December 6, 2022

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'Cause for concern': Italy's Meloni holds a mirror in front of Trump's Republican Party

‘Cause for concern’: Italy’s Meloni holds a mirror in front of Trump’s Republican Party

As Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy opens divisions among US conservatives over continued aid to Ukraine, with the former president signaling his desire to stop funding Kyiv, Meloni’s GOP boost risks pitting the party’s MAGA wing against more institutional voices who want to continue helping Ukraine. . Some Meloni’s coalition partners have allied with Vladimir Putin in the past and, more recently, refused to condemn his brutal invasion.

But if Republican lawmakers are concerned about an alliance with a future prime minister who has said immigration “deprives nations and people of their identity” – while opposing Italy’s new mosques – they are not showing it.

“Global elites are crying in granola over the election of yet another conservative populist,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who praised Meloni’s “amazing” victory speech. “And all over the world, we are witnessing battles between the socialist left – arrogant elites who want to control people’s lives – and the populist uprising that is pressuring them.”

Cruz then illustrated the difficult line that conservatives loyal to Meloney must walk by emphasizing the importance of Western unity in cutting off Russian energy sources. With winter fast approaching and fuel prices skyrocketing across Europe, keeping Italy and other countries on board may not be easy.

Meloni, 45, has sought to moderate her views recently, and this week she is Tweet support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. However, as Europe teeters on the brink of a recession caused at least in part by energy sanctions against Russia, there are concerns Inside the Biden administration And in other places Meloni could cut him off from what was an important Italian contribution to Ukraine’s defense.

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Such a move could have a domino effect and prompt key Western allies for a negotiated end to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Trump endorsed that position on Wednesday, strongly opposed by Ukraine’s leaders because it would likely require giving up large parts of their territory to Putin.

“Like anything with a new administration, you have to see how they act, not what they say,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (DNJ), who recently traveled to Italy for an economic conference. You can be conservative in your own country but not necessarily implement a conservative foreign policy. If it were to implement the equivalent of Trump’s foreign policy, that would be cause for concern.”

The pandemic briefly halted the rise of far-right parties across Europe, including Italy, making Meloni’s victory the strongest evidence in years that populist movements across the continent – many allied with Trump – are still alive and well. These same populist parties are strengthening their ties with like-minded politicians across the Atlantic.

That explains at least in part Meloni’s celebrity status for some Republicans who watched her embrace of traditional values ​​and family-oriented social conservatism drive the messages of her previous campaign. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mis.), who favors what he calls the “nationalist” approach of Trump and other conservative foreign leaders, said in a short interview that he had read her recent speeches and found them “very exciting.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who often aligns with Trump’s GOP wing on foreign policy, said Meloni’s victory speech at the weekend “made me encouraged.”

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“For me, it was encouraging,” Paul added. “I think people may have treated her unfairly. For goodness sake, calling a woman Mussolini is a bit exaggerated.”

Some loyal Trump allies in Congress, such as Representative Lauren Poubert (R-Colo) and Marjorie Taylor-Green (R-Ga), also welcomed Meloni’s victory. Others, such as Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, simply offered their congratulations.

Republicans in the public establishment aren’t saying much – yet – but there are particular concerns that Meloni’s victory may encourage more fellow Trump supporters to push to cut funding to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Democrats had mixed opinions. Meloni reassured them when she tweeted her pledge to continue “Italy’s sincere support for the cause of freedom of the Ukrainian people.” But they vowed to remain candid about the new prime minister’s reaction to economic headwinds on the horizon this winter as efforts to isolate Putin economically and diplomatically continue.

Financial pressures on European governments have given oxygen to populist politicians who are likely to redirect Ukrainian money to domestic causes — an acute concern of the Biden administration as it works to keep the Western alliance intact.

Some Democrats are more optimistic than others about Meloni.

“Until recently, the idea that a party with its roots in post-World War II neo-fascism would lead the government in Italy was out of the question,” said Senator Chris Coons (Democrat). “But I don’t think it’s a disaster for the EU or NATO alliances that were predicted in some places.”

While Meloni has sought to reassure strained allies, her record – and her pro-Trump alliance in the US – underscores her potential willingness to reconsider Italy’s strong support for Ukraine. Some in Washington also fear it may take the more authoritarian path of other far-right leaders in Europe, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

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Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Biden administration should have “reason to be concerned about the Italian government’s seriousness in advancing Russian policy,” especially given Meloni’s alliance with Trump allies.

Then again, Murphy was equally skeptical about the United States retaining its level of support for Ukraine if Republicans took control of one or both houses of Congress in November, given Trump’s influence and his efforts to defeat previous Ukrainian aid packages.