Call for papers at SGRI2016: “Italian Foreign and Defense Policy at the Time of the ‘Bulldozer’”

We have organized a panel at the next SGRI (Italian Standing Group on International Relations) Annual Conference (which will be held at the FBK, Trento, June 23-25).

Here you’ll find additional details on the conference, which is “a two-day session that brings together scholars, researchers and PhD students from Italian academia to discuss issues related to global politics, European studies, foreign policy, regional dynamics and international theory”.

Here all the panels on “Exploring Foreign and Security Policy in International Relations

Here below the structure of the panel we have organized:

Italian Foreign and Defense Policy at the Time of the ‘Bulldozer’
Chairs: Fabrizio Coticchia (University of Genoa) and Francesco N Moro (University of Milan – Bicocca)

Discussants: Jean-Pierre Darnis (Istituto Affari Internazionali – Rome and University of Nice)

Date: TBD
Room: TBD


Since becoming prime minister in February 2014, Matteo Renzi has promoted a change of pace to the controversial debates over policy reforms in Italy. While the literature has devoted significant attention to the transformation occurred in the domestic context, few analyses have focused on the evolution of Italian foreign and defense policy in historical and comparative perspective. The panel aims at filling this gap, collecting different perspectives on diplomacy, security, foreign policy analysis, international and European politics. Finally, the supposed continuity or discontinuity of the Renzi’s foreign and defense policy will be assessed.


So, we are waiting for your papers (please send the abstract to

For further information about the 2016 SGRI Conference:

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“Comunicare la difesa”

Venus in Arms è lieta di dare visibilità ad un convegno molto interessante, che si terrà il prossimo Giovedì 7 Aprile a Gorizia, sul tema: Comunicare la difesa”.

L’evento si svolgerà al Polo Universitario di Santa Chiara (Via Santa Chiara, 1 Gorizia, Aula 3). Per informazioni sul Polo dell’Università di Udine si veda qui

Qui in calce il programma della giornata:

09.00 – 09.30               Registrazione partecipanti

09.30 – 09.40              Saluto del Magnifico Rettore dell’Università degli Studi di Udine prof. Alberto Felice

De Toni

09.40 – 09.50              Saluto del Comandante della Brigata di Cavalleria “Pozzuolo del Friuli”, Generale di Brigata Ugo Cillo

09.50 – 10.00              Introduzione al Convegno da parte della Delegata del M.o Rettore dell’Università degli Studi di Udine, prof.ssa Nicoletta Vasta

                                    Moderatore: dott. Pierluigi Franco

10.00 – 10.30               La comunicazione strategica in tema di sicurezza internazionale

                                    dott. Andrea Grazioso

10.30 – 11.00               La comunicazione istituzionale nel rapporto fra Governo e Parlamento

                                    dott. Germano Dottori

11.00 – 11.30               La “narrazione strategica”: fra teoria e prassi

                                    dott. Fabrizio Coticchia

11.30 – 12.30               Discussione 

12.30 – 14.00               Pausa pranzo

14.00 – 15.30               Tavola rotonda: Difesa e opinione pubblica

                                    Moderatore: Umberto Sarcinelli

                                    dott. Gianandrea Gaiani; dott. Pietro Batacchi; dott.ssa Lucia Goracci

15.30 – 16.00               Discussione e conclusione dei lavori                         

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 92

Why was Giulio Regeni killed? As reported by The Guardian in this article, a month after he was last seen alive, speculation as to why he was targeted remains just that.

Are we preparing the war in Libya? Looking at the decision-making process of some European countries, the answer seems positive…

During electoral debate everyone complaints about “polarization“. However, as stressed by Torben Iversen and David Soskice (here), polarization could be interpreted also as the sign of a healthy democracy.

From politics to “realpolitik“. The War on the Rocks provides a “complex history” of realpolitik, offering a comprehensive literature review of the concept.

Finally, the NYT reveals (here) the U.S. Plans to put advisers on front lines of Nigeria’s War on Boko Haram

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Learning From Others? Emulation and Change in the Italian Armed Forces Since 2001

As illustrated in previous posts, military transformation represents our main current research issue. We’ve just published a book on this topic and we are still working on Italian (and European) military transformation.

Here you’ll find our latest paper, which has been published (in early view ) on “Armed Forces&Society“. The title is: “Learning From Others? Emulation and Change in the Italian Armed Forces Since 2001” (F. Coticchia and F.N. Moro, 2016).

