The VII annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations (SGRI): Final Programme

The VII annual Conference of the Italian Standing Group on International Relations (SGRI) will be held for the third time in Trento from June 27th to June 28th and will be organized by the Bruno Kessler Foundation‘s Research Center on International Politics and Conflict Resolution (FBK-CERPIC).

This years topic will be: «Security and Cooperation in a Changing International System».

Here you’ll find the final program me of the 2014 Conference


Venus in Arms and Stratgroup will organize the panel: “The winter of our consent? Italian foreign and defense policy and the contemporary security challenges”.

Here below the details of the panel:

Chairs: Francesco Moro (University of Milan ‘Bicocca’) and Fabrizio Coticchia  (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Pisa)
Discussants:  Francesco Moro (University of Milan ‘Bicocca’)  and Andrea Locatelli  (Catholic University, Milan)

Friday, 27th June, 2014 – Aula Grande

In the post-Cold War era Italy has been one of the most active contributors to international security, constantly providing troops for military operations around the world.Italywas the only major European country to send forces to all major operations that have been undertaken by Western countries in the post-9/11 era (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya). Italian public opinion has regularly supported the “peace operations” undertaken by the Italian armed forces, which have been “used” also to face non-military threats, such as migration, piracy or transnational organized crime.

Despite such relevant contribution, Italy has been constantly overlooked by literature. The panel aims to fill this gap, examining how the Italian foreign and defense policy has faced the new challenges posed by the current financial crisis. The severe defense spending review, the huge cuts in diplomacy and development aid, the reduction of troops deployed abroad and the drop of public opinion support towards military operations abroad could represent the first effects of the crisis.

The panel, through different perspectives, provides empirical material to understand how these dynamics are transforming traditional national security practices

Normative power at work. Assessing EU crisis management operations
Eugenio Cusumano, Baltic Defense College
Francesco Giumelli, University of Groningen

Commercialization of security in Italy
Stefano Ruzza, University of Turin

The Italian Defence Policy after the Cold War. Europeanisation, American Influence, or Strategic Adjustment?
Andrea Locatelli, Catholic University, Milan

A two-level game? The determinants of the Italian military intervention in Libya: strategic culture, international norms and domestic dynamics
Michela Ceccorulli, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and University of Bologna at Forlì
Fabrizio Coticchia, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

The Strategy of a Middle-Power in the Post-Bipolar World
Marco Valigi, University Roma Tre

Transitions in European Security Structures and Doctrine. Towards the Adoption of Cultural Awareness Training for European Battle Group Soldiers
Blaise Nkfunkoh Ndamnsah, University of Ljubljana


See you there!!

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It is not all about the money. Strategic Adjustment and the End of Conscription in Italy

Guest Post by Andrea Locatelli*

Defence planning is no easy stuff. The goal is to define short- and long-term needs, match them with available resources (read: budget) and craft force, procurement, manpower and readiness plans consequently. Things were just a little easier if you worked at the Pentagon, where budget constraints were less severe and military superiority could compensate for blunders (but the good old times are gone even in Washington). If you move from the US to Italy, the challenge can be paramount. Broadly speaking, the Italian defence policy since the end of the Cold War was marked by three main features: first, the lack of a clear political guidance over the years. Partially for the high volatility of governments and coalitions, partially for the lack of a strategic culture, defence circles enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy with respect to the executive and legislative bodies. Second, even before the ongoing economic crisis, defence policies have been hindered by severe constraints in the defence budget. Third, like its partners in Europe and overseas, Italy needed to adjust to (and indeed understand) the new security context originating from the demise of the Soviet Union.

Following these considerations, one may be tempted to paint a gloomy picture of the Italian defence policy in the past 25 years. Being planning so difficult, we would expect either an erratic or an overly conservative course. However, just a cursory look at the main features of manpower planning would show that Italy’s action in this issue area, while not entirely successful, was driven by strategic calculations. This is not to say that it is always sunny in Rome. As we will see, a number of problems remains as a legacy of the past, and it is likely to remain unsolved for the foreseeable future. However, contrary to common wisdom, we can argue that the Italian Armed forces embarked on a painstaking reform process aimed at adjusting the country’s military posture to the contemporary security scenario.

The departing point is the 1991 Gulf War. During Desert Storm Italy found itself unprepared and in many respects with an obsolete army. In fact, being based on low-skilled, poorly equipped mass conscripts, the Italian army could serve a purpose in defending national borders from an eventual Soviet invasion, but not in the emerging new scenario. To meet this challenge, the Armed Forces needed to adjust either its missions, military posture and structure.

In terms of manpower, the main initiative was the so called “New Defence Model”. Initially conceived in 1995, it was aimed at replacing the existing system with one based on a mix of conscripts and volunteers. After a series of Legislative Decrees, the implementation phase started on 20 January 1998: at that stage the goal was fixed in a 230.000 strong force, made by 64.000 volunteers and 72.000 conscripts. Two years later, a second phase was implemented aimed at transforming the Armed Forces into an all-professional force. Even if the time horizon for the completion of the reform was planned to 2020, the early 2000s already witnessed unexpected problems in terms of recruiting and force structure. All this led to a new Law (No. 226, 23 August 2004) that provided better career opportunities for volunteers and accelerated the end of conscription to 2005 instead of 2007.

Even before the switch to a professional army was implemented, Italy experienced a significant reduction in the number of personnel. From 1998 to 2004, for instance, the total figure dropped from 384.600 to 207.200, equal to a 53.8% decrease. This was partially due to domestic reasons (shrinking youth population, conscientious objection to military service and other exemption provisions), but strategic considerations also played an important role: since conscripts cannot be deployed on the battlefield, they grew increasingly unnecessary and burdensome. Italian policymakers acknowledged that the cold-war mass army based on conscripts had suddenly become obsolete and useless in the altered strategic context. Apart from strategic adjustment, such reform was also made with an eye on tight defence budgets.

It is in this second respect that the effort proved far from successful: despite cuts in personnel, resource allocation remain inefficient. According to EDA, 71% of the 2008 budget was devoted to personnel spending, while Operation and Maintenance and Investment equalled just 9% and 15% respectively (in 2013 things were just slightly better, as personnel costs weighted for 66%, Maintenance for 9% and Investment for 25%). This made of Italy one of the least efficient European states in military spending. In order to address the issue, in 2012 then Ministry of Defence Giampaolo di Paola launched a reform aimed at slashing in the next ten years the number of civilian and military personnel from 183 to 150 thousands. Most importantly, the whole structure of the Armed forces was remodelled, with a significant reduction of the highest echelons (-25% generals and admirals).

It is too early to say whether this move is in the right direction or not. The point worth stressing however is that, regardless of the many hurdles and constraints that come from the political and economic environment, the Italian Armed Forces steadily embarked in this reform process. They faced the challenge and quickly shunned the temptation to follow a conservative course of action. It may seem a little accomplishment, but for defence planners this is the first step for a successful strategy.


*Andrea Locatelli is Assisant Professor at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan), where he teaches Strategic Studies and Introduction to Political Science.

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