After acknowledging the dispute between Mario Draghi and Giuseppe Conte at the Palazzo Chigi, on Wednesday the top figures of the Five Star Movement wanted to make it clear that their leader had been advocating on the issue of military spending for a couple of weeks, without having the slightest intention of bringing down the government.
The narrative from the M5S claims that it was the rigidity of the Prime Minister, and his irritation at the complaints from the Movement, still the largest political force in this Parliament, that brought drama to a situation that no one had any intention of turning into a crisis. Also, Conte knows well that leaving the majority would saw off the branch from under his own leadership, based on the progressive alliance that is being built together with the Democratic Party. Right now, the PD is on one hand seeking a solution, and on the other hand is itself showing irritation at the activism of the M5S.
Accordingly, the Five Stars had to tear up the narrative that has been artfully leaked from the Prime Minister’s camp, which accused Conte himself of having increased military spending when he was head of government, and “furthermore, without there being any wars in Europe.”
The M5S version, reiterated by Conte before the party’s senators with plenty of charts and figures, is important because it contains what might be the key point: he argued that it would be “sustainable” to have an increase in military investments, but one that is “linear and gradual,” to be completed “by the end of this decade.” Conte contrasted this with an “exponential” increase that would hit the budget “indiscriminately” to reach the 2% threshold in 2024.
“It would mean increasing defense appropriations by at least €6 billion a year in the next two budget laws, jumping from €26 to €38 billion in annual military spending,” Conte complained. When the Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini floated the possibility of pushing back the date until 2028, the M5S said they were satisfied: “We said that you can’t spend €10-15 billion, from now until 2024, for military spending: Italy has other priorities.”
In short, for two days, the mantra that the M5S is irresponsible and susceptible to the siren song of some kind of extremism has come back once again. But Conte’s proposal doesn’t have anything radical about it, nor does it have anything in common with those put forward by the pacifist world. And one can hardly accuse it of ambiguity towards Italy’s pro-NATO position, to which Conte never tires of pledging allegiance. The lawyer stressed before the group of M5S senators that if his successor at the head of the government was unwilling to unbalance the budget “to help families and businesses,” then it makes no sense to do that for arms. In the end, the meeting concluded with the senators’ commitment to vote on the Ukraine Decree, and they managed to find common ground around the “gradualness” of the military budget increases.
Speaking of anti-Atlanticism, on Wednesday, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Vito Petrocelli, returned to the spotlight, joking about the accusations brought against him: “I’m not pro-Russian, I’m actually pro-Chinese. And those two things are incompatible.”
“I won’t vote for the decree,” he explained. “I remain convinced that one shouldn’t expose Italy to the risks of being a co-belligerent. The majority position in Parliament does not reflect that of the country, which is against entering this terrible and appalling conflict, initiated by the Russians.”
The former mayor of Rome and member of the M5S Committee of Guarantors Virginia Raggi has also been accused of being pro-Russian for having shared some posts with messages close to Putin’s propaganda. Calenda’s and Renzi’s parties have called for her to resign from the presidency of the Capitoline Special Commission for Expo 2030. The PD, on its part, demanded a clarification. Raggi said she merely shared some posts by the former M5S MEP Dario Tamburrano, while the latter said he was shocked at the “narrowing of the public discourse in Italy.”
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