Italy’s Future Prime Minister Adopts Trump-Style Approach to Energy Independence

Posted on Monday, October 24, 2022
by Ben Solis

AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

At a NATO Summit in July 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump raised concerns that Germany had become a “captive of Russia” due to its overreliance on Russian energy, issuing a similar admonition to other Western nations. Though European liberals and the mainstream press scoffed at Trump’s warning, his now-famous statements proved all too prescient four years later as Europe suddenly found itself at Putin’s mercy following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now, incoming Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is determined to follow the Trump model of viewing energy independence as a national security issue and finally break Russia’s energy leverage over Italy and the continent.

Western Europe’s obsession with “green” energy has meant that most countries have shuttered their coal and nuclear power plants in recent years (although many are now reopening old plants in a desperate bid to keep the lights on). Germany, once an energy giant in Europe, was by the time of Trump’s prophetic warning in 2018 importing 70 percent of its energy from Russia, and was in the process of beginning construction on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. “It should never be allowed to happen,” Trump said at the time.

Austria, Denmark, Finland, and France were also importing more than a quarter of their natural gas supplies from Russia. Italy, meanwhile, relied on Russian suppliers for 39 percent of its natural gas.

Leaders of these nations should have heeded the early warning sign in 2002, when, in the middle of a severe winter, Putin violated a trade deal and cut off natural gas supplies to Poland. Since then, it has been clear that Russia views its energy supplies as an instrument of its foreign policy, and would not hesitate to leverage them in any conflict with the West.

However, few chose to react, and Europe has paid the price for it following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Again proving Trump right, Germany was hit hardest when Russia began restricting gas supplies through its Nord Stream pipeline, effectively forcing Germany to the sidelines in the conflict. Apparent sabotage of both pipelines late last month has led to further escalation of the crisis.

Italy, with its geographically central location in Europe and the Mediterranean, is uniquely positioned to emerge as an alternative energy hub – something which the incoming Meloni government made clear they intended to take advantage of soon after their election victory last month. In true Trumpian form, Meloni promised an “Italy First” approach to energy policy at a speech earlier this month in Milan. In her first public outing since being elected, Meloni told a group of farmers and producers that “Italy’s posture must return to…the defense of its national interests.” Notably, the speech came as Russian gas giant Gazprom said it could no longer confirm shipments of liquid natural gas (LNG) to Italy.

Since the Russian invasion in February, Italy has actively searched for alternative natural gas sources, a mission the Meloni government hopes to expand. Italian energy giant ENI, for example, together with Egypt’s EGAS, has boosted LNG gas production in the Nile Delta. Imports from the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which connects Italy with gas fields in Azerbaijan, are set to reach 9 billion cubic meters by the end of the year, an increase of more than 2.5 billion cubic meters since 2021. There are also plans for another trans-Sahara pipeline that will ship gas from 15 African countries to Italy, a project gas-rich Libya is eager to join as well.

Italy can offer Europe more than gas to regain independence from Putin. Italy has ample supplies of methane, which cost Italy around 5 cents per cubic meter to extract and process, compared to 50-70 cents per cubic meter for imported natural gas. Three energy firms now have plans to drill more than 20 new wells under the seabed of the Adriatic and the Strait of Sicily, generating thousands of new jobs and providing much-needed energy independence for Italy and Europe.

Meloni understand that Italy’s success in becoming an energy platform for Europe, will lift countries in North Africa and the Middle East like Lebanon from poverty by restoring hope, peace and economic growth while preventing mass migration. The new President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, assured the new government of the Italian Bishop’s support of “this humane immigration policy”.

Meloni’s vision of Italy as a dynamic, profitable, reliable, and independent energy hub for Europe contrasts sharply with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s failed concept of two pipelines dependent on the Kremlin. Forced to go to the market to replace Russian supplies, Germany has now been compelled to implement price caps on electricity as the country braces for a brutal winter.

Meloni is determined that this will not be Italy’s fate, and that Europe, led by a populist, conservative vision, will never again be reliant on an adversary for something as critical as energy. Though Trump has been out of office for nearly two years, it is clear that his model of governance and energy policy is continuing to have positive ripple effects throughout the world. 

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.