“A foreign policy first”

Interview with gen. Camporini, Italy's former Chief of Staff. The role of Moscow, the EU army, Isis, the nuclear threat...

“The army is a tool of defence and foreign policy. The European Union today lacks a converging foreign policy and thus the possibility of common armed forces is not on the horizon”. Gen. Vincenzo Camporini is, by his own admission, a “staunch federalist,” a pro-European in the round. But, building on his long military experience, he is not optimistic about of the creation of a European scale defence force, despite the threats at internal and external level … Our talk with the general – in service from 1965 to 2011, until he became chief of staff of the Air Force and then Chief of Staff of the Italian Defence – starts with the mobilization of Finnish reservists, before moving to Russia, the Middle East and nuclear armament. Camporini has developed among other things extensive experience within the Atlantic Alliance. Gianni Borsa interviewed him for SIR Europe. Finland sent a letter to its 900 thousand reservists (out of a population of 5 million inhabitants), reminding them of the duty – if it were needed – of immediate mobilization. Does the ‘”Russian bear” return to represent a threat to Helsinki? “In Finland it a fairly routine practice, given its small army, which however counts on an broad spectrum of reservists. However, I would exclude that this is related to an immediate military threat. Relations between Moscow and Helsinki are historically quite complex. If anything, I think it is a further sign of the tensions between east and west: the situation in Ukraine is the most obvious example”. For some time Baltic and Scandinavian countries have been detecting close pressure… “The recent developments in east Ukraine are a cause of concern. It is necessary to remember that in some EU countries, such as Estonia and Latvia, there are consistent Russian-speaking minorities whose rights wane day after day, notwithstanding the Copenhagen criteria. This could weaken the sense of belonging to the Countries in which they reside. For the time being, these minorities have no intention to return to ‘Mother Russia’ because economic and social standards here are rather low. But…” The three Baltic Republics are NATO member countries and thus they enjoy solidarity protection enshrined in the Treaty of the Atlantic Alliance in case of external attack. But for Finland, that is not a signatory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, this lifesaver does not exist. “It’s true, and it’s equally true that Finland, a neutral country, has made decisive steps by joining the European Union and establishing cooperation with the Atlantic Alliance. Any formal accession to NATO would create tensions with Moscow, without reaching the point of an armed threat. Moreover, another issue deserves reflection: Russia is an international player and therefore the relations of the EU and of NATO itself with Moscow should be read in this light. Think of its weight in Eastern Europe, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. It is necessary to try and maintain a partnership with Moscow”. General, exactly a year ago US President Barack Obama advocated the possibility of European rearmament. What point are we at? And what’s your opinion? “First of all, it should be said that in September 2014, during the Summit in Cardiff, the Heads of Government and State of NATO countries, agreed that in the coming decade they would make investments in the area of defence up to 2% of GDP, a threshold deemed appropriate for the needs of this sector. On the other hand, it should be remembered that until recently there was the tendency to diminish military investments across all of Europe, including the most equipped Countries, United Kingdom and France. But in the last period, perhaps as a result of the situation at international level, of Ukraine, ISIS, and owing to a resurgence of acts of terrorism, the general attitude has changed starting precisely from London, Paris, and in the Germany led by Chancellor Merkel. It could be said that in technical terms the military capacities of Community Europe as a whole are not up to contemporary challenges”. Common defence is an item of debate in Brussels. Will there be an agreement over a European army? “In my opinion today the preliminary political conditions are lacking. The EU is lacking an authentic foreign policy, which is the first step towards a common defence”. Which are the “hot” fronts that worry you the most? “The entire Middle East is in a turmoil, as well as a large part of Africa. Ukraine is closer to us, along with Georgia, Azerbaijan, not to mention the Far East, where China is developing the awareness of its strength. I’m afraid that someone could get hurt sooner or later”. Discussions are currently under way regarding the revision of the Treaty for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Is atomic energy a real threat today? “First of all we should hope that the agreement with Iran would proceed. But if in the near future Teheran should fail to respect the agreements, and develop nuclear weapons, it would in all likelihood cause the purchase of nuclear weapons also by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. Until today the atomic bomb acted as a deterrent, but what would happen once nuclear arms were in the hands of four or five world powers, for which the respect for human life, has “waned”?

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