Logistics and National Power: a reflection

(To Philip Del Monte)

Due to its geographical position stretching out to the center of the Mediterranean, Italy has always represented a starting point and landing place for international trade throughout its history. The renewed centrality of the Mare Nostrum in the economic-commercial dynamics guarantees Italy an important role as a hub, the keystone of Rome's foreign policy, the pillar of its “blackmail potential”.

It should not be forgotten, however, that a constant that has gone through every historical cycle - one could almost say a "transcendent law" of Italian geopolitics - was the obligation to defend, even militarily when necessary, this role by maintaining the status quo in the Mediterranean; a task to which Rome (in the late republic and in the Augustan age), the maritime republics (at the advent of the Ottomans and the great European national monarchies) and the Kingdom of Italy (1870- 1914).

Already Dino Grandi and the ranks of "twenty-eight" diplomats in the decade 1928-1938, as well as of course the Italian school of geopolitics in Trieste, had identified in the geographical position of Italy the "decisive weight" for its imperial projection, following the example of classical realists of the Risorgimento such as Cavour and Durando and also on the basis of the "Mediterranean politics" of Pasquale Stanislao Mancini. Selective globalization, the return of multipolarism (in its imperfect form), the political-military crises in North Africa and the Levant - therefore in Italy's "near abroad" - and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic have once again put the Italian possibilities of "projecting" influence and therefore power to the outside are questioned.

If territorial conquests and traditional power politics have certainly not disappeared from international horizons, the neo-liberal paradigm of the Indian geopolitician Parag Khanna according to which at the beginning of the XNUMXst century the "ability to connect" determines the power of a state is correct, even if it needs to be integrated into the realist dynamic of the control of commercial arteries and cross-border infrastructures for political purposes first and, only later, for economic ones. The decisive assumption of one of the founders of Italian "logistic science" in the military field, General Coriolano Ponza di San Martino, was that the modernization of the port and railway infrastructures of the Peninsula would have allowed the Kingdom of Italy to play a fundamental role in European political-strategic dynamics. In other words, logistics (a branch of military art which, together with strategy, has become “global” and therefore political) is one of the factors of the power of a state.

Theorizing and implementing the modernization and strengthening in particular of the ports and railways in Italy is no longer postponable, this is because in the chaosland Mediterranean Rome can represent a stabilizing factor and also because it is from the defense of its role as a privileged channel of trade to and from Europe that its survival passes into the international arena.

That the strengthening of logistics equates to a more general strengthening of Italian power is testified by the data: the journalist Raimondo Fabbri highlighted how "the logistics cluster as a whole, accounts for 14% of the Italian GDP, registering 150.000 companies in the sector and one million employees (corresponding to approximately 5% of total employment). Values ​​that, although lower than those of nations like Germany, show how much the port cluster is a strategic sector of primary importance in the international transport system. In the Euro-Mediterranean scenario, then, the centrality of the Peninsula is testified by the high volumes intercepted by Italian ports, making us one of the leaders in the EU for goods transported in Short Sea Shipping in the Mediterranean with 204,4 million tons (37,5% of the total) ".

Therefore, the transformation of Italian ports (and their railway and road hinterland) into international hubs can no longer be postponed and would offer, internally, ample opportunities for development for the South as a point of arrival and preferential sorting of Mediterranean goods, on the geostrategic plan, the connection with the large traffic networks of Northern Europe in a perspective of "competitive collaboration".

The "maritime triangle" Genoa-Gioia Tauro-Trieste and the industrial Turin-Genoa-Milan represent the ideal link between the Mediterranean and the European dimension of Italian foreign trade which reproduces, on an economic scale, the directional lines of Rome's foreign policy and makes it an ambitious tool.

From this point of view it is good to underline that from the development of the "internal areas" - of which there is a lot of talk - and specifically of those areas that, due to their position and infrastructures, can act as a "link", fundamentally also passes that of the large productive poles - maritime and inland logistics and that the implementation of the “National Logistics Plan” cannot be further postponed.

Logistics is therefore an instrument of power politics and national ambitions, it remains to be seen how much the State intends to channel development plans within the dynamics of the national interest and not leave the initiative solely and exclusively to private individuals. To do this, it is necessary to implement a policy of safeguarding national property on strategic infrastructures and, at the same time, favor their strengthening. It also affects Italy's foreign and defense policy.

Photo: AP Moller - Maersk