BRUSSELS, AUGUST 23 – Europe’s military maestros: Italy may not spend much on defense, but it’s nonetheless pulling a lot of the EU’s weight, the online magazine Politico said today in a feature article of its European edition.
“On the face of it, Italy is a woeful member of NATO, spending just 1.11 percent of GDP on defense — far below the alliance’s 2 percent benchmark. Only seven NATO countries spend less. But take a close look at the country’s contribution to European security and a rather different picture emerges”, said Politico, explaining that between January and June of this year, Italy’s coast guard rescued 21,540 migrants from 188 vessels, while the Italian Navy brought 3,344 migrants to safety and its financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, saved nearly 400.
“Add to that Italian troops serving on NATO and U.N. missions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, as well as the country’s participation in Operation Sophia, an EU naval mission that has rescued 5,676 migrants since the beginning of the year, and it becomes clear that Italy has become Europe’s policeman”, wrote Elisabeth Braw, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Human decency gives the Italians little choice in the Mediterranean, . but their troops participate in many other missions from which Italy could reasonably ask to be excused, Politico writes mentioning the total of 6,092 Italian troops serving on international missions in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. Some 600 Italians serve in Kosovo; another 1,100 in Lebanon. Italian troops are stationed in Libya and Somalia.
Counting Italian officers embedded with other countries’ armed forces, the figure exceeds 7,000, while this year, another 140 Italians deployed to Latvia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence initiative. With deployment rotations — each foreign deployment position is typically filled by four service members in rotation — that means more than 28,000 Italian troops are involved in international operations.
“It’s high time Italy’s allies — particularly in the EU — recognize the country’s contributions to regional security”, said Politico.
To read the full article, click here. (@OnuItalia)