Today, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio brought the division between the Western and Eastern NATO flanks wide into the open. As per TASS, Luigi Di Maio said Italy would oppose NATO’s military involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
According to the politician, the intervention of the North Atlantic Alliance will lead to a world war. The head of the Italian Foreign Ministry added that a world war was already underway, “but not militarily.”
The comment comes in the backdrop of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia actively transferring offensive weapons to Ukraine, including an S-300 surface to air missile system, battle tanks and other dated offensive systems worth millions of dollars.
Moscow has repeatedly stated that the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine only prolongs the conflict, and the transport of weapons becomes a legitimate target.
Russia promptly destroyed the S-300 system delivered to Kyiv. “On Sunday, 10th April, Kalibr high-precision sea-based missiles on the southern outskirts of the city of Dnepropetrovsk destroyed equipment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile division, which was delivered to the Kyiv regime of one of the European countries, hidden in the hangar. Four S-300 launchers and up to 25 personnel of the Ukrainian armed forces,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
A militant Eastern NATO flank
Since the beginning of the Russian special operations in Ukraine, the new entrants into NATO, the former Soviet republics and allies, have spearheaded NATO’s response against Russia. Poland even initiated a peacekeeping proposal inside Ukraine, to which Russia responded by saying that Poland wanted to annex Western Ukraine.
The Slovak Ministry of Defense said the country is considering selling Zuzana 2 howitzers and the supply of MiG-29 fighters from the Slovak Air Force. Negotiations are already underway with Ukraine.
A pragmatic Western flank
While the Eastern Flank is pushing offensive and heavy military wares into Ukraine, the original Western Flank NATO countries, mainly Germany and Italy, are content with economic sanctions and supplying defensive weapons like anti-tank and aircraft missiles.
The rift between NATO’s Eastern and Western flank?
The U.S. and the U.K are more engaged with the Eastern flank countries than the Western partners in military aspects. However, this risks the western flank being sucked into a war if Russia decides to strike the supply lines on the eastern side, especially Poland.
The Western flank is not about to support the eastern adventurism yet.
On 7th April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, after participating in the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, said that North Atlantic Alliance “as an organization” does not yet plan to supply weapons to Ukraine to protect against a Russian invasion.
“I am cautiously optimistic about supplies from some allies, but I am not optimistic that NATO as a whole will supply Ukraine with the necessary weapons for the foreseeable future,” he said.
According to media reports, faced with the prospect of a long and tedious war in Ukraine, NATO Allies are divided on how best to proceed in the next phase.
Encourage but not participate
Kuleba said that NATO, as an institution, encourages allies who want to help to help Ukraine.
“This is how it works now. And NATO serves as a platform for discussing such things,” the minister said.
Although, he did not mention if all the allies were on the same page, especially Germany, Italy and France. The U.S. calls the shots, and along with the U.K, it is the only nation that has said in open that it would support any NATO country which wants to deal with Ukraine individually. It is not yet clear if the U.S. or NATO will support the initiative.
Exhausting sanctions, will the Western flank join the east in heavy weapons supply?
While Italy is sure that it will not participate with NATO militarily, Germany appears to be softening its stand on supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine.
“It is clear that Ukraine still needs military materials, including heavy weapons. And now is not the time for excuses, now is the time for creativity and pragmatism, and it is a question of how to provide materials and prepare the military as soon as possible,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbok before a meeting of the EU Council on Monday.
On Sunday, Ukraine said that the German armoured vehicles manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) had offered to sell 100 Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers or PzH 2000. Bundeswehr will provide Kyiv with the howitzers, writes the German edition of Welt.
Italy and Poland present two ends of the NATO spectrum during the current crisis. While Italy debates the merits and demerits of engaging the Russians in a military sphere, Poland is ready to put the boots on the ground.
The U.S. and the west seemed to have sanctioned Russia on most aspects except energy without tangible results. Will it result in the western flank finally catching up to the eastern flank on military involvement is to be seen as Russia seems to have dug in to provide NATO with the opportunity in coming months.