The Corner

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Friendship

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte with President Trump in Quebec, June 8, 2018 (Reuters / Yves Herman)

At the G-7 meeting in Canada, President Trump called for Russia’s readmission to the group. After the meeting, he slammed the Canadian prime minister as “very dishonest and weak.”

In Canada, Trump said, “Something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in.” What happened is the following: Putin annexed Crimea and launched a war in eastern Ukraine. Therefore, his government was excluded from these international meetings.

Two and a half weeks ago, Dutch investigators reached a conclusion about the commercial airliner shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014: The missile came from the Russian military. (All 298 people aboard were killed.)

One Western leader agreed with Trump about readmitting Russia to the meetings: Giuseppe Conte. Trump tweeted, “Just met the new Prime Minister of Italy, @GiuseppeConteIT, a really great guy. He will be honored in Washington, at the @WhiteHouse, shortly. He will do a great job – the people of Italy got it right!”

Conte is at the head of a new coalition government, composed of the Five Star Movement and the League. Last year, the League struck a friendship-and-cooperation agreement between itself and Putin’s party, United Russia. The League’s chief, Matteo Salvini, called it a “historic deal.”

The League had long been friendly to Putin, as evidenced by a “Friends of Putin” group in the Italian parliament (started in 2014). Salvini is a great enthusiast for Putin. He has traveled to Moscow frequently, once being photographed wearing a Putin T-shirt. Today, Salvini is the deputy prime minister and interior minister of Italy.

Naturally, the new government calls for the immediate lifting of EU sanctions on Russia. Whether this will come to pass, who can know for sure? It depends on the composition of European governments.

Last year, Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian premier, held a joint press conference with Putin. Orbán denounced what he called “a strong anti-Russian atmosphere” in the West. (He must have meant anti-Putin. Putin and his supporters always want to equate Russia with Putin. One of Putin’s top political aides, Vyacheslav Volodin, said, “There is no Russia without Putin.”) Orbán also said, “We all sense — it’s in the air — that the world is in the process of a substantial realignment.”

That is undoubtedly true. Buckle up.

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