AC: let's talk about row between new Italian PM Meloni and French president Macron. The video is actually several years old but it just went viral. It's basically Meloni slamming Macron, France's neoliberal, imperialist agenda vis-a-vis Africa and she brought up Burkina Faso, which is probably why this video suddenly went viral.It shows several things: that Meloni never liked Macron and obviously still doesn't; and she pretty much echoed everything Putin has been saying wrt neoliberalism, globalism, imperialism; and echoed what he's been saying over the years about needing to treat other countries as equals and to do business with them, and allow them to use their natural resources to build up their countries and prosper so we can speak to each other on equal terms instead of as a colonizer and colony. I found it interesting she was channeling Putin though I doubt she realizes that, and wonder whether now that she's PM she would say the same things because she's spoken very favorably of NATO, definitely on record that she is part of the NATO-Atlanticist architecture.
AM: the video was pretty visceral. She came across as angry, passionate, emotional, sincere; I've listened to her talking about Ukraine and NATO etc and don't feel she brings the same energy to those topics.
What is driving Meloni? There's a widespread sense in Italy that you get refugee movements from around the world, organized to a great extent by traffickers; the refugees are then placed on ships run by various well-meaning and not so well-meaning NGOs and those ships turn up in Italy. It has effectively become the place where a lot of
these migrant flows go. And Meloni has said this can't go on, we're not accepting it any longer; and she's managed over the past couple of days to get one of those ships moved to France instead and renewed her criticism and anger toward Macron.
I think these are two big events, Meloni putting her foot down, saying they're not willing to act as the gateway to these huge migrant flows when it means a disproportionate number of them stay in Italy; and
secondly, she clearly has no time for Macron at all. Remember that when Draghi was PM, he and Macron were working together all the time within the EU.
As far as Putin and Ukraine, I'm not sure she cares about them in the way she cares about immigration to Italy or the degradation of Italy's economy that has taken place over the past 40 years. Whether she understands that in order to turn that around she has to change her posture wrt Putin, Ukraine, etc., I don't know. But the fact she's taken this very strong stance against Macron in the earliest days of being PM suggests she may eventually.
AC: Macron and Trudeau are the poster boys for globalism. So maybe she's playing a domestic political angle by going after Macron so hard?
AM: of course she is. If you know anything at all about politics in Italy, you know there's a huge groundswell there that rejects globalization. It's becoming increasingly hostile to being a member of
the EU from it once having been one of the most fervid members. But this is because Italy has been hollowed out and kept in stagnation for so long, so Meloni comes along and says I'm going to reverse this. She speaks Italian with a working class accent from Rome so she connects with working people. If she's serious about these things and really connecting with her base, she needs to continue along this path. European leadership will not be pleased about this row.
AC: Sunak, if he just had courage to roll back the sanctions and extract the UK from the Ukraine project, the UK could be saved. But I listen to him and know he doesn't have the strength to do it. Meloni is different. I understand the geopolitics, that the US is not going to allow Italy to stray one inch toward Russia, China, BRICS, whatever. Greece is pretty much in the same boat. But Meloni is clever enough to stay in the good graces of NATO and the US while at the same time extracting Italy from project Ukraine. Maybe not but she definitely comes off different from the Sunaks of the world.
AM: I agree up to a point. She's the first politician I've seen who in her language reminds me of the early Margaret Thatcher, late 1970s and early 1980s. Thatcher had that sort of fire and resolve, she wasn't going to allow Britain to continue to decline, was determined to address its major structural problems, prepared to take strong positions on international questions. Meloni reminds me more of Thatcher than any other Western leader. Perhaps she does have that fire and determination and that sense of guile - Thatcher was a very wily, cunning politician. We'll have to see. Thatcher claimed to be the Iron Lady with the strong anti-Soviet position while she was actually
pursuing a rapprochement with the Russians.
Your point about Sunak being weak was just made by Nick Timothy, a prominent Conservative who once worked for Teresa May and apparently long ago for Thatcher as well. He made a point about
Sunak running a weak government and contrasted it with the strong government Thatcher had, that determination and resolve to see things done. Sunak leads a very technocratic government and he's comfortable with this; there's been rumors he wants to arrange for Britain to re-enter the European single market in the way that Switzerland is part of it. He's not prepared Thatcher-style to smash the furniture, create a row, say things directly and straightforwardly, communicate with his own base in the way Thatcher could.
It's early days and we don't know if Meloni will continue in the way she started or how solid her coalition actually is. Thatcher led a single party, the Conservatives; Meloni leads a coalition.
AC: what does Macron do and say about this?
AM: IMO he's very angry because he's relied on Italy to give him weight within the European Council. Plus we must never forget his
extraordinary vanity. He doesn't like criticism so he's going to hate Meloni.
What he's going to do is a good question. His position in France is weakened, he doesn't control the National Assembly, his government looks increasingly fractured. There's talk the energy system in France is in a very bad way and of course so is the economy. He's increasingly looking isolated. From what we know of Macron, he's not going to think about the situation in France or Europe, he's going to try some big diplomatic foreign policy initiative. Maybe resurrect his European army idea or try to maneuver himself as some kind of negotiator on Ukraine, I don't know.
Whatever he does, I think he's in danger of becoming irrelevant. Without the support of Italy, what real allies does he have in Europe anymore?
AC: the Germans?
AM: It seems that Scholz and Macron don't like each other. Scholz finds Macron patronizing and difficult. I don't think Baerbock and Harbeck are sympathetic to Macron. I think they're rigid Atlanticists and their allies aren't in Paris, they're in Washington, the neocons. So that's the axis Macron is up against, neocon cum Green cum globalist axis that takes in Britain at the moment.
He's also losing relevance in France where the Ukraine strategy is increasingly being criticized, even by mainstream politicians. There was a very prominent French businessman who actually came back from India and the Middle East and said, what we say about Ukraine here in France is not what people in India and the Middle East are saying.
There they blame us for everything whereas we want to blame Russia all the time. So perhaps Macron a fading figure and Meloni a rising one.