Italy is one of the great success stories of the post–World War II era. Indeed, a massive transformation of the country’s economy and society has taken place over the past 60 years. By the end of the twentieth century, a nation that in 1958 was the least developed of the six founding members of the European Community had achieved an economic miracle based on a distinctive brand of entrepreneurial development. It had become one of the world’s leading industrial countries. Its reputation for fashion, food, and flair was second to none. It is today a member of the elite Group of Eight industrialized nations.
Yet, even as the outside world’s image of Italy has improved over the years, a number of fundamental problems have remained persistent features of the national landscape. Italians have always been inclined to self-criticism and self-doubt. But increasingly outsiders, too, have experienced exasperation at the country’s shortcomings, real and imagined. The fall of Romano Prodi’s 20-month-old government in January, after the prime minister lost a vote of confidence in the Senate, was only the latest example of political dysfunction. Today, Italy faces a range of acute and pressing challenges. Many Italians fear that these pose a threat to their country’s prosperity and wellbeing. The citizens also question their political leadership’s capacity to address the challenges, which stem largely from ongoing political, economic, and demographic trends.
[The recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on Russian meddling] is a thorough and comprehensive view of Russia’s decades-long political warfare against the West. The lesson learned from Europe, which has borne the brunt of Russian attacks, is that Russia can be deterred but that requires leadership. For that reason, this report would have sent a much stronger message to the Trump administration if it had Republican support. As is, it is an urgent warning and a call to action, but it may fall on deaf ears.
Extreme right-wing and xenophobic tendencies have been for decades a constant and broadly accepted element of Italian political life.