In spite of the overall worsening of transatlantic relations over the past four years, and more inward looking foreign policy choices, Italy and the United States were able to preserve consistently positive relations.
As far as trade is concerned, Italy managed to avoid the brunt of US tariffs on European goods, and trade exchange between Rome and Washington kept a positive trajectory in a number of high-value sectors. Regardless of a more explicit link between Italy and China, Italy never questioned its loyalty to the United States, and Rome is one of the most valuable US allies in Europe, as it is the second-largest contributor to NATO’s out-of-area operations and a key player in the Mediterranean. Yet, while COVID-19 has taken a dramatic economic toll almost everywhere, in Italy specifically it has exacerbated structural vulnerabilities and risks generating political instability that can be exploited by external powers. After providing a comprehensive overview of Italy-US trade and security relations, this paper argues that Italy is both security asset for the United States, in light of long-standing military and economic cooperation, and an issue of concern, due to Italy’s newer links to Russia and China, as well domestic political instability and economic fragility.
In addition, this paper reflects on how the US administration could leverage Italy to improve transatlantic ties and ensure security in the Mediterranean.