If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change

(To Gino Lanzara)
17/06/19

We make a premise to remember: not frequently, but from time to time it is appropriate to cultivate a minimum of presumption that allows to deepen aspects that, for discomfort o intrinsic complexity advise against objectively abrasive analytical assessments due to unsafe or unprepared; often, just avoiding a cold bath of realism is only functional to the maintenance of easy status quo, completely useless for evaluations of real contingencies.

In the afternoon of the 11 June, a meeting was held at the ANSA Roman branch in Via della Dataria, promoted by Ce.SI, which aimed to revive and relaunch a think blue, a sort of search engine aimed at bringing to the fore the national maritime aspects, a topic already debated in May of the 2018 at the Naval Academy by the same actors present a year later.

The report, relaunched by various newspapers, correctly and succinctly reported what was said; pity though they stopped on that limes: it's true, hic sunt leones, but how to succeed in drawing inspiration and above all solutions without having the courage to go beyond the line of the safety?

It is true that in Italy there is a problem related to maritime life; whether it is an ignored aspect it is equally palmar. However, the question we should probably ask ourselves is another: you have the ability to seize the maritime moment understanding why? We are presumptuously sincere: no. Rereading the report from last year with a slightly more attentive and critical spirit, one could have come up with several ideas that probably would have confirmed the convictions of Tancredi, the grandson of the Prince of Salina: "..if we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change".

That the sea is fundamental for Italy and for its economy is made clear; that Italy does not understand it is equally so, despite the value of the goods / services produced by maritime activities, which together amount to around 2% of GDP. We commit the first sin of presumption: we must sometimes re-read the pages already written in order to be able to update and project the scope of the contents into the future. For some time now it has been - conceptually - deemed essential to reconstitute an ad hoc institution which, similar to the Secretariat of the French Sea, can reconstruct the parcelling out of competences subsequent to the end of the Merchant Marine Ministry; pity that, despite specifically addressed parliamentary initiatives, nothing has arrived at anything. Let us ask ourselves why, let us ask ourselves what may be the reasons why provocations conceptual generated by the debates, rarely follow actual consequences; probably, at least in this case, both technical, political and economic culture and, on the part of theapparatus Italian, the faculty to conceive the existence of a CANTONI more complex than every single aspect of the navalità military and of the maritime climate mercantile bringing it back to unity. Each element should be evaluated in its specific singularity to then be projected in its general context of belonging; shipownership, port facilities, logistics and economic resources management, security organization, all contribute to the definition of an extraordinarily complex unitary framework which, in any case, contributes to the realization of what is defined Country system. It is inevitable to doubt the comprehension of its importance, if it is true that the normative projects lie in various forgotten ones, and that the single components of the system often autonomously look for a political bank able to guarantee the satisfaction of their own peculiar needs.

Second sin of presumption: speaking only of ports and not of sea surface gives the impression that it is not possible to understand what is (or should be) the logistic and infrastructural network supporting the system, an aspect that, for a country completely immersed in the sea, constitutes an inevitable handicap.

Third sin (capital) of presumption: how can the Navy, Armed State Force and therefore its direct emanation, be allowed to be involved in political contextualizations that cannot and must not belong to them?

In summary: against the same actors, if there is no political sensitivity, a solid legal and geopolitical base, and if the provocations they have no effect, what will change, according to the Prince of Salina?

Being on the sea

Given that our country is not di sea ​​but on sea, and that the geoeconomics of maritime transport continues to play a vital role especially for those political subjects devoted to a transformative economy like ours, the relevance of the concept of the enlarged Mediterranean, the Navy's own principle, the Armed Forces stands out. naturally closer to and sensitive to national geostrategic developments, given its projection on three macro areas: maritime defense and security, international engagement and capacitive development. Given the slowness of the political response, the need for an institution that firmly regains control of the maritime cluster stands out even more, in synergy with the defense production sector, according to a clearly defined criterion for assigning roles: a Navy in possession of an efficient fleet is an expression of volatility, a highly useful character at a time when the predominantly Franco-German mainland can create difficulties for a legitimate Italian regional leadership.

