US election seen from Italy: Curious about Trump’s destiny

US election seen from Italy: Curious about Trump’s destiny

Massimo Gaggi is an Italian journalist with the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Willis Sparks: Italy has been through so much this year with COVID-19. What's going on in Italy at the moment, and what was the mood like then?

MG: The mood, obviously, was very depressed during the spring, when the crisis came out so badly in Italy. The mood was also a little bit upset vis-à-vis the other European countries and the United States, to be honest with you, because we felt that we didn't get any help in that period, and also that we got some judgment that was not so right. The situation is very much different now, because Italy is the country with the best situation in Europe at this moment. We are pretty proud about what we've done in this period.


WS: Beyond anger at the European Union, there is also some anger at the United States?

MG: We should make a difference between the mood of the people and the mood of the government. The mood of the people was led by what they saw. We saw that China was helping Italy, Russia sent military hospitals, while Europe was very tight in giving help. But the US also didn't give any help at the beginning of this crisis, even if at the time the US was not in a very bad position. Then when the crisis started to be severe in the US, the news was that President Trump was buying masks and other equipment, respirators or ventilators all over the world, sometimes buying some stocks already bought by other countries.

All these stories were very bad, but this is very much superficial. What is deeper is the institutional difference between the United States and Europe. The US is used to giving commercial companies a lot of responsibility in areas that have a relevant political value. American companies working in Italy — Coca-Cola or pharmaceutical and technology companies — gave a lot of help. They bought material for hospitals, pharmaceuticals. They gave a lot. But you didn't see this in terms of communication because they were just private donations, unlike support from a national government.

WS: Does this US presidential election matter in Italy? Does it matter to Italian people? Does it matter to the Italian government?

MG: For the Italian people, at this moment, the US election is more a curiosity about the destiny of the leadership of Donald Trump. While all the interest there was to go for Barack Obama has disappeared, now they know Joe Biden, but they don't have any specific idea about his politics, and what is going to be a country led by Joe Biden. People know something about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They read something about the Green New Deal, also because the European Union is trying to do something similar. Obviously, there was an interest in Bernie Sanders to do well during the primaries. But I will say that today there is specific attention and interest in the politics of the Democratic Party.

It is more a mood like it was in Italy 10 or 15 years ago, where we were going through Italian elections in which you were not discussing very much about the right or the left. The discussion was Berlusconi si, Berlusconi no. At the time, the political debate in Italy before the vote was not so much about the difference in policies from the right of Berlusconi and the left of the Italian Democratic Party and other smaller parties of the leftist coalition. It was just about the personality of Silvio Berlusconi. That's what I'm seeing at the political debate in the US. I see many points of contact with the mood that we had in Italy at the time, also because it was very difficult for the left at the time. And I think this is difficult for the left in the US now, even to propose new, really effective policies for the growth of the economy.

WS: What about the Italian government?

MG: One important thing that I think we have to underline is the fragmentation of the government. We had a change with the exit of the Lega, then in the end came in the Italian Democratic Party, even if the prime minister is still Giuseppe Conte. So in general terms, the government obviously is very much in favor of Donald Trump also because Trump gave his support several times to Conte.

Then you have the problem of the Lega, which is still officially in favor of the White House of Trump. At the same time, the Americans and the Department of State, Mike Pompeo, made it clear discussing with Mr Salvini that the US didn't like very much a party that is too close to the Russia of Vladimir Putin. And also the other major party of the coalition, Five Stars, which is very close to Melenchon [far-left French politcian] and his vision of the state, and on globalization pretty close to the Trump ideology. Also a powerful movement, although there are some problems because its leader, Luigi di Maio, is pretty close to China. Obviously, the US didn't like this, and they were pretty vocal about it. The third element of the coalition is the Italian Democratic Party, which is closer to the Americans. The government is pretty much in favor of Donald Trump, but in a very fragmented way.

But it's very clear in the mind of the politicians that even if most of the opposition considers Trump an ally or a friend of Italy, everybody's too upset about the lack of support from the US in the Mediterranean during the crisis in Libya. Because of this lack of interest by the United States, now we have important roles for Russia, Turkey and even Egypt. This is going to be a pretty relevant problem for Italy, and I think in the future also for the other Western countries, including the US.

