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27 Jun, 2022 14:30

If Ukraine loses, democracy loses – Italian PM

Amid discontent at home, Mario Draghi declared that “Putin must not win”
If Ukraine loses, democracy loses – Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi declared on Monday that Western support for Ukraine must continue, and that democracy itself would be imperiled if Kiev’s forces lose to Russia. 

He didn't explain how his assertion tallies with the fact that the Ukrainian government has banned the country's main opposition party, along with ten others, and had its leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, arrested. Even the US government funded Freedom House pressure group only rates Ukraine as partly free.

“If Ukraine loses, it will be more difficult to maintain that democracy is an effective model of government,” Draghi stated during a virtual meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in Germany.

Meanwhile the Italian public opposes sending weapons to Ukraine, and views its policies and those of the West as an obstacle to peace.

Thanking Zelensky for his “exceptional welcome” in Kiev earlier this month, Draghi said that “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin must not win,” and that the G7 nations would “remain united in support of Ukraine.”

Draghi’s declaration mirrors the official policy of the G7 leaders. In an upcoming joint statement, the leaders promise to “provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” The heads of state added that it would be up to Ukraine to decide when to pursue peace with Russia, and until that moment comes, weapons shipments to Kiev and economic sanctions on Moscow will continue.

Russia has warned the US, the EU and their allies against providing Ukraine with weapons, saying that doing so will only prolong the conflict.

Draghi has pledged his support to Ukraine’s bid for EU membership, and told Italy’s parliament last week that his government intends to keep arming Kiev. According to the pro-Ukraine Center for European Policy Analysis, Rome is thought to have sent €150 million ($158 million) worth of heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons already.

This support for Ukraine’s military has come at a price for Draghi. The Five Star Movement, a coalition partner in Draghi’s government, has split over the PM’s Ukraine policy, with party leader and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte opposing the armament of Ukraine and a domestic hike in military spending, and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio taking dozens of MPs to form a new party loyal to Draghi.

Recent polling shows around 45-50% of Italians oppose sending weapons to Ukraine, with 67% naming the rising cost of living and higher energy prices as their biggest concern stemming from the conflict. Furthermore, while 39% of Italians told YouGov pollsters that they view Russia as “the biggest obstacle to peace between Russia and Ukraine,” 35% named Ukraine and its Western allies as the biggest impediment to peace. This latter figure was the largest in any European country surveyed.