In the economic and commercial context, therefore, once again there is a clear difficulty in reaching a cohesion and a unity of intent between public and private which, in terms of economic-commercial war, allow national objectives to be achieved by optimizing the resources available, bearing in mind that by now every single country is no longer dealing with a national economy, but with finance; the make system, invoked by Confitarma and Federpesca, representatives of economic sectors in crisis, cannot therefore be achieved without adequate prior preparation, that is, without long-term planning and preparation and at all levels as occurred in France according to the literature produced from Ecole de Guerre Economique.

Here it is that geopolitics returns to the scene, recalled during the debate but never actually applied analytically in its aspects, too transversal and complex yet potentially capable, if well interpreted, of providing an overall strategic framework functional to national needs, a factor of rare difficulty in the globalizing and brand-simplifying era of Google. The question could therefore be this: do we have a state system capable of well interpreting the fluid geopolitical dynamics of the sea?

Resources and competitiveness

The Navy is the image of a neglected reality especially when, as a reflection of the state's maritime power, it must succeed in the long-term planning enterprise; the time elapsed since the 2018 meeting in Livorno, in this sense, is indicative of a small political interest, the more stigmatized the stronger was the acceleration given by France to its Blue Economy.

The use of Naval Forces, aimed at guaranteeing the free (and strategic) use of SLOCs1, is not a pure exercise of style, but must take into account both the overall situation of the area, where the stability of the neighboring political subjects constitutes a guarantee of security as a common factor, especially when supported by actions of capacity building, both the relevance of lawfare, together with the constant respect of customary law, for which the obligation to put to safety shipwrecked it should be free of partisan terminological considerations.

The importance of the security action, so closely tied to a fundamental cluster, potentially resilient but neglected, cannot therefore make us forget that, on the whole of the Country system, a strategic and competitive operational tool, is however subject to resource contractions in terms of men and means, whereas instead several North African Marines are equipping themselves with more powerful and performing vehicles, especially as regards the underwater component.

Finally, if the geopolitical elements are always well analyzed (sore point), they should facilitate the political decision-maker - whatever color and orientation it is - in assessing the Mediterranean situation in the light of the European exit of the United Kingdom, this aspect it can only limit to France and Italy the number of possible regional hegemons capable of projecting naval power. The question that could be asked is therefore that which relates, once again, to the actual existence of political sensitivity and foresight, hopefully aimed at the realization of large-scale projects aimed at achieving the national good.

Geopolitics and enlarged areas

The centrality of the geopolitical relevance of maritime transport in our country is attested by history, which has always seen economic and social development as strictly dependent on the possibility of access to maritime resources. Where politically the ambition to maintain a hegemonic position was cultivated, it would be necessary to take care of an infrastructural and logistic development such as to ensure rapid and economic transport between national and European areas, and to foresee the establishment of an institution dedicated to sea governance , and able to put politics and economy together. The controversial aspects are, however, many: in the face of the constant and significant volume of maritime trade, the Italian maritime trend is pointing downwards, as evidenced by the port activity, an indicator of a moment of crisis of indefinable duration.

At the state of the art, it is not yet possible to quantify the actual advantages determined by the Italian membership of the BIS (Belt and Road Initiative, ed); what, however, can now be pointed out is the political value and imperial of the Chinese initiative on our territory, a relevance that has put Atlantic loyalty towards the hegemonic ally suffering, and that has not found similar results in the joint operations carried out by the other European partners, advantageously involved from the financial point of view but not damaged under the strictly political one.

Net of Saints and heroes, we are still a people of navigators? If the Italian ruling classes, for some time now, have managed to overlook such a significant aspect, how is it possible to think that the Navy, by itself, can instill and ignite such complex interests in young generations completely divorced from these realities that are not easily contextualizable, and where the hybrid and asymmetric threats, changeable and elusive, stand alongside conventional ones?

The recent events that took place in the Gulf of Oman and a hypothetical but undesirable blockade of the Suez Canal, refer to the already mentioned principle of the enlarged Mediterranean to which only the experts. The Mediterranean not only acts as a link between three continents, but remains the site of potentially global crises, and the marginalization of its relevance can lead to devastating consequences in the national economic sphere.

It remains to be seen whether Italy has a clear idea of ​​how to play a proactive and not merely passive role, a question of particular complexity.

1 Sea lines of communications

Photo: author / Marine nationale / US Navy / Presidency of the Council of Ministers