Europe (as when, under Obama’s administration, Brussels was asked for greater flexibility on the part of the European Central Bank towards Italy).

Italy, in return, also on behalf of the Atlantic Alliance, has given the green light to the United States to place several military bases on Italian territory given the strategic position of the peninsula in the mediterranean area.

Relations began to crack when Rome showed interest in making deals with Washington’s rivals: Russia and China. While tensions with Putin seem to have softened under Trump’s presidency, the same cannot be said for China.

There are several events attesting that there is no love lost between the two superpowers. The most recent ones involve, for example, the insistent request of the American president to the United Nations to hold China responsible for the spread of the pandemic. “China infected the world” he said several times, it must be held “accountable”, getting so far as to call the virus “China virus”.

On the other hand, the Italian government, in contrast with its American partner’s wishes, decided to strengthen its relations with Beijing and, in March 2019, it received a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping. An event that led to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, the document with which Italy became the first China’s partner country in the project known as the “new Silk Road”, thanks to which Italian ports would become the connecting point between Asia and Europe. 

The White House did not welcome Italy’s opening up to China, as it considers the latter a threat.

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, primaries are occurring between the current President Donald Trump and the member of the Democratic Party Joe Biden. It is now known that the two have radically different visions, but if there is one issue that unites them, this seems to be the distrust of Beijing. 

What will then be the fate of Italy and US’ relationship?

Should Trump be reconfirmed, much will depend on the policies that the president intends to implement towards Europe, especially in the commercial and security fields. It is likely that he will keep serving American interests at the expense of everyone else. At the same time, the decision to reduce the presence of American troops in the Middle East would strengthen Italy’s position since military installations in the Bel Paese would be increased in order to deal with any future operations in the Mediterranean area.

Should Biden win, in all likelihood we would go back to relaunching projects aimed at greater transatlantic commercial integration, as already seen under Obama’s presidency. Almost certainly, Biden would lead to tighten the relationship with Russia.

Either way, it seems that Italy will still be constantly reminded of the need to pay enormous attention to collaborations and investments with China.

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