The Guerini line: here are the challenges of the Italian defense


The Minister of Defense, Lorenzo Guerini, expressed the programmatic lines of his dicastery before the Chamber and Senate Commissions. A very important opportunity for the entire Italian defense system, since it is also from this report that we can see the path taken by the owner of via XX Settembre for the near future.

Italy is not only involved in the so-called "war on Covid". The message launched by Guerini is that the Italian challenges are on a large scale. The Defense was able to react quickly and effectively on the coronavirus emergency front, confirming - both in the tracing of infections and in the administration of vaccines - the possession of tools that were able to cope with what the minister himself called a test " in many respects even more severe than some scenarios of crisis and armed conflicts ”.

However, shifting attention to Defense as a "civilian" instrument in an emergency context must not make us forget the true mission of the military apparatus. Which is precisely that of protecting national borders, strategic interests and Italy's projection of strength in the world. These guidelines remain essential for understanding the role of Italy in this very delicate phase of geopolitical transition which involves the enlarged Mediterranean arc and flows directly into the Indo-Pacific. A veritable fault of chaos where the three great superpowers meet and which sees Italy directly involved. Starting from his Defense, very often underestimated in its strategic and diplomatic importance starting from the political world.

Precisely for this reason, Guerini wanted to reaffirm the three guidelines on which to focus. The strengthening of the capacities expressed during the pandemic will serve to support the country in emergency situations. But in everyday life - hoped for - the guidelines must be those of "actively contributing to international security and the protection of national strategic objectives" by adapting the military instrument to the challenges of the time, both in terms of quantity and quality.

The challenges for the protection of national interests are not few. At a time when NATO appears to be in a complete rethinking phase and with the European Union still far from building a truly common defense, Italy has a very complex scenario ahead of it.

The area to which Guerini refers, and which can now also be defined as that of the enlarged Mediterranean, sees the rise of new forces, the resurgence of powers with ancient "imperial" projections, a rethinking of American strategy and the eruption of a series of hybrid conflicts with no end in sight.

A few miles from the Italian borders, Libya is still a tangle divided between weak authorities, more or less tribal militias and two powers, such as Russia and Turkey, which have reached a de facto agreement to divide the areas of influence. The men of the Navy are therefore directly involved in a scenario where the European forces seem to retreat, under the command of irini which confirms the role of Rome in managing the embargo. A complex challenge, the Libyan one, which includes the never resolved issue of irregular migratory flows and the delimitation of SARs (Search and Rescue, editor's note).

In the Middle East, the situation is far from idyllic for Italian and European strategic interests. In Syria, the latest flare-ups of the conflict with raids in various parts of the territory formally controlled by Damascus, show that the proxy war is far from over.

In Lebanon, where the Navy and the Army sent their men immediately after the very serious explosion in Beirut, the tensions do not seem to subside and the country is suffering first and foremost the disturbing Syrian scenario and the large-scale conflict that has as its target the Iranian sphere of influence. The recent trip of Pope Francis has also once again turned the spotlight on Iraq: a country devastated by war where the Italian soldiers are also engaged who, precisely because of their essential role in the dynamics of war, will lead the Mission at the end of the Danish Command.

Conflicts of particular importance, to which are added those in which our men have been operating for years. The commitment in the Western Balkans, especially with the KFOR Mission, reminds us that the front east of the Adriatic must represent a primary focus for anyone in government in Rome. While in Afghanistan, where a strategic rethinking of both the American and NATO commitments is underway, the Italians are still directly involved in the tasks imposed by membership in the Alliance. Especially in a phase in which a backlash of the Islamist fringes is possible.

To these already known commitments, others have been added or replaced which demonstrate the expansion of the Italian operational framework. As regards the Persian Gulf, the possibility of a direct involvement of Italy (and in particular of the Navy), in the framework of EMASOH (European-led Maritime Awareness Strait Of Hormuz). Guerini was keen to clarify that the political commitment could soon turn into a war-like commitment. And in this sense it is also important to confirm the expeditionary role of the Navy, which increasingly represents an indispensable tool for projection of force and protection of national interests outside the borders.

These days, the Task Force is expected to become fully operational Takuba, the international mission requested by France to support the troops of Paris and the Sahel States in controlling the territory and in the fight against rebels and Islamist forces. A mission that is far too underestimated, even at the media level (v.articoli), which however recalls how that African area is particularly important for Italy.

This is demonstrated, for example, by the involvement of the Navy in the Gulf of Guinea to combat piracy. The presence of naval units in the African Atlantic - as well as in the Gulf of Aden for the Somali one - is a very significant issue in the panorama of the enlarged Mediterranean or of what it is believed to be, with the happy intuition of a young scholar, the infinite Mediterranean. The safety of the commercial routes that plow the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, as well as those of Aden, is an issue that directly affects the companies involved in the shipping sector, the shipowners but also those who operate for other Italian strategic interests: as in the hydrocarbon extraction. Freedom of navigation therefore remains a determining factor in Italian strategic choices, but this does not exclude that many actors are interested in this. It is no coincidence that the shift of the American focus on the Indo-Pacific has also involved the fleets of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which have long ago decided to send their units to the Indian Ocean or even go into the South China Sea. . Those that appear seas or oceans distant from the Mediterranean, in reality all represent basins strongly connected to each other through the trade routes that unite not only economies, but above all the cultures and interests of coastal powers.

Of course, these crisis scenarios must be supported by effective and efficient Armed Forces. The race for technological evolution knows no end, forcing all governments to implement their respective military instruments not only economically, but also organically. Also for this reason, at the hearing Guerini confirmed his commitment to a revision of Law 244 of 2012 that would mitigate its distorting effects. Problems related to staff shortages, recruitment methods and staff aging go hand in hand with a growing demand for know-how, personnel suitable for strategic, technological, economic and even health developments. The stress to which the entire Defense sector is subjected, also directly involved in sectors of daily life that are not strictly military - as we have seen precisely in the emergency of the pandemic and in its subsequent management - is an alarm bell that concerns the whole country-system. The civilian and military components are essential and irreplaceable elements of Defense: the updating and improvement of the workforce becomes for this reason even more urgent.

Lorenzo Vita - Center for Geopolitics and Maritime Strategy Studies

Images: Senate / Ministry of Defense / Twitter / Ministère des Armées