Here below the abstract:

How does military change take place in states that are not able to develop autonomous solutions? How does transformation occur when limited resources are available? What are the “sources of military change” for armed forces that do not possess the (cognitive and material) resources that are essential for autonomous development? In articulating an answer to these questions, this article draws from the theoretical debate on interorganizational learning and looks at the mechanisms that drive “learning from others.” We argue that adaptation and organizational learning often had to look for, and then try and adapt, off-the-shelf solutions that required relatively more limited resources. Empirically, the article focuses on the Italian Armed Forces, which have rarely attracted scholarly attention, although it emerged from almost total lack of activity in the Cold War to extended deployments in the 2000s.

Stay tuned for additional results of our analysis (we are now working also with surveys..)


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 89

It’s the time of primaries in the US. It’s an exciting race, at the current stage, but Stephen Walt argues that the state of the foreign policy debate is rather sad.

In Europe, the prospects for an “ever closer union” are pretty dim these days. The debate on Brexit keeps going, and recent EU “concessions” (contained in a letter written byDonald Task, the EU Council President) do not seem to convince euroskeptics in Britain. Here, a guide to the debate and the next steps.

But tensions between the EU and Member States are not confined to Britain. Even the EU-Italy relations are going through a critical phase. These days, Italian PM Matteo Renzi is strongly criticizing the EU on key issues such as banking regulations and austerity (with the migrants crisis always in the background). This is FT’s Wolfgang Münchau’s take on Italy as a critical node in Europe.

Speaking of Italy, leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition met in Rome on Feb. 2nd to discuss the next moves against the movement. Debate also dealt with Libya, and Italy is a candidate for leading a military coalition there. To do exactly what is still matter of discussion.

Finally, more on the academic side, here is a summary of Thomas Mahnken’s paper on what can small states do in international politics. They might have more cards to play than the poor Melians in the famous episode narrated by Thucydides.






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Call for panels: The annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations (SGRI)

We are pleased to announce the call for panel for the next annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations – SGRI.

The SGRI annual Conference is “a two-day session that brings together scholars, researchers and PhD students from Italian academia to discuss issues related to global politics, European Studies, foreign policy, regional dynamics and international theory“. The 2016 Conference will be held for the fifth time in Trento from June 23rd to June 25th and will be organized by the Bruno Kessler Foundation‘s Research Center on International Politics and Conflict Resolution (FBK-CERPIC).

On the SGRI website you will find all of the relevant information for the 2016 Conference, including panel descriptions, social and scientific programs (coming soon), and information about accommodations.

Those interested in organizing a panel should send a short abstract to by March 4th, 2016.

Registration will open on April 4, 2016.

See you in Trento!


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 87

ISIS might make the headlines more for its sponsoring/conducting terrorist attacks in Europe (and Asia), but The Atlantic’s Adam Chandler reminds of the incredible civilian victimization taking place in Iraq.

While all the attention is focused on the Middle East, let’s not forget how crime represents – in terms of lethality to begin with – a very large threat in Central America. FP features an article on the state of health (good) of the region’s gangs.

Technological advances are difficult to foresee, and the cost of emerging technologies often hard to justify. The costs of the JSF/F-35 might be in part be justified by its early adoption of revolutionary technological solutions, especially related to “cognitive electronic warfare”.

In the meanwhile, Italian second F-35 has been making its debut flight, as reported by RID (in English), and the Cabinet is still evaluating how many more will come.

Finally, the fall of counterinsurgency, now at an advanced stage. Former COIN and Iraq hero David Petraeus might be demoted from 4-star General, DefenseNews reports.


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Renew or Reload? Continuity and Change in Italian Defence Policy

We have already examined the 2015 Italian White Paper in a previous post. Now, together with Andrea Locatelli, we have published a more detailed analysis of the latest Italian strategic documents (White Paper 2002 and White Paper 2015).

Here you’ll find the paper, which is a EUI – RCSAS (The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies) Working Paper. Here below the abstract:

How do countries adapt their overall defence policy to deal with mutating scenarios? In this paper, as part of a broader research agenda, we try to address these questions focusing specifically on the evolution of Italian defence policy as it evolved since 2001. The focus of the paper is on the evolution of national doctrine as it emerges from the analysis of strategic doctrine. What we look at here is the “process of translation” from the political to the military level, as embodied by key political strategic documents, and its evolution over time. To do so, the paper examines the Italian White Papers on Defence of 2002 and 2015 through qualitative and quantitative (content) analysis.

