When Giorgia Meloni won the premiership of Italy, the first female to secure the position, it sent shockwaves internationally. Meloni is also the first “far right-leaning” candidate to become prime minister since World War II.
Some predicted an Italian rebirth, while others said dark days were ahead for Europe. Experts on Italian politics explained that the new right has a mix of both pro-Western and far-right policies that give Italy’s future in world affairs a mixed outlook. The Western world wondered what would come next for Italy in foreign policy.
High-level political commentators predicted Meloni’s government could weaken Western ties. Forbes claimed that the new government could walk back the Draghi policy on Ukraine; however, Meloni has reportedly pledged full support to Ukraine and maintains a strong NATO stance, as political forecasts conflict.
Why Italy Chose a Right-Wing Government
Media reports found that Meloni’s stance on NATO, and lack of love for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, led Italy to support her political model.
Professor Piero Garofalo, a professor of Italian studies and expert on fascism at the University of New Hampshire, explained to American Pigeon that, while Brothers of Italy has its roots in Mussolini’s era, the party has distanced itself from its association with the fascist dictator. Social movements over recent decades have transformed the party from neo-fascism into a national-conservative party.
Professor Garofalo explained that Italy’s shift to the right reflects a new normalization of right-wing policy across the Western world.
“The mainstreaming of the far right is not limited to Italy. The United States, the U.K., Brazil, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, France, Austria, and Germany among others have all experienced the mobilization of the right-wing electorate without a comparable elevation of the far left,” Garofalo wrote, in an emailed response to American Pigeon.
Garofalo explained that Italy’s centrist parties have begun to shift political models to the right to “chase the electorate.”
Why Right-Wing Policies Matter To Italy’s International Concerns
Italy’s international policy will take a stiff stance on China relations. Since China levied annexation rhetoric toward Taiwan, this stance has strengthened. As China and Russia increase global hostility, Western allies rush to adopt a unified Sino-Russian policy.
“Taiwan will be an essential concern for Italy,” Meloni told the Chinese-language outlet CNA, joining Western leaders in pledging support for Taiwan.
Meloni has pledged to “reverse the course” of Italy’s stance on China’s massive international infrastructure campaign, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Taipei Times reported.
Garofalo explained that experts expect Meloni’s new government to take a pro-American stance toward China in order to “alleviate allies’ concerns about her leadership.” He also noted that Italy’s relations with China have “cooled considerably” since 2019 when Italy signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“During the electoral campaign, Meloni indicated that she would terminate that agreement and that Taiwan was a central concern for Italy,” Garofalo wrote.
He explained that Meloni has been “highly critical” of China’s aggression toward Taiwan and that she called on the European Union to exert diplomatic pressures on China to defuse military escalations in the Indo-Pacific.
Regarding Russia, the new Italian government is split. Garofalo explained that Meloni holds a pro-American and pro-European stance on China and Russia. Yet, her coalition partners, Berlusconi and Salvini, have ties to the Russian president Vladimir Putin, The New York Post reported.
Salvini claimed that sanctions on Moscow “hurt Italian industry.” Berlusconi claimed that pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas region pushed Putin to invade Ukraine.
Meloni’s Pro-American Stance Clashes With Her Middle East Policy
Despite the rhetoric in Meloni’s coalition, Garofalo explained that her overall foreign policies appeal to the U.S. and Western allies. He warned against some of Meloni’s more extreme takes that may conflict with U.S. and NATO-aligned interests.
“With acceptance comes normalization, and then the extreme becomes mainstream,” Garofalo wrote, referring to some of Meloni’s more extreme takes on Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria. The Times of Israel reported that Meloni had previously praised Iran, al-Assad, and Hezbollah, calling the organizations “defenders of Christians.” Meloni also expressed willingness to normalize ties with the Al-Assad regime in Syria.
These public statements conflict with Western politics in the region as the U.S. and its Western allies developed stiff rhetoric toward Iran and its hostile Islamic regime leadership, while Iran expresses hostility toward the West and continues to be a trade partner of China and Russia.
Garofalo further explained that the new Italian government takes a nationalist and nativist view on domestic and international concerns. This reprioritization is not unique to Italy but sweeps across Europe as part of a stricter view of immigration.
“Meloni is firmly committed to NATO and has declared repeatedly that Italy will work within the legal framework of the EU, but Meloni is also a nationalist, a Eurosceptic, and a nativist,” Garofalo wrote.
Meloni’s commitment to NATO will pressure Brussels to crack down on boat passenger migration, with naval blockades in the Mediterranean and North Africa proposed. Meloni’s party has pledged to be tougher on asylum seekers entering Italy from the ocean, which became a “burning political issue” in 2014-2016, when peak numbers of asylum seekers reached Italy by water.
Italy Strained Over Pro-American Policy and Gas Shortage
But Italy’s commitment to its Western allies on its China and Russia policy may be difficult because, as Arturo Varvelli, an Italian political scientist notes, the country has limited access to gas from Libya and Algeria, leaving it dependent on Russia’s gas exports.
With the strength of the Sino-Russian alliance considered, Meloni’s pledge to align with the pro-American and pro-European Sino-Russian counteraction policy, may take the heat as Europe’s gas crisis is projected to deepen over the winter. Meanwhile, CBS reported that OPEC and Russia slashed oil production will boost oil prices.
As Russia and Iran have signaled increasing cooperation over oil and gas exports, Italy could face geopolitical pressure if the new government repeats previous governments’ relaxed stance on either regime. If Italy is to maintain its overall fresh Pro-American and Pro-European aligned foreign policy, then the new coalition will need to establish a Western-aligned policy on the Russia gas exporters.