Letter to Difesa Online: "Considerations of three old soldiers"


Dear director, thanks to the retirement of a mutual friend, a few days ago the undersigned and two dear friends from different Armed Forces had the opportunity and mutual pleasure of meeting again in person in via XX Settembre. Friends for a lifetime, high school together, obviously southerners, two of us children of art, we undertook a military career at the age of twenty, in the Army, Navy and Air Force and now, a few months after retirement, we too, for once we didn't meet in some dusty base around the world, but in that building which today has the words Palazzo Difesa written on its pediment (to the discontent of my brotherly friend from the Army).

The meeting, which began in the corridors of Palazzo Difesa, continued in one of the many restaurants on Via Nazionale, where after the usual questions on the state of health of the family members, the ritual questions on the classic groans of the "saintly" of our wives, and on the scholastic and, obviously, military careers of our daughters and sons, inevitably the memories and considerations of a life spent in uniform have taken over. From 1991, starting with Operation Locust (the sending of our 8 Tornadoes to Al-Dhafra UAE) to the recent deployments on the NATO borders, there is not an operation in which we have not participated, each in our own FA, with particular predilection for the undersigned for the activities in the Balkan air, for the friend of the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq and for the "bro" (nickname in use among Sailors) of the Navy in Asia and the Mediterranean.

In all these years, between NATO and bilateral operational and international activities, we have met young lieutenants and captains, today 3 or 4 star generals and admirals, and we have often shared with them and with each other joys, worries and, unfortunately, pains as Nassiriya or Herat, with the death of his friend Mauro Gigli. But at that table, while not discussing geopolitics or major defense systems, our almost 120 years of overall experience of military life have inevitably led us to consider the consequences of what is happening at the borders of NATO, even in our Forces Armed.

When we enlisted, the enemy was the Warsaw Pact, and we knew that the possibility, although remote, of a clash with the Eastern countries would see the destruction of our Armed Forces within a maximum of 96 hours, but that was it was asked of us by the NATO doctrine of the time.

Today, in a globalized world dominated by the Internet and Artificial Intelligence, man on the ground is still the cornerstone of every war activity. But here, with deep regret, we had to draw a whole series of conclusions, unfortunately negative ones.

Our Armed Forces, with all the political, economic, logistical and operational limitations, all, without exception, have a human component of exceptional quality, I say this without fear of contradiction, which does not look out of place in the slightest with all the other NATO Military Organizations. And I'm not talking about colleagues from the Special Forces, but about the average Infantryman, Sailor and Airman (and I'll even throw in the Carabinieri who are truly exceptional in certain situations), BUT, and here the BUT must be capitalized, there are too few of us and too old! Let's leave aside the economic recriminations due to wages, which see us ahead only of Turkey and Greece in NATO, but our numbers are so few as to be frightening!

The Ukrainian armed forces have been rebuilt 3 times in two years, after professional soldiers were sacrificed in the early stages of the war; we could hardly last two months (I'm optimistic, as my friend from the Army says). Not to mention that I remember well the post-Nasiriya shock, where 17 brothers in arms (and 2 civilians) died with Italy completely annihilated by pain; today would we be able to blame the blow for 250, 300 combat deaths? I don't know, but I doubt it.

Being part of an organization like NATO undoubtedly protects us in some way, but our contribution, with all the clarifications and necessary exceptions, is unfortunately excessively limited. It reminds me of the Navy friend in a recent photo of a NATO aircraft carrier group in the Mediterranean, with our Cavour with a single F-35 on deck.

The Air Force defends the national territory with a single aircraft, ready in five, from Aosta to Trapani, passing through Sardinia, and another which guarantees the defense of the airspace of Slovenia and Albania.

The Army, the "steel wall" with its tanks, can only do so by counting on a handful of Ariete tanks (15 "Ariete" tanks, 32 armored "Lince" and 22 "Dardo" were the maximum effort of the exercise in Qatar commissioned by General Farina).

The economic contribution due from Italy to NATO stands, I go from memory, at around 1,48% of GDP out of the 2% requested by the Organization and demanded by Trump, although at the various tables we continue to shuffle the cards by insisting on contribution of our FF.AA. to the various NATO Operations which, in our opinion (and only in our opinion) as a Nation, should be counted in the total count.

In conclusion, on the threshold of our farewell and at the end of lunch, having asked for and received the bill and round of bitters, myrtle and limoncello, we can only hope that the future is less gloomy than the sum of our experiences unfortunately makes us predict.



Dear "old soldier", I do not feel like adding anything to the clear and sincere picture of the situation that you have provided other than a thank you.

Unpreparedness for war on the eve of a world conflict (and this - world - war began over two years ago!) seems to be a tradition. Has the past not yet taught us that those who, two hours after waking up, are still sleeping in their cots will end up badly?

Every conflict we have gone through has brought profound political changes. They will also be fulfilled after this.

Andrea Cucco