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Italian Military Problems and Solutions

#1 User is offline   @Reazzurro90 

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Posted 31 May 2003 - 02:15 PM

First posted at Darius I's Forum at this Link: ... 1053209285

Well this is an artical the proposes a better trained and armed, though smaller armed forces for Italy.

Italian Military Problems, Policy History, and Solutions
By Rob Nicholson

After the end of the Cold War, the Italian Military faces new challenges in both its foreign and domestic outlook.“The new international situation requires a greater Italian engagement, especially in the military department” (Tripodi 2).Internally, there is little public awareness of the military’s future needs.Recent surveys of the Italian public on military issues have generated a substantial percentage of non-respondents, usually between 10-20 % are unable to answer on opinion questions about the status and roles of the military (Manigart 94).On the foreign front, the demise of the Warsaw Pact means that Italy is no longer on the border of the Iron Curtain.While the threat of invasion from the east has diminished, new problems for the Italian military have emerged in its place.Three major problems facing the Italian armed forces are its structure and funding of the military, dependence on American leadership within NATO, and a severely limited budget.

I.The Italian Military is ill suited for its current needs.

The Italian armed forces are still prepared for a Cold War style conflict involving large-scale battles.“Europe’s generals still rely on large-scale conscription programs to provide a surplus of bodies to throw in front of invading Soviet tanks” (Medley 2).However, the threat of invading Soviet tanks is gone and the U.S and British militaries have shifted to more flexible and responsive armed forces geared for smaller crises.A large, conscription based military does not function well in the Petersburg tasks, which include humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping, and crisis management missions.The troubles with Operation Restore Hope in Somalia can be linked to a “lack of experienced officers and specialized training” (Taylor 51).A lack of discipline and oversight enabled Italian soldiers to abuse Somali citizens.One draftee who photographed the disturbing abuse applied by his fellow conscripts commented, “You had to keep in with the group.It was the only way to be sure that you would make it home safe and sound” (Chisholm 1).By having soldiers whose primary concern is returning to non-military life, the dangerous job of peacekeeping cannot be preformed.More training and dedicated soldiers are needed for these responsibilities.

In 1996, Italy spent 23.4 billion dollars in defense (Chipman 58).This figure shrank over the next four years to where the 2000/01 budget allocated $20.7 billion for defense expenditures (CIA website).However, of these two monetary values, only 70% goes toward actual defense as the Carbinieni (the national military police) take up 21% of defense funding and 8% goes toward pension payments.The defense budget is only 1.5% of the GDP, the lowest among European powers.This fact is accompanied by the Italian’s having the highest percent expenditure on personnel among its European counterparts, as well as spending little on upgrading equipment.The low budget also means that little is spent on training and operation expenditures, which helps to account for the problems faced by Italian soldiers in peacekeeping missions (Taylor 52-53).

The Italian political system has been slow to shift from conscription because of its historical sentiments about the draft.“During the Cold War a conscript army was considered to be necessary not only from an operation point of view, but also to safeguard democratic institutions against possible coups d’etat staged by a professional army” (Taylor 46).In essence, the conscripts supposedly formed a bridge between the civilian democracy and the autocratic military.Recent polling has found that this is no longer the case.A majority of Italians disagree that there is a connection between having a draft and a successful democracy.In addition, Italians disagree that conscription serves a purpose of bringing society into the military (Taylor 77).

Currently, the Italian parliament is debating a bill to reduce the size of the military.It would reduce the current force of approximately 280,000 men, half of whom are conscripts, down to a 200,000 man volunteer force (Whitney 3).However in 1993, Defense Minister Virginio Rognoni called for a reduction in the number of conscripts in his “New Defense Model”, which has yet to happen (Taylor 45-46).Since little more than debating about conscription has occurred in the last eight years, the likelihood of this new bill to pass is slim.Parties in the current coalition are focusing on shortening the length of conscription and trying to lure more volunteers through salary incentives (Whitney 3).

A second measure of Rognoni’s “New Defense Model” calls for an increased budget to provide for the modernization of equipment and increased operational expenditures.While 73% of Italians support the idea that the military should be equipped with the most modern weapons, the last military modernization package was in 1975.Needs exist for improvement in numerous areas such as intelligence capabilities, electronic warfare, transportation, and missile defense (Taylor 47).Despite claims of ruling coalitions in the mid-nineties to increase military spending, the defense budget has remained within the rate of inflation, increasing from $16 billion in 1993 to $17.5 billion in 1999 (Chipman 58).The budget situation is not likely to improve, as there is low political visibility and public support for an increased defense budget (3, 46).

In the face of the new duties of armed forces, such as international peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions, there are two main obstacles for Italy “the fact that most of the Italian armed forces personnel are conscripts and the technical limitations of the operational forces” (Taylor 50).Ending conscription would create a force that is better trained, more highly motivated and mobile.According to Lord Gilbert, a former minister in the British Defense Ministry, “Moving from conscription to volunteer forces, you find that for the same amount of money, you can get a much more effective and easily deployable fighting force” (Whitney 3).The political reality of ending conscription can be realized by a political party that takes advantage of the fact that only 17% of Italians support conscription (Manigart 80).