Here you’ll find additional info on the paper.

As highlighted in the conclusions of the article: “With reference to change, the recognition of terrorism, and its link with the upheavals occurred (and still occurring) in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, has assumed an even more central role. Coherently, the military instrument is conceived overall as an expeditionary, mission-oriented force: to that end, “jointness” and “interoperability” become central features in the design of force structure and posture. One can also find, in the new document, evidence of a revival of some “old” concepts, such as “national interest”. Here, it seems that such a notion entails attention on the defence industry, and the broader security-industrial apparatus, as a key element in the design, and for the effective implementation, of defense policy […]”

Finally, in the paper you’ll find also tables and charts related to our content analysis of the documents. Here below, for example, you’ll find the chart related to the perceived threats in the white papers.

Schermata 2016-01-12 alle 11.52.10

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Renzi, l’ISIL e la politica estera italiana

Le minacce poste dell’ISIL e le modalità con le quali sconfiggere il sedicente Califfato hanno rappresentato i temi cruciali delle relazioni internazionali nel 2015. Gli attentati in Francia e in Medio Oriente, la guerra in Siria e in Iraq hanno naturalmente conquistato l’attenzione mediatica nell’anno che sta per giungere al termine.

Pertanto appare importante esaminare in dettaglio le scelte compiute dal governo italiano in materia. In seguito agli attacchi di Parigi, infatti, l’Italia ha deciso di “non mettersi l’elmetto”, come titolava il giornale di riferimento del governo. Occorre fare maggiore chiarezza su questo punto, al di là delle polemiche partitiche e delle strumentalizzazioni varie.

Tre dati vanno ricordati come premessa per un’adeguata riflessione:

  • L’Italia è impegnata militarmente nella colazione anti-ISIL a partire dall’Agosto del 2014, attraverso l’operazione “Prima Parthica” (qui per un dettaglio), basata su attività quali aiuto umanitario (nella primissima fase dell’intervento), addestramento di forze di sicurezza locali, voli di ricognizione. In poche parole, il tanto decantato attivismo tedesco (??) non è niente di più di quello che Roma fa da più di un anno ormai;
  • L’Italia da vari lustri fornisce un contributo considerevole alla sicurezza regionale e internazionale, dall’Afghanistan al Libano, dalla Somalia ai Balcani (in attesa di capire cosa fare in futuro Libia). Nel Mediterraneo, per esempio, l’impegno nazionale è significativo ormai da mesi. Anche in questo caso, non c’è paragone tra il dinamismo della politica di difesa italiana e quella tedesca (per una volta, partite di pallone escluse, a favore dell’Italia…). Certamente, soprattutto dall’inizio della crisi finanziaria il contributo militare italiano si è ridotto (per un’analisi dettagliata della trasformazione militare italiana nell’era post 2001 italiana si veda qui) per quanto esso rimanga considerevole anche in termini qualitativi (grazie all’esperienza accumulata nel tempo e ad asset-chiave, come Carabinieri e Genio);
  • Sebbene, quindi, non ci sia alcun “immobilismo” italiano, il governo ha certamente  agito con estrema prudenza in seguito alla richiesta francese di maggior impegno militare contro l’ISIL (in particolare attraverso i bombardamenti alle postazioni del Califfato). Una prudenza effettivamente diversa dal tradizionale approccio post-bipolare italiano all’impiego delle forze armate all’estero, molto dinamico e pronto a fornire il proprio supporto agli alleati (come avvenuto in tutte le principali aree di crisi degli ultimi venticinque anni). In altre parole, molti si sarebbero aspettati una maggiore disponibilità nel promuovere azioni d’attacco al suolo iracheno, data la presenza dei Tornado già al fronte (e come peraltro paventato già in passato come ipotesi percorribile). Solo dopo molte settimane il governo ha annunciato l’invio di nuovi soldati a Mosul, in seguito alle parole di Obama relative ad un impegno maggiore degli alleati. Un conto, quindi, è rispondere agli Stati Uniti e un altro è farlo rispetto alla Francia, pur in seguito al dramma deghi attentati di Parigi.

In sintesi quindi, occorre esaminare le possibili variabili esplicative di tale (apparente) discontinuità. Quali sono gli aspetti-chiave che permettono di capire l’approccio nazionale al contrasto dell’ISIL? Più in generale, quali sono le determinanti della politica estera e  di difesa del governo Renzi?

