Counterintelligence. Beyond the Russian spy story in Italy

Counterintelligence. Beyond the Russian spy story in Italy
Counterintelligence. Beyond the Russian spy story in Italy
The counter-espionage operation implemented by the Italian services, blocking the passage of sensitive information to Russian intelligence, represents the tip of the iceberg of a Mediterranean tension that sees us willy-nilly involved. A greater protagonism, or, even earlier, a greater Italian awareness of what is at stake in the geopolitical chessboard in which we are geographically immersed would be desirable. The visit announced by President Draghi for April 6 to Libya goes in this sense, but the scenario is wider than the Libyan borders, involving all the coasts of the Mediterranean, the Near Middle East and the African continent. And the elements of the equation are not only diplomatic: they range from economic interests, to the military and security context, to that of cultural influence.

The Russian interest has not only revealed itself today with the corruption of an Italian officer, a wake-up call in any case not to be underestimated by the intensity of this interest as to risk jeopardizing bilateral relations. The Russian presence first in the Syrian conflict and then in the Libyan one immediately elevated clashes to regional crises that seemed initially limited to national borders and in the wake of the so-called Arab springs. And again, Turkish activism in the Mediterranean and Chinese economic weight on the African continent are part of a much broader strategy of influence in a territory that European myopia sees only as a source of migratory flows.

This also forced the United States to pay attention to a context that it probably would have preferred in part to delegate to its Italian ally. The precarious equilibrium that seems to be established on the Libyan scenario with the indication of a new prime minister, first and foremost a good friend of Turkey, only occurred thanks to the military intervention of Turkey and Russia which, as in Syria, divided the country in such a way that it forced the two Libyan parties strongly weakened to find a point of understanding. But peace and political mediation came thanks to the use of twenty thousand jihadist cutthroats of Syrian origin and the wise use of Wagner mercenaries: they established mutual zones of influence and forced the weak Libyan non-protagonists to find a point of understanding. The European chancelleries are absent and unjustified, starting above all with the Italian one.

As we have been able to appreciate from the success of the counter-espionage operation, it is not the different levels of the state that are in hiding, but the political level: too many governments have succeeded one another in recent years that have concentrated the little foreign policy only in European buildings and in the within the scope of traditional alliances or limited trade agreements, without however implementing exactly what those alliances asked us to do in our natural terrain of influence, the Mediterranean.

Three recent events should have highlighted the importance and complexity of the context in which we are urgently called to recover a role.

The killing of Ambassador Luca Attanasio in Congo, the Pope’s visit to Iraq and the blockade of the Suez Canal due to an accidental event.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a land torn by the long-standing ethnic clashes and raids of armed groups and is at the same time at the center and marginalized by international interests: at the center, because it represents one of the territories with the greatest extraction of rare earths; marginalized, because despite the richness of its subsoil, it is hit by poverty, hunger and Ebola epidemics. Rare earths are those raw materials, in fact, rare in nature but not in the objects that accompany us in daily life. Lithium and tungsten are an integral part of mobile phones and electric cars and will be increasingly so with the spread of e-mobility. The acceleration towards the energy transition risks taking into consideration only the CO2 emissions in the countries affected by the revolution and ignoring the environmental impact of the extractions and the related geopolitical balances.

The issue of the fragility of commercial networks has also re-emerged in all its drama with the Suez Canal accident which highlighted how the hubs of world trade are subject to geopolitical tensions, let’s also think about the phenomena of piracy in the Strait of Djibouti ; and how inadequate the Italian infrastructural network is, which sees ships destined for Europe circumnavigate the national coasts and lengthen transport times and costs to reach northern European ports.

Finally, the concern of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey emphasized the cradle of Western culture and monotheistic religions and the urgent need to activate the channels necessary to stem the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. An understanding of the internal dynamics of the second most widespread religion in the world, and of the conjunction with the reality of tribal societies, would allow us to face phenomena such as fundamentalist terrorism and regional instability with greater awareness. Too often the West has imagined exporting representative models unsuitable for profoundly different and complex societies such as the Middle East with the tip of a bayonet or drone hiss.

Beyond the mediocre outlines, the story of Walter Biot places the accent on the necessary restart of the complex of policies necessary to reassert Italy in the international context. From infrastructure investments to the development of tangible and intangible national networks; from promotion on international markets to economic and financial presence in emerging countries; from military and diplomatic commitment in crisis areas to the control of migratory flows: the complexity of geopolitical contexts requires a country like ours, a member of the G7, to use all the tools at its disposal. And don’t just wait for intelligence to curb foreign forays into our areas of expertise. .

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