Analysis. A new leaked tape featuring a pro-Putin monologue by Berlusconi has put Forza Italia and the former prime minister on the wrong side of the neo-fascist government they helped legitimize.

After Berlusconi’s anti-Ukraine rant, Meloni takes a hard line: ‘Italy is part of Europe’

“There is another tape.” The saga of the loose cannon “Knight” was never going to end with the first recording, Putin, vodkas and Lambrusco wine. It’s clear we’re just at the beginning.

The other tape, which everyone knew about in the Chamber by Wednesday afternoon, again talks about the Russian war of aggression and blames it on the champion of the West, Zelensky.

“Ukraine said to hell with the Minsk treaty and started attacking the Donbass republics,” claimed Berlusconi on Tuesday during the meeting with FI deputies. According to LaPresse news agency, he added that “Zelensky tripled the attacks. Putin entered Ukraine and was faced with an unpredictable situation of resistance because the Ukrainians began to receive money and weapons from the West. And so, the war, instead of being a two-week operation, became a 200-year war.”

In the audio, one can also hear very clearly the applause from the Forza Italia deputies at this version of events.

After this, tough reactions came from the opposition, of course, but there was also distancing on the part of the majority (even further than on Tuesday). It culminated with Giorgia Meloni’s note, which had to go as far as “my way or the highway.” From Forza Italia came only embarrassment, desperate attempts at spin – “it was taken out of context,” “he was summarizing Russia’s position, not his own” – but also anger at the breaking of the oath of silence which Berlusconi himself had asked for at the beginning of his speech: “Please keep this confidential.”

The figure closest to the former Prime Minister, the newly appointed head of the FI Senate group, Licia Ronzulli, attacked the alleged fifth column in the party: “It is unscrupulous, not to say criminal, that someone among the 45 elected members in the Chamber could stoop to the level of reporting our president’s words.”

But was this really a leak? Did “the Knight” really seriously think that his words would remain a secret? A part of Forza Italia buys this version, that of the elderly leader who no longer knows what he’s doing, to try to contain the incident and not miss the train of the Meloni government. It is also true, however, that Berlusconi’s distress at having ended up on the sidelines, at the resounding failure of his long-awaited triumphant return in the Senate, at being forced to yield to the will of those post-fascists whom he himself had vouched for and brought back into the circle of respectable politics, is all too real. And it found an outlet precisely in these attempts to take back the center stage – attempts which are very unlikely to stop.

To Meloni, all of this is undoubtedly very clear. After all, the policy line of Atlantic allegiance that didn’t allow Letta to build an alliance, or a solid opposition, with the Five Stars is the same one that isn’t allowing her government to get off to a quiet start.

The future Prime Minister realized on Wednesday evening that the Berlusconi problem cannot be left unresolved. While she had publicly glossed over the first tape of “the Knight,” she responded to the second with a terse note: “I have been, I am, and I will always be clear on one thing: I intend to lead a government with a clear and unequivocal foreign policy line. Italy is fully, and with its head held high, part of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance. Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone will not be able to be part of the government, even if that means it’s impossible to have a government at all.”

This statement, which almost goes to the point of showing Berlusconi the door, might be so harsh precisely because in the meantime, all the other disputes in putting the government together had been resolved, and the appointment with the President of the Republic for consultations – to which Meloni is expected to go together with Berlusconi – is already set.

On the other hand, Meloni could not be any less stark if she wanted to stop a wave of international concern about her government from rising up (again). But her toughness is also confirmation that Fratelli d’Italia’s work to shrink the parliamentary weight of those loyal to Berlusconi is paying off. Lupi’s centrists, a list that did not even get 1% in the elections, already have a group in the Senate and very soon will also have one in the House, thanks to agreements. In both cases, as we have already explained, the decisive help came from Fratelli d’Italia, a party that had already had a clear direction in pre-election negotiations, aiming to hand Lupi a disproportionate share of the safe constituencies.

One must set aside the fact that the last deputy seat gifted by Meloni to the “centrists” will be taken by Pisano, someone who praised Hitler and who is hardly passable as a “moderate”; after all, it’s not the form that matters, but the actual substance: the centrist group will be a place for Forza Italia deputies and senators willing to abandon Berlusconi and to support the government, to be used as needed.

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