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Cable sobre el "pistolero" Berlusconi

En 2008, el embajador en Roma informa al vicepresidente Dick Cheney de la poca fiabilidad de 'Il Cavaliere' como socio político

ID: 179002
Date: 2008-11-19 10:33:00
Origin: 08ROME1406
Source: Embassy Rome
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 08ROME1320 08ROME1386
Destination: VZCZCXRO4559
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ROME 001406

SIPDIS

FROM THE AMBASSADOR TO THE SECRETARY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2018
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, NATO, IT
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR YOUR DECEMBER 3 VISIT TO ROME

REF: A) ROME 1386 B) ROME 1320

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Classified By: Ambassador Ronald P. Spogli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. 1. (C) Summary. The political conditions in
Italy are dramatically different from the conditions that
existed when you last visited in July 2006. Silvio
Berlusconi has returned to power after two years of a divided
and ineffectual Prodi government. Berlusconi enjoys
unparalleled levels of public support and his broad base of
power has allowed us to make good progress in advancing our
agenda, including successfully pressing for significant
reductions on caveats imposed on Italian troops in
Afghanistan by the previous government and approval of a
major and crucial base
expansion at Vicenza. During your visit, I hope you can
publicly announce the establishment of AFRICOM,s Army and
Navy subcomponent commands in Italy, an important symbol of
the strength of our close bilateral security relationship.

2. (C) Our reenergized cooperation with Berlusconi, however,
does not extend to all issues. Berlusconi's close, personal
relationship with Putin has translated into Italian support
for nearly every Russian initiative intended to weaken
transatlantic support for NATO expansion and our efforts to
curb the Kremlin's worst instincts. On Iran, after a period
of Italian support for U.S. and EU efforts to resolve the
nuclear issue, Italy's policy has become unfocused and even
critical of the international process. I hope you can let
Berlusconi know that Italy's renegade initiatives to soften
international and transatlantic positions on Russia and Iran
can only serve to create confusion and reduce collective
security. On the economic front, Italy's banks have avoided
the worst of the financial meltdown, but the broader economy
will suffer from the ensuing global economic slow-down. End
Summary.

Domestic Politics: Berlusconi Firmly in Control
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3. (C) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in an enviable
position domestically, enjoying so comfortable a majority in
Parliament that he can pass virtually any legislation without
the support of the opposition. He used his first months back
in government to deliver results on election promises, though
long-term solutions to most problems are still needed. The
trash problem in Naples is not yet permanently solved, but
the streets are cleared and troops are keeping dumps and
incinerators open. Public worries about street crime have
been addressed by a sweeping new security law. A public
finance law has overhauled the annual budget process, which
traditionally has eaten up months of Parliament's time, but
Italy's faltering economy casts doubt on whether budget
targets will be met. Berlusconi's government drafted and
passed these laws mostly without consulting the center-left
opposition, which has grown more fragmented and less
effective. Most foreign policy initiatives will be directed
by Berlusconi personally without the need of any legislation.

4. (C) Berlusconi has made a few missteps, such as his
awkward attempt at a joke, in referring to President-Elect
Obama as "suntanned", and center-left contacts argue that the
honeymoon period may end soon. Clearly Berlusconi's current
level of popularity is unsustainable over the long run, but
predictions that the wind is changing already are premature.
The center right's first major electoral test will be the
European elections in June, which will be a critical moment
for the center left to evaluate whether it needs new
leadership and for the center right to see if it continues to
enjoy such high levels of approval from the Italian people.

Transatlantic Relationship: All Russia All the Time
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5. (C) Berlusconi's close personal (and, some suspect,
financial) relationship with Putin has led him to champion
unquestioningly every initiative the Kremlin has rolled out.
Italy's Russia policy is his personal game, one which he
conducts on a tactical basis to gain the trust and favor of
his Russian interlocutors. He consistently rejects the
strategic advice of his demoralized, resource-starved, and
increasingly irrelevant Foreign Ministry in favor of his
business cronies, many of whom are deeply dug into Russia's

ROME 00001406 002.2 OF 003


European energy strategy. As a result of his short-sighted
obsession with Russia, Berlusconi has thrown his support
behind Medvedev's calls for a new security architecture in
Europe to supersede NATO and OSCE, has publicly called for
Ukrainian and Georgian NATO aspirations to be put on hold in
deference to Russian sensitivities, has called on
President-Elect Obama to withdraw support for Missile
Defense, and continues to insist that Russia acted properly
during the Georgia-Russia conflict. He has even called on
the EU to admit Russia as a member. Most disturbingly,
Berlusconi has attempted to portray himself inside the EU as
the bridge between the U.S. and Russia. In practice, this
has meant that the GOI has consistently worked to water down
EU stances on Russia, and tried to derail U.S.-led efforts to
contain Moscow's worst instincts. His efforts to encourage
greater "dialogue" have created more confusion between
Russia and the transatlantic community, not less. We have
pushed back forcefully on this (ref a) but you can provide a
sense of realism to Berlusconi by letting him know that his
efforts are working against U.S. and transatlantic efforts.


Muddying the Waters on Iran
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6. (C) Berlusconi came into power with a tough public stance
on Iran and showed himself eager to support the P5-plus-1.
This initial clarity has given way to an unfocused, even
critical policy with respect to building international
consensus for further sanctions. FM Frattini recently
questioned the efficacy of the P5 1 approach in public
comments, and reached out to Iran,s nuclear negotiator,
Saeed Jalili, to invite him to Rome for consultations. Even
while working within the EU framework to discuss further
national measures, working-level GOI officials continue to
question the efficacy of further sanctions.

