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Trump's New 'Favorite': Why US-Italian Rapprochement Gets on France's Nerves

© REUTERS / Philippe WojazerFrench President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 15, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 15, 2018 - Sputnik International
Washington's rapprochement with Italy apparently gets on Paris's nerves, Dr. Germano Dottori, a professor of strategic studies at Luiss University in Rome, told Sputnik, adding that the new Italian government is reshuffling the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

The Franco-Italian row was prompted by a shift in Rome's foreign policy after the euroskeptics' win, Dr. Germano Dottori, a professor of strategic studies at Luiss University in Rome, opined, suggesting that Italy is emerging as Donald Trump's new favorite in Europe.

According to the academic, a new foreign strategy adopted by the Italian government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte contradicts Paris's interests. He recalled that at a recent G7 summit, Conte made a symbolic gesture by endorsing Donald Trump's idea of re-admitting Russia into the G7.

​"I agree with President [Trump]. Russia should be re-admitted into the G8. It is in the interests of everyone," Conte tweeted on June 8.

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"Rome's move has solved several problems," Dottori told Sputnik Italy. "First, by supporting Trump, Conte pointed out that the recent Italian initiatives with regard to Moscow do not undermine the [country's] alliance with NATO, but might facilitate the American president's dialogue with the Russians, regardless of the strong opposition of his internal opponents."

Second, such a "rethink of policy" by Italy prevented further rapprochement between French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump, which changed the balance of power and paved the way for the creation of a Rome-Washington "axis," the academic explained.

​"It should be noted that during his trip to Europe amid preparations for the Russian-American summit, which is due to take place on July 16, National Security Adviser John Bolton did not go to Paris, visiting Rome instead, where he met with the Prime Minister [Conte], Minister of Defense [Roberta Pinotti] and Minister of the Interior [Matteo Salvini]," Dottori highlighted.

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According to the academic, Bolton's beaming smile in his photos with Conte and the latter's invitation to Washington on July 30 indicate the growing sympathy between Rome and Washington.

Dottori underscored that the Elysee Palace seems to be aware of the potential consequences of Italy's maneuvers, which might spell an end to Macron's honeymoon with Washington, prompt a reassessment of Italy's role in the Mediterranean by the White House and probably lead to the US more actively supporting the country's economy.

Ahead of the EU summit, which took place on June 28-29, France and Italy exchanged tough messages over Rome's refusal to accept migrant rescue ships. Since the outset of the refugee crisis in 2015, Italian ports have served as an entry point for thousands of asylum seekers.

Although Macron has seemingly buried his differences with Conte on migration during the latest EU summit in Brussels, which paved the way for a preliminary compromise among the bloc's member states, he "went on and met secretly with Giuseppe Conte in Rome and paid an official visit to the Pope and the Community of St. Egidio," the academic noted.

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"There is a strong feeling that the French president is trying to use progressive Catholicism in the interests of Paris, focusing on the relations existing between the [Italian] prime minister and the Vatican in order to sow discord among political forces supporting [Conte] and 'tame' Italy," Dottori presumed.

However, according to the academic, Macron has not been satisfied by the results achieved with his "counteroffensive": "Paris tried to interpret the agreement reached in Brussels in its favor, but Conte rejected this vision, although the compromise did appear ambiguous and had many ambiguities."

Dottori suggested that the consequences of the French-Italian covert political struggle "could be felt" in Europe, Libya and Sahel. He did not rule out that Rome may try to penetrate into France's African "backyard" in order to contain the migration flow from the continent.  

"This is a red line for Paris, therefore Macron's nervousness is quite understandable," the Italian academic remarked.

The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Germano Dottori are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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