Coupling the elimination of conscription with a reduction in the total number of military units, a goal of the Italian command since 1990, would reduce personnel expenses.Since the political reality of an increased defense budget is unlikely, reducing defense spending is the best way to create funds for modernization.Cutting the high spending on personnel would allow for a smaller more professional army that would maximize the current defense budget (Medley 3).

II.Dependence on American Military Power within NATO.

Recent peacekeeping operations and military actions have demonstrated the discrepancy between American and European armed forces.“The war in Kosovo highlighted in vivid and embarrassing detail Europe’s dependence on the U.S. military” (Medley 1).European forces had to depend on American resources for smart bombs, military satellites, airborne radar reconnaissance, as well as a host of logistics problems.This reliance on the Americans within NATO has led to the impression that “currently, Europe…is a de facto military protectorate of the United States” (Brzezinski 1).U.S. bases provide defense support to Italy and have enabled Italy to keep a low defense budget (Lloyd 2).In the meantime, the U.S spends $290 billion on defense a year, while European Union countries, which together have the same economic output as the United States, spends only $140 billion on defense in a year (Medley 2).

European states are also dependent on U.S technology.As mentioned above, Europeans had to use a host of American supplies and technology to carry out a military intervention in their own backyard.“Europeans are a technological generation behind their American allies” (Walker 2), and the technological gap is increasing.Americans are spending over $30 billion a year on research and development while European countries in total are spending only $10 billion (Medley 2).

The roots of European dependence on the United States date back to the end of World War II when struggling Western European economies had to rely on the U.S financial aid and their weakened militaries sought American help to prevent perceived Eastern European Communist aggression (Tripodi 1-2).While the Italians are now able to manage small scale humanitarian interventions, as shown in the success Operation Alba in 1997 which slowed the flow of Albanian immigrants to Italy and allowed for democratic elections in Albania, larger more militant operations such as that in Kosovo still require American help.The Americans may not always be there in the future for Europe, “America does not disguise its growing contempt for allies who it thinks are mired in archaic practices” (Lloyd 1).The inability of European forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in the Balkans is contributing to “growing American uneasiness regarding the proper role of U.S forces committed to European defense” (Brzezinski 6).In addition, European states may not want to accept American foreign policy initiatives in order to keep American security.In the wake of the proposed American war on terrorism after the attacks on September 11, Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino claimed that the American “term ‘war’ is inappropriate” (Ferguson 2).

To decrease Italian and European dependence on the United States, Italy should follow through with the plan to create a European Rapid Reaction force.This 60,000-man force would consist of units from European Union nations, under the command of the European Union Military Committee, and would be able to respond to act upon the Petersburg tasks within the European theater within 60 days (EU website).The force would also be equipped with its own support aircraft, ships, intelligence, and communications abilities.It would also replace the largely symbolic “Eurocorps” a formation of conscripts from various European countries that possessed little militarycapability.

Former Italian premier Romano Prodi, chair of the European Commission in Brussels, envisions Europe as “a superpower, not a superstate” (Walker 1).This means that the EU can create a European military force without sacrificing the autonomy of individual states.The planned European Rapid Response Force would still have to use American intelligence and airlift capabilities until its own sources can be developed (Brzezinski 6).Increasing European cooperation in the area of defense initiatives can lead to breakthroughs in research and development.Most of the $10 billion spent on military research annually in Europe is “largely wasted on projects duplicated elsewhere on the continent” (Medley 2).There has been increasing European cooperation in the military industry in the Europe with multinational projects like the Eurofighter and the margining of several Italian and British military firms (Corvino 1).


Since 1968, there have been more than 500 terrorist hijackings and 4,000 bombings in the world (Ferguson 2).“Terrorism is the next highest stage of war” (Howell 1).Italy is not ready for this stage of war where the enemy is not easily found or defeated.There is no standing army to be fought, but rather small groups of individuals that are able to blend in with society.The current Italian military is helpless against terrorism and the terrorist situation is getting worse.While the number of total attacks has gone down, the number of casualties has skyrocketed.In addition, new forms of biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorism are sure to increase the already dangerous threat (Howell 2).

Italy has had its past share of problems with terrorism.In 1969, the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan, which killed 16 and injured 80 people, started a wave of terrorism that lasted the next decade (Foot 1).During the 1970s, there were 9,361 terrorist attacks in Italy by left and right wing extremists in attempts to topple the Italian democracy.The kidnap and assassination of former Italian Prime Minister and would be President Aldo Mora by the left wing Red Brigade in 1978 illustrated the severity of the terrorist problem.It required the collaboration of three separate Italian intelligence agencies, as well as the formation of an elite anti-terrorist group within the Carabinieri, to bring the Red Brigade and other terrorist organizations to a half in the early 1980s (Dobson 135-8).There are continued possibilities for both domestic and foreign terrorism within Italy.Italy’s central Mediterranean location, as well as its affiliation with NATO, the EU, and the Vatican, makes it a prime target for Middle Eastern terrorists.

