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Berlusconi and Putin fiddle while Rome does burn. PDF Print E-mail
Oct 10, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Good buddies!
Corriere della Sera is Italy's major newspaper and to my mind the country's most objective newspaper. Being an Italian newspaper, it does, of course, do things quite differently from the kind of Anglo-Saxon journalism which I prefer. But most observers would give it relatively high marks in a context where objectivity is often in short supply. So last Friday's lead editorial was quite significant.

Signed by one of the paper's best known international commentators, Franco Venturini, someone I have known for decades, it strongly criticized Silvio Berlusconi for one of his latest controversial escapades: leaving the country in the midst of this country's ongoing economic/financial crisis and the political infighting that has reached new heights (or, if you prefer, new lows) to fly to Moscow for Russian president Vladimir Putin's 59th birthday party.

Venturini attributes Berlusconi's Russia trip not to the Italian leader's interest in new diplomatic moves but in general weariness with things Italian and a desire to take a break from the difficult Italian financial situation and his growing number of domestic critics. Indeed, on the eve of his trip, in a video in which he tries to convince Italians that after him, le deluge, Berlusconi says that heading the Italian government has become a real "burden" for him, a huge personal sacrifice, that he'd love to free himself from if only the country didn't need him so much etc. etc. etc.

It really would be interesting to know just what the majority of Italians now think, but we do know that members of his own party - (the one he recently joked should be renamed "Go Pussy", as in the female sex organ) - are getting restive and over the last few days a small group of former supporters hs started asking him "to take a step backwards", a polite Italian way of saying he should resign.

Venturini, at any rate, has no problem in expressing his (and Corriere's) opinion that when it comes to foreign policy, Berlusconi is not doing much for his countrymen. He has left the sticky Libyan situation to be managed by French president Sarkozy and British prime minister, David Cameron. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are the activists in the search for a Eurobond solution. Berlusconi is not doing or saying anything helpful with regard to the Middle East. He has put off a top bilateral meeting with Serbian leaders several times. And he clearly went to Moscow either to have fun or to have his ego stroked (Putin in the only major world leader who says good things publically about Belusconi) and not, as might have been the case for someone else, to chastise the Russian for making it clear that his return to the Russian Presidency next year after a four-year hiatus, is somehow a foregone conclusion (there is supposed to be an election)), nor to challenge him on his recent veto in the UN security council against Syria sanctions.

Venturini is worried, too, that at the next EU or G20 meetings, Berlusconi will once again devote his public speaking time not to addressing serious problems but to declaring himself a victim of Italy's magistrates as he did to the great embarrassment of many people here, at Deauville earlier this year. "Such behaviour, Mr. Prime Minister, would not only damage our foreign policy", he wrote. It would further reduce the credibility which we so dearly need to support the euro and keep Italy from becoming another Greece. Unless, that is, Italy is planning to join the ruble area."

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