The attention of the media is growing due to the presence of the Russian military in Italy. According to the reports, several dozen military specialists arrived together with doctors and other medical personnel. Some newspapers, including La Stampa, speak such military presence worries the Italian government and military.
It is clear that the Russian presence also has strategic goals, in addition to humanitarian aid in such an emergency situation as “Covid-19”. For the first time, Russian soldiers set foot on Italian soil, historically open only to Atlantic allies. It has long been known that Russia is trying to strengthen its role in the Mediterranean region.
“Moscow in Italy is a military operation. In uniform. If cut it simple”. This is the picture that a high-level diplomatic source provides to Formiche.net about the Russia’s operation to support Italy in addressing SarsCoV2 pandemic.
“The invasion will begin from Mugello”, is the ironic comment of a former Italian high officer which he attached to a photo where some Russian soldiers in front of a map of Italy were depicted. The photo was made earliear that morning and appeared on the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The military is the arm of the Kremlin that is managing the humanitarian aid sent from Moscow to Italy, which is struggling with the coronavirus spread. Among the human and technical resourse sent were IL76 cargo planes, several doctors from the Army’s specialized departments, mobile units for the containment of bacteriological threats, means for sanitizing the soil and an unknown number of technicians (soldiers, to be clear!).
Yesterday the Russian contingent drove six hundred kilometers through the peninsula, going up from Pratica di Mare to Bergamo. The operation is led by General Sergey Kikot, the deputy commander of the chemical, radiological, biological defense department of the Russian army. To give a quick picture, the expert is one of the officers who over the years has been responsible for exonerating the Syrian Bashar al Assad on the use of chemical weapons against its citizens.
True capabilities and usefulness of the Russian vehicles, as well as the objective of the operation raise doubts. Above all is the issue: how many soldiers have arrived from Russia to Italy? The number is unavailable and it is not yet clear whether or not it would be communicated. Some doubts about usefulness of such a help come from the Italian government. For example, how the means to sanitize the soil would work since such a practice the Italian National Institute of Health does not consider valid in the fight against SarsCoV2.
Useless, ineffective machinery is perhaps more useful to mark a presence. If the image of the Russian military in front of the Italian map seems decades old, the plan behind sincere Russian aid could be a modern and sophisticated application of Soviet active measures.
The arrival of the military was approved by the V. Putin’s decision, who had convinced Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a long phone call on March 21. The Italian Prime Minister is grappling with an unexempled emergency in the state history, and perhaps for this reason he accepted the offer. Probably, Putin did not give details of his mission, and no one asked for them. It is difficult to think, however, that the Russian president moved without a plan: the Kremlin site, for example, immediately published the readout of the call indicating the sending of vehicles and military personnel, while Palazzo Chigi did not.
The Putin’s PR operation in Italy serves two purposes at the same time. Firstly, it was designed for internal use: Putin tries to divert attention from the the epidemic in his country, presenting himself simultaneously as a Samaritan and charismatic leader on the international arena in the eyes of Russians – who on April 22 should vote for changes in Consittution which keep him staying in power up to 2024.
And, secondly, a geopolitical level. The Russian ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, does not miss the opportunity to stake a toll on other EU states: “Some in Europe consider solidarity is a common commitment to sanctions and blocking policy.” In our opinion, solidarity should be different. In Russia, there is a saying, “There is no pain of other people.” Russia could not remain indifferent to such a difficult situation for Italy.”
Italy affected by the epidemic becomes a field for the competition between the powers, instigating race in which Moscow does not want to be left behind.