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Foreign posture in comparative perspective: a quantitative and qualitative appraisal of Italian foreign and defence policy during the Renzi Government


The performance of the Renzi government (2014–2016) in the realm of foreign and defence policy is a mixed bag. Struggling with significant structural constraints at home but called upon to shoulder increased responsibilities abroad, Italian foreign policy (IFP) has balanced instances of retrenchment, characterised by inward-looking tendencies and continued budget shortfalls, with its traditional emphasis on bandwagoning with stronger allies to retain a degree of influence over international events. Secondary only to Italy’s traditional focus on the European project and the broader North Atlantic Alliance, the Mediterranean pillar – including the fight against extremism and the search for new markets and economic opportunities – has dominated IFP under the Renzi government. While staying true to its traditional reluctance to ‘go it alone’, Italy has pushed hard in Europe to consolidate a common response to the migration crisis, while seeking to assume a leading role in efforts to support political reconciliation in Libya. Italy has also enhanced its participation in the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, but has to date refused repeated requests by the US and its allies to begin offensive military operations in Syria and Iraq. The article analyses Italian foreign and defence policy from a comparative perspective, employing a mixed quantitative and qualitative approach to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Italy’s foreign posture between 2014 and 2016.
Keywords: Italy, foreign policy, defence, government, Matteo Renzi