From Rome to kyiv to Moscow: Russian strategic narratives in Italian audiences

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The current Italian government strongly supports Ukraine’s efforts to defend against Russian invasion. This support, mobilized under the leadership of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, is quite remarkable given the widespread perceptions of Russia and Ukraine circulating in Italian society. For years, Italian public discourse has been influenced by strategic narratives favorable to the Kremlin’s interests and detrimental to those of Ukraine.

First and foremost, the Kremlin tried to impose the idea that firmly supporting Ukraine did not correspond to Italy’s real interests. Proponents of this narrative have generally portrayed Russia as a fundamental partner for Italy, especially in economic and security terms, and argued that Rome should work within the EU to restore good relations with Moscow. The cancellation of sanctions and the opening to concessions in Ukraine are seen as a necessary cost for good Italy-Russia relations. A second set of narratives, directly supporting the first, aimed to discredit the Ukrainian government and Ukraine’s statehood.

It is unclear how the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine will affect Italian public debate in the long term. Largely in denial before the invasion and reluctant to apply heavy sanctions after it, the Italian government now appears to have aligned itself fully with the tough stance of its NATO and European Union allies. However, pro-Kremlin narratives are still popular and have the potential to regain great influence.

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