US, Italy united on Ukraine, with slightly different tones

US, Italy united on Ukraine, with slightly different tones

Milan: Italian Premier Mario Draghi meets with US President Joe Biden this week in Washington as Europe faces another whatever it takes moment with Russia's war in Ukraine raging on its eastern flank.

Both Rome and Washington will emphasise their historic friendship and shared desire to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's two-month-old invasion when the leaders meet on Tuesday. Energy, climate change and promoting global economic prosperity also are on the agenda.

Still, there are differences in tone over the war, and public sentiment in Italy against sending arms to Ukraine is growing.

Draghi is pushing for even a limited truce to allow talks to resume, mindful also of the impact on Italy should the war spill over Ukraine's borders.

Statements by Biden and his emissaries have been more aggressive, suggesting both regime change and the goal of weakening Russia.

These differences reflect not only Italy's geographic closeness to the fighting, but also its historic political and economic ties with Russia.

Italy gets 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia, and economic trade last year amounted to 20 billion euros.

There are two currents regarding Russia," Sergio Romano, a Cold War-era Italian ambassador to Moscow, told The Associated Press.

There is the position of the countries that see in the war in Ukraine the possibility, or the hope, of the diminishment of Russian power. I think this current is strong in the US.

I don't think this is the position of the Italian government, which in the past has had cordial and positive relations with Russia."

Draghi, a former central banker skilled at measuring his words, is one of the only European Union leaders to visit Washington since the war broke out, and can be expected to represent not only Italy's perspective, but also that of Europe.

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