War in Ukraine: Only Diplomacy Can Prevent Escalation

The Farnesina disentangles itself from the intentions of Paris and London. The Italian government’s position on Ukraine remains the same: to defend the freedom and independence of Kiev and, at the same time, to build the conditions for peace through diplomacy. Italy, in short, distances itself from the statements made by Emmanuel Macron and David Cameron, which serve only to irritate Moscow and inflame an inherently explosive situation on the eastern front.

As he did two months ago, the French president talked once again about sending Western troops to the front, suggestion that has not resonated with other European countries. On the contrary, it has met with objections and opposition from Germany and Italy. The Foreign Ministry, through the words of Minister Antonio Tajani, reiterated that no Italian soldiers will go to Ukraine to fight and that Italy is not at war with Russia. The United Kingdom has appeared very cold on the possibility of sending His Majesty’s soldiers to Ukraine, but has been more explicit about the possible use by Kiev’s armed forces of British ordnance to strike Russian targets. Defense Minister David Cameron, in fact, provided an assist to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and even opened up a line of credit. In addition to increasing both military and defense spending, gradually raising it to 2.5 percent of the GDP by 2030, PM Sunak and Cameron allocated additional aid to Ukraine. The figure of £3.5 billion a year represents the largest contribution provided to Kiev by a European government. Since August 24, 1991, date of Ukraine’s independence from Russia, London has proven to be Kiev’s staunchest continental ally.

Economic aid, but also munitions and armaments. The UK has been the first country to supply long-range missiles to Zelensky’s forces. The possible use of ballistic rockets, capable of hitting a target even 500 kilometers away – and thus on Russian territory – has been advised against by the United States of America. Washington does not want the situation to spiral out of control; an escalation would be detrimental to everyone, especially a few months before the presidential elections that will see Joe Biden and Donald Trump compete once again.

Moscow, which has labeled Macron and Cameron’s statements as very dangerous, is preparing to flex its muscles. After denying that it will revise its maritime borders, Putin’s armies are preparing to carry out tactical nuclear exercises just a few kilometers from the Ukrainian state.

From Finland to Latvia, all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea are about to strengthen their frontiers. EU nations that have gained independence from Russia fear a widening of the conflict and experiencing the same situation as Ukraine. They strongly and formally condemn both the invasion of a sovereign and independent state, and those acts of belligerence that are called hybrids. Because war is not only fought at the front, but is enlivened as well by electronic actions, espionage, sabotage and disinformation.

Tallinn accuses Russia of waging a shadow war against the West. Vilnius, on the other hand, is convinced that Moscow’s goal is to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt among the population of the former Soviet republics that will vote in June to renew the European Parliament. That is why it is calling for a firm and appropriate response from NATO and Brussels.

Hybrid warfare has also, in different ways, crossed the borders of Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. If the government in Warsaw managed to thwart attacks, assaults and fires, Prague and Berlin had to face the ruthless Russian hackers with great difficulty. Germany has admitted that last year’s attack on the emails of Social Democratic Party members that were close to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had a Soviet matrix.

In recent months, Russia’s activity to destabilize EU member states has continued – on other levels as well. One among them is the manipulation of information. In a resolution adopted on May 17, the European Council suspended four media outlets that spread and supported propaganda in relation to the war of aggression against Ukraine. The Voice of Europe portal, the RIA Novosti agency and the newspapers Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, therefore, will not be allowed to conduct broadcasting activities on European soil and will be able to do just research and interviews. The European Council’s action was condemned by Moscow, which immediately retaliated by labeling it as political censorship of any alternative and contrary views to the Western narrative.

All this is happening when the vote to renew the parliaments in Strasbourg and Brussels is very close. From June 6 to 9, in fact, 360 million citizens belonging to the 27 EU states will go to the polls to fulfill one of their rights and strengthen democracy in the Old Continent. It is logical that the strategies and priorities of the European Commissions and Parliament will also depend on the outcome of the consultations. As Ursula von der Leyen has already reiterated last February, the defense of European borders will be an issue to be placed within the continental political agenda. The tenant of the Berlaymont Palace has also added that, should she be confirmed, she might consider establishing a strategic commissioner specifically for EU defense.

Immediately after the vote for the European elections, from June 13 to 15, there will be a G7 summit in Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, chaired by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The meeting could be a harbinger of actions that should weaken Russia and make Vladimir Putin think about a possible cease-fire. The United States is pressuring allies to unilaterally seize nearly $300 billion in Russian reserves and assets, frozen two years ago immediately after the invasion of Ukraine. If Washington is pushing for such a decision, Japan and Europe are much more cautious about what ECB President Christine Lagarde considers a dangerous precedent. The legal and technical issues to consider in such a case would be many. Opinions, perhaps non-binding, could be provided by the G7 finance ministers immediately after the preparatory meeting in Stresa.

The G7, in any case, will facilitate dialogue and talks among the various representatives of Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Japan, as well as Europe, represented for the occasion by the current President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council. There is no doubt that the priority of every head of state and prime minister is to stop hostilities on the Ukrainian front, using diplomacy first and foremost. Even Macron, who in 2024 alone has twice speculated about sending Western troops to the front, is trying. In the run-up to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, scheduled from July 26 to August 11 and from August 28 to September 8 respectively, the President of the French Republic would like to see compliance with the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the so-called Olympic Truce, the principle that in ancient Greece, during the Games, guaranteed a period of peace for the duration of the event. In this regard, Macron leveraged Beijing’s diplomatic capacity and its influence over Moscow. The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, after assuring France of his commitment to guarantee a truce at the Paris Olympic Games, discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow stalled, neither agreeing nor refusing, and reserved final say. Should Russia’s decision come to a cease-fire, Kiev would still not be completely satisfied, considering that President Zelensky has already made it known that he would not trust the enemy’s promises.

The road to peace and to a ceasefire remains at a dead end, but in any case, the only viable solution remains the one brought forward by the Italian Foreign Ministry: diplomacy.