Come già illustrato in un precedente post, tali domande sono alla base di una ricerca che stiamo conducendo (considerando non solo il caso dell’ISIL ma anche altri ambiti di politica estera e di difesa, dalla Russia all’Unione Europea fino al tema dell’immigrazione) e che presenteremo alla prossima conferenza dell’International Studies Association ad Atlanta (Marzo 2016).

In via preliminare, possiamo illustrare alcune possibili spiegazioni (non mutuamente esclusive) delle scelte finora compiute del governo:

1)   Dall’emergere della crisi economica l’Italia ha obbligatoriamente modificato il proprio approccio ai temi di difesa e sicurezza. I constraints finanziari non consentirebbero più di sostenere quel livello di impiego delle forze all’estero che aveva contraddistinto l’Italia dalla fine della Guerra Fredda. Come in Mali così in Iraq, l’Italia non può essere ovunque perché non ha più le risorse. Questo porterebbe quindi ad una maggiore prudenza nell’uso della forza all’estero;

2)   Come ampiamente sottolineato dal governo e dal premier, le lezioni apprese degli interventi del passato (la Libia in primis) dovrebbero consigliare una maggiore cautela nell’impiego della forza militare per sconfiggere gruppi come l’ISIL. Più in generale, sono altri gli strumenti che dovrebbero essere privilegiati per combattere il terrorismo (da qui il focus governativo sulla “cultura” fino alla sempre più dibattuta cyber-security);

3)   Sebbene l’attenzione mediatica si sia “riversata” in Iraq e Siria, le crisi regionali degne di nota sono purtroppo molte altre. Le minacce poste all’Italia da aree strategicamente più rilevanti (di nuovo la Libia) imporrebbero di “prioritizzare” gli interventi, agendo con più cautela tra Bagdad e Damasco (senza dimenticare la centralità del rapporto con Stati Uniti e NATO, come emerso dalla volontà di non diminuire gli effettivi presenti in Afghanistan).

4)   La dimensione interna, infine, non può essere trascurata per capire le scelte dell’esecutivo. Secondo una spiegazione “domestica”, il focus principale del premier (come sottolineato a ripetizione durante la consueta conferenza stampa di fine anno) sono le riforme istituzionali ed economiche. Cioè la politica interna. Mostrare il fianco a possibili critiche dell’opposizione (dalla minoranza PD ai 5stelle) in seguito a una scelta ardita e potenzialmente impopolare di politica estera (cioè una missione di bombardamenti contro l’ISIL) sarebbe stato molto rischioso per Renzi.

Per schematizzare brutalmente, quindi: variabile economica, culturale, strategica o domestica?

In seguito ad un’analisi più approfondita (basata su interviste, documenti ufficiali, dibattito parlamentar e fonti secondarie) cercheremo di fornire qualche risposta più strutturata.

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The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective – Book presentation

Venus in Arms will present “its book” on the transformation of Italian Armed Forces at the University of Genoa (on next Monday, December 14th, 3pm, DISPOAlbergo dei Poveri, P.le E. Brignole, 2)

 In a previous post we have already illustrated the seminars organized by the University of Genoa on the evolution of contemporary security. We are really glad to present our book within such framework.

Here you’ll find a detailed description of the manuscript:”The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome?”, F.Coticchia and F.N. Moro (Ashgate, 2015).


Here below a summary of the book:

European armed forces have undergone deep changes in the past two decades. Given the breadth of the debate and the size of transformations that took place, it is somewhat surprising that relatively few academic studies have directly dealt with changes in force structure of European militaries, and the Italian armed forces in particular. The focus of this book is the organizational dimension of the restructuring of armed forces through 3 different lenses: doctrine and strategic framework, budget and resource allocation, and force structure and deployment. The key issues addressed relate to how these factors interact in shaping transformation. Of particular interest is the theme of learning, which is how armed forces endogenize change in the short and long run. This study provides valuable insights into the extent to which armed forces manage to adapt to the emerging strategic and operational challenges they have to face and to illustrate the weight of institutional legacies, resource constraints and inter-organizational learning in shaping transformation. Focusing on the Italian case in comparative perspective and based on a large variety of military operations from airstrikes to peacekeeping and counterinsurgency, the book provides an innovative viewpoint on military transformation and significantly contributes to our understanding of contemporary security that is deeply shaped by the lessons learnt in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya.

Here you can download the introduction.

See you soon in Genoa.

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