Economic Crisis: Banks OK, but economy suffers
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7. (C) Stodgy, old fashioned banking practices allowed Italy
to avoid being directly hit by the global financial
melt-down. Italian banks simply did not engage in the kind
of sub-prime lending that got others in trouble, and Italian
banks did not buy significant amounts of the toxic
derivatives that are causing so much trouble around the
globe. But Italy is being affected by the results of the
financial crisis: Italian stock prices have plummeted,
stirring fears of possible foreign buy-outs of Italian firms,
and Italy's already shaky economy will be hard-hit by the
global recession that was sparked by the financial crisis.
As for Italy's preferred response to the crisis, the Italians
seem to be following Sarkozy's lead, and seem to share his
enthusiasm for major reform of the international finance
institutions. As is the case in many other countries, Italy
is also looking at the possibility of government support for
industries hurt by the recession.

8. (C) Italy's Finance Minister, Giulio Tremonti, often
supports protectionist, anti-globalization positions, but in
the ongoing discussion of the financial crisis we expect
Italy to adhere to the more moderate consensus policies
hammered out by the EU.

Little Room for Expanding Presence in Afghanistan
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9. (C) Italy is the sixth-largest contributor to ISAF with
2,200 troops, a PRT in Herat, and command of RC-West.
Berlusconi has made good on his pledge to President Bush last
June to remove geographic caveats and send 34 Carabinieri to
train Afghan police, and he has promised to address
allegations of Italian protection payments to insurgent
leaders. Additionally, FM Frattini has announced his
intention to host a G8 Ministerial on Afghanistan with a
special focus on providing a regional solution to the
Afghan-Pakistan border region. But the Italians now say that
new troop deployments above the Parliamentary-approved cap of
2,300 troops will be impossible for budgetary reasons, and
that its only new contribution to ISAF this fall will be in
the form of four Tornado jet fighters. Italy has also been
cool toward our requests to provide donor support to ANA
expansion and election preparation, citing budgetary

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concerns. You should stress that Italy's decision to reduce
defense expenditures (which will put them even further below
the NATO-recommended threshold of 1% of GDP) is of major
concern to us, and it risks making Italy a less reliable
partner in international security operations, just at a point
when the need for greater contributions from partners may
grow in Afghanistan.

Rolling out AFRICOM
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10. (C) Your visit will provide an opportunity to highlight
our cooperation on Africa through Italy's hosting of portions
of AFRICOM. GOI officials were initially hesitant to sign
off, due to concerns over how and under what circumstances
U.S. forces in Italy might deploy to potential conflict zones
in Africa. The GoI eventually agreed to the establishment of
AFRICOM's Army and Navy subcomponent commands in existing
facilities in Italy on October 1, but asked us to delay
announcing the move (ref b). The South East Europe Task
Force (SETAF) in Vicenza has assumed the Army component
functions and a component of NAVEUR in Naples is now
fulfilling the naval functions. Italian concerns focused on
SETAF and hinged on two issues -- one legal and the other
local and political. The classified 1954 Bilateral
Infrastructure Agreement (BIA) limits U.S. basing in Italy
exclusively to troops deployed for NATO purposes. After long
negotiations, the GOI accepted our broad interpretation of
the BIA and the NATO SOFA as applicable to the AFRICOM
subcomponents due to their role in supporting NATO Operations
in Africa and their availability for other NATO missions as
required. But the GOI asked for us to delay public
announcement of the shift due to local controversy over the
expansion of the base in Vicenza to the Dal Molin airfield.

11. (C) The GOI responded positively to our proposal for a
joint announcement of the shift during your visit to Italy.
A joint statement acknowledging the establishment of the two
entities would allow us to highlight the security assistance
and humanitarian aspects of AFRICOM's mission and also
divorce the issue as much as possible from base expansion
controversy in Vicenza. It will also provide an opportunity
to showcase the synergies between AFRICOM and the GOI's own
efforts to encourage stability in Africa and also their
excellent work at training primarily African peacekeepers
through its Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units
(COESPU), a joint U.S.-Italian G8 initiative which is also
located in Vicenza.

When Will the Honeymoon End?
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12. (C) Most of our contacts within Berlusconi's own party as
well as in the center left expect this government's honeymoon
period to end in the first half of 2009, as Italians focus on
the nation's systemic problems that have no easy solution,
most importantly the economy. Democratic Party officials tell
us that they see the declining standard of living among the
middle class as the greatest opportunity to gain strength
before the European elections in June. Should the rescue
efforts for Alitalia remain unresolved in the face of
continued strikes or should the protests against education
reform gain traction with a broader segment of the
electorate, Berlusconi's popularity will suffer.

Conclusion
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13. (C) Berlusconi's shoot-from-the-hip style and frequent
gaffes frequently create bumps in the relationship with the
U.S. Nevertheless, he staunchly supports and admires the
U.S. and its people. Despite its economic malaise, Italy
remains a close and influential partner and will continue to
be an important ally for the U.S. in NATO, the region and the
world. Your visit will be an important sign of the strength
and closeness of the bilateral relationship and I am
delighted that you are taking the opportunity to visit Rome.
SPOGLI
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