In order to aid with combating terrorism world wide, Italy can use its diplomatic relations with Libya and Algeria, two terrorist safe havens, to gather information where the Americans cannot.America has cut ties with Libya, while Italy has established economic relations with Algeria and Libya.“A U.S official overseas, photographed and registered with local intelligence and security agencies, can’t travel much…without the host services knowing about it” (Gerecht 1).Meanwhile, Italian operatives under the premise of business trips and oil exploration, would be able to survey a large area of Libyan and Algerian territory and gain first hand intelligence.

To make use of these intelligence-gathering operations, elite detective and military units are necessary.According to Cypriot terrorist leader General George Grivas, the only way to catch a small terrorist organization is “to use tiny, expertly trained groups, who could work with cunning and patience and strike rapidly when least expected” (Livingstone 176).The Carabineri can provide the elite detective unit such as the one used during the late 1970s to bring down the Red Brigade (Dobson 135).To provide a military component to the Carabinieri, the creation of a commando unit to deal especially with anti-terrorist operations is necessary.Currently, Italy has an all-purpose special operations force called Squad R (Livingstone 195).Training a specifically anti-terrorist operations force would allow Italy to respond quickly to hostage situations, terrorist threats, and intelligence breakthroughs without having to wait for foreign assistance.British and German anti-terrorist units and investigators can assist the initial training of the Italian military and military police forces if needed as they did with training Squad R.“Only by turning the tables and making the hunters also the hunted can governments hope to seize the initiative and begin effectively to manage terrorist crises” (Livingstone 197).These two forces would both prevent terrorist attacks and then be able to reduce the overall number of terrorists.

IV.Overall solution.

The solutions to the three separate problems complement each other and therefore a combination of all three solutions is Italy’s best path in facing its challenges.By ending conscription and reducing the number of personnel in the Italian military, more money would be available for the modernization of equipment and elite units.Also, all-volunteer armed forces would be better suited for peacekeeping roles in a joint European military force.The existence of a multinational European Rapid Reaction Force encourages the cooperation of European nations on defense research.This would help to modernize the Italian military at a reduced cost.Specialized anti-terrorist military and investigative units would reduce Italian dependence on America for those services.All three of the solutions lead to a smaller, more highly trained, mobile, and effective fighting force necessary to perform the security and humanitarian measures required by the Petersburg tasks and the threat of terrorism.

The least desirable outcome of this course of action is a withdrawal of American forces from NATO.At this point in time, Europe still needs the military intelligence and technological capabilities of the United States in order to perform large-scale military interventions, such as in Kosovo.Also, an American fallout may divide the EU as the British are likely to take the side of the Americans, their closest ally.This would severely damage the Rapid Reaction Force and the growing trend of unity within Europe.In addition, the complete loss of British and American security forces could open up the Balkans for further uprisings and an increased number of terrorist attacks throughout Europe.

Italy can work to avoid this potential by having Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi advocate his view that “the European Union’s new Rapid Reaction Force does not replace the U.S-led NATO” (Barone 2).This means that Italy will support the EU military, but only in its mission to fulfill the Petersburg tasks, while leaving the military might in Europe to NATO.In addition, by improving the Italian military through an all-volunteer force and gaining terrorist intelligence and combat capability, the Americans are sure to see Italy as a viable ally.

The end of conscription is likely to receive considerable foreign and domestic support.As established earlier, only 17% of the Italian public supports the draft.Meanwhile across Europe, conscription is increasingly seen as an obstacle to an effectively deployable fighting force (Whitney 2).The European Rapid Reaction Force should meet with great enthusiasm in Italy.Recent polling has shown that around 65 percent of Italians favor European over national-decision making and 88 percent believe that Italy’s participation in a united Europe is very important (Mancini 1).There is also foreign support amongst the nations of the European Union as plans for the Rapid Reaction Force continue to be implemented.The United States has been hesitant towards this issue, although it continues to support the principle of European integration (Lloyd 2).The technicality and international complexity of elite investigative and anti-terrorist units make this part of the solution less feasible than ending conscription or creating an EU military branch.Support in Italy for using military units in anti-terrorist actions is high (4, 82).American and European powers will likely support measures that will help in the fight against terrorism, while Libya and Algeria may be less receptive to Italian business if they learn of Italy’s anti-terrorist mission.

The changing security situation after the end of the Cold War creates new challenges for the Italian military.A smaller, better-trained force of professionals is necessary to respond to the Petersburg tasks of humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping, and crisis management.Also, a rise in the scale of international terrorism presents another challenge to security.Meanwhile, all of this must be done on a minimal defense budget with a military built for a Cold War style conflict and dependent on American technology and intelligence.In light of these circumstances, the best course of action for Italy is to end conscription, modernize a downsized military, join EU forces in creating a European Rapid Reaction Force, and create special anti-terrorist investigative and military units. ... holson.htm

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