Bucking Climate of Sanctions, Russia and Italy Strengthen Ties and Sign Agreements

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The result of the last major Italian election last Spring saw the entrance of a populist coalition government of the forces of the left and right, Lega and Five-Star, which also represented a Eurosceptic thrust and at the same time favoring good relations with Russia, and opposing the sanctions regime.

Towards that end, Russian and Italian institutions and companies signed a series of documents after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Moscow.

In particular, Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment of Italy signed a memorandum of understanding, while the Moscow government and the Italian company Barilla signed a cooperation agreement.

The government of the Russian region of Kaluga and the Italian group Techint also signed a memorandum of cooperation.

In addition, Russian oil company Rosneft and Italy’s Pietro Fiorentini have reached an agreement on industrial cooperation in equipment manufacturing, while Russia’s Kamaz and Italy’s Fornovo have signed a cooperation agreement for technological innovation in the use and manufacture of compressors.

Finally, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Rostec and Pirelli Tires Russia.

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The sanctions imposed on Russia are a tool that should be changed in case it does not bring results, said the leader of the Italian Five-Star Movement (M5S) back in March, which at the time had won the majority of votes in the parliamentary elections.

The politician Luigi Di Maio said in March that for the party, the issue of sanctions was related to the problems of Italian agriculture caused by the restrictions imposed. He also promised to work on this agenda in the interests of the Italians, but not of Russia or the United States.

These moves can be seen also as an affront to the Brussels, who just days ago did something unprecedented in its intervention into the national budget of a sovereign state – Brussels rejected Italy’s expenditure budget, as it included guaranteed income for those unable to work. These agreements push against the climate of sanctions as well as an Atlanticist business-political culture of ‘voluntary’ sanctions – pressure not to work with various Russian firms even if they do not fall under the sanctioned categories and lists.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine and the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, the EU, including Italy, has introduced several rounds of anti-Russian sanctions, with Moscow imposing countermeasures on food imports from the countries that backed the sanctions.

In early March, the center-right coalition, composed of the League (formerly the Northern League), Italy’s Force, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Right-wing Brothers of Italy and the small party We and Italy, had 37.48% of the votes in the upper house and 36.97% in the lower house.

However, the M5S was the most voted party, having received 32.10% in the Senate and 32.49% in the Chamber of Deputies.

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