Berlusconi suggests how to end Ukraine conflict
Western nations should stop supplying Ukraine with weapons if they want a peaceful solution to the conflict between Kiev and Moscow, Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has said.
He told journalist Bruno Vespa over the weekend that the prospect of receiving no military aid but a large reconstruction fund could convince Kiev to agree to talks with Moscow.
According to Berlusconi, Zelensky would only agree to any sort of a deal with Moscow "if Ukraine realizes at some point that it can no longer count on weapons and aid" at the same time. Instead, the West could offer Kiev "hundreds of billions of dollars for reconstruction" as a stimulus to enter the negotiations, the politician added.
The 86-year-old former prime minister, who now leads the Forza Italia party, also believes Ukraine should recognize Crimea as a Russian territory, according to La Repubblica newspaper, which published excerpts from his interview with Vespa. A new referendum that would involve Western observers should also be held in Donbass to determine its fate, he added.
The former premier went on to call Russian President Vladimir Putin "a man of peace." Berlusconi admitted he tried to reach out to Putin when the conflict between Moscow and Kiev broke out in late February but could not contact him by phone.
Berlusconi's words have sparked an angry reaction from Italian politicians. Former Italian economy minister Carlo Calenda was quick to accuse Berlusconi of spreading "propaganda for Putin regardless of the consequences." He also claimed that any coalition government is doomed if it cannot agree on a common foreign policy line. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is now part of a government coalition together with Giorgia Meloni’s Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, and Matteo Salvini’s League party.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lia Quartapelle blasted Berlusconi’s proposal as "a recipe… for surrender." She said Berlusconi himself will be a "big problem" for Meloni, who recently took over as Italy’s prime minister.
Berlusconi has already faced criticism after saying he received 20 bottles of vodka from Putin as a birthday gift. According to Der Spiegel, the "gift" may have been an EU sanctions violation. The magazine cited an EU Commission secretary, who pointed to the April 2022 ban on goods imports from Russia to the EU, including spirits.
In his interview with Vespa, Berlusconi commented on the controversy by saying that everyone "understood that he was joking" at that time.