Vladimir Putin's arrival to Italy for Europe-Asia Forum on 16 October came a surprise, as it was Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was expected to come. Why did Putin decide to come to Italy himself?
"Putin's sudden move is likely to be an attempt that Russia takes to ease tensions in relations with Europe," said Rosario Alessandrello, President of the Russian-Italian Chamber of Commerce, tempi.it website reports. "Putin's presence in Milan is a good sign, and it says that Putin is trying to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, as well as to the economic war between the West and Russia," said Alessandrello.
"Italy, after Germany, was affected by sanctions most, so Putin decided to go there." - Sergei Fokin, professor of Russian foreign policy department at the Russian Academy of Sciences told Pravda.Ru.
According to the expert, Putin intends to show Russia's importance to Europe. "One does not have to negotiate with Europe - European countries will lift the sanctions anyway. It would be better to demonstrate the importance of Europe to Russia. It is also important that Europe should be more objective about events in Russia, especially in Ukraine, more objectively."
"Generally speaking, Russia has had special relationships with Italy, since the time of Berlusconi, - Konstantin Sokolov, Vice-President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems told Pravda.Ru. - I think that the current situation will push the Italian administration towards cooperation, rather than confrontation with Russia. Besides, of course, those who were affected by the sanctions most, they are our allies."
Noteworthy, on July 12th, sitting Italian Prime Matteo Renzi put forward an initiative to write a letter to the European Commission on behalf of the countries in the South Stream in support of the project. Recently, a two-billion-dollar contract has been signed with Chinese company Saipem for the construction of the first line of the offshore section of the pipeline. Gazprom supplies 40 percent of gas to Italy.
Why has Italy suffered from Russia's sanctions more than other countries? The situation in Italy is serious, especially for the companies that export consumer goods, said Rosario Alessandrello. The sanctions primarily affected small and medium enterprises, especially in the agro-food sector. For example, Russia was the main importer of Italian table grapes, and in this sector, sales dropped by 50 percent. The same goes for tomato imports, the businessman said. The restrictive measures may seriously affect the work of Italian restaurants in Russia.
The sanctions hurt the Italian textile industry as well as mechanical engineering - the industry that was producing equipment for the Russian oil and gas sector. "Europe demonstrates complete failure in diplomatic activities. European sanctions encourage Russia to cooperate more closely with China and India. There will be difficulties along the way, but they can be overcome. But for Europe and Italy in particular, Russia's turn to the East is a disaster," said Rosario Alessandrello.
President of Banca Intesa Russia (serves 57 percent of trade transactions between Italy and Russia), Antonio Fallico, shares a similar point of view. "From January to June of 2014, our exports to Russia (31 billion euros) decreased by eight percent. In June, it fell by 18 percent and by 16.3 percent - in August, - said Fallico at a business seminar in Turin, formiche.net website wrote. - We have to stop the sanctions that may lead to World War III," he added.
Rosario Alessandrello also added that one needs to build relations with Russia on partnership conditions. "Russia will never allow NATO presence in Ukraine, but it will not oppose to a political agreement between Europe and Ukraine, if Europe is to respect certain principles realized in all countries of the Western world, including in Italy. It goes about ensuring bilingualism in Russian-speaking regions and extensive regional autonomy." As you can see, the Europeans still hope for the options that were left in the past a long time ago. Yet, the Russian president will not try to convince them of the fact that the Donbass has broken away from Ukraine forever.
Most likely, Putin's objective would be to explain that the Europeans acted to their own detriment, having succumbed to USA's pressure, as Vice President Biden said. The sanctions have not affected the American economy much, but they have caused considerable damage to European companies.
"I think that Europe itself is well aware of the fact that the sanctions against Russia bring plenty of misfortunes to Europe, whereas the United States benefits from them, - said Konstantin Sokolov. - Coming to an agreement with Europe would mean taking Europe out from the American influence. In Europe, there is a very painful transformation of consciousness going on. Until recently, the Europeans considered Russia some sort of a marginal country on the outskirts of Europe. And now they see that in Russia, very large capital has been formed, very large capitalist interests have been formed that can not be abandoned. This large capital starts protecting its interests through decisive measures. For example, Sechin (the head of Rosneft - ed.) requires the protection of huge oil reserves in the Arctic shelf. The first military base in the Arctic has already been created," the expert said.
One should add that it is not capital that rules Russia, but policy makers. This is the difference between Russia and the West, and this is an achievement of Putin.