This interview is part of the GZERO project Global voices on the US election, which you can find in full here.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.

US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.

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Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, joins Ian Bremmer on this week's World in 60 seconds to discuss multilateralism, optimism, and the return to normal in the post-pandemic world.

Could this pandemic actually present an opportunity to bolster global support for multilateralism and what should that look like moving forward, Brad?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think it's an imperative and it has to bolster support for multilateralism for a very simple reason. We cannot afford to assume that it will be another century before we see a pandemic like this again. We have to take from this experience, all of the learning we can muster and put in place what we will need to be better prepared. And the only way we can do that is to start with an obvious fact. Viruses don't respect borders. So people have to work together across them as governments and with the kinds of support from companies and civil society that it'll take to ensure that we don't find ourselves as ill prepared a decade from now or five years from now, as we were when this year began.

Ian Bremmer:

On the one hand, there's been a lot of lack of leadership, at least internationally, the G20 doing nearly as much coming out of this crisis that we saw coming out of the 2008 financial crisis when it was founded. On the other hand, you've got supra-nationalism in Europe with the Germans and the French, and indeed unanimous votes to actually create stronger redistribution, stronger capacity and resilience of that institution. You've got the World Health Organization, the UN here working with a bunch of leaders and the private sector.

What gives you cause so far for most optimism that we actually are going to respond more effectively?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think one of the fascinating aspects of this pandemic in its own way has been the critical importance of data. We're all relying on data, literally, to manage government decisions that determine whether we get to leave our homes, where we get to go, what we get to do. But the truth is what we've also learned is that the data that is needed to address something like this needs to be measured in a consistent way across borders. At Microsoft we're doing a lot of work with the World Health Organization. Just learning from that how each individual government can be more effective if it's collaborating with others in a more unified way, putting digital technology and data to work. I think there's a lot of insight from that narrow slice that in fact impacts every part of the economy in the world today.

Ian Bremmer:

One of the things that people have been most concerned about is that the pandemic is driving borders up. It's driving people farther apart. But the fact that technology is working as well as it is right now is also unlocking human capital in terms of distance learning, in terms of telemedicine for large numbers of people that otherwise would have been left further behind in a crisis like this.

Brad Smith:

We're all learning a lot. I think tele health services are one of the great examples of where we're going to find in the future that it doesn't mean that people will no longer go to a doctor, but they'll only go to a doctor when they need to see a doctor in person.

And we'll probably live in a world where people have more consultation with health professionals because tele-health will fill-in a void, but we're also finding all the cracks in our societies. What it means when some people have broadband and others don't. Some people have access to digital skills and others don't. So it's a world of new opportunity, but if the opportunity isn't distributed more broadly, then it's going to exacerbate all the divides we already worry about in our societies.

Ian Bremmer:

What's the piece of life after coronavirus when truly people feel safe, again, that we're not socially distancing and the rest, that you think is going to be most different from life before coronavirus?

Brad Smith:

Well, I think it's going to be a more of a mixture of hybrid life. I'm not one who believes that people will want to stay in their houses forever. I think there's a lot that can be accomplished when people get together that they can't do when they're by themselves. But there's also a lot that we can do that will add convenience and efficiency and effectiveness to our lives by combining this in-person interaction with remote sort of everything, shopping, ordering food, connecting with people around the world, we have the opportunity to build sort of a richer experience. But again, only if the technology that's essential for this is within everyone's reach.

Ian Bremmer:

I also think we could get used to being six feet apart from each other for a longer period of time.

Brad Smith:

Yeah. But I still think you'll go to a sporting event, people are still going to want to be in a crowd. Go to a theater, people are going to want to be in the crowd. It will be fascinating to see how long some of these other habits persist once we're finally out of the other end of this tunnel and can look at it in the rear view mirror.

As global leaders turn their attention to the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 2020 General Assembly, GZERO Media offers a look back at one of the greatest diplomatic mysteries of the 20th century. The UN's second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's mysterious death in 1961, while on a mission to Congo, is the subject of a new book by investigative correspondent and New York Times correspondent Ravi Somaiya. It has the twists and turns of a Tom Clancy novel.

Trump is willing to give up Wisconsin for Belarus' democracy? When multilateralism hits the Zoom calls, we can't really tell what's real and what's not. #PUPPETREGIME