Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is interested in relaxing US and EU sanctions against Russia, but has apparently failed to sway US President Donald Trump despite the friendship they struck up over the immigration issue.
Conte, who met with Trump in Washington on Monday, said that Italy doesn’t expect sanctions against Russia to be lifted overnight, but that Rome maintains a need for dialog with Russia and doesn’t want the sanctions to harm Russian civil society or its small and medium businesses.
“Sanctions against Russia are not, and cannot be, an end unto itself,” Conte said.
Italy has been one of Russia’s major trading partners in Europe and Conte’s coalition government has sought a thaw in relations with Moscow.
The sanctions on Russia will remain as is,” Trump said at the joint press conference with his Italian guest, without elaborating further. The political establishment in Washington has hounded the president with allegations that his victory in 2016 was compromised by Russian meddling and his campaign’s “collusion,” allegations made without evidence.
Trump did, however, find common ground with Conte on border security, crediting efforts to crack down on illegal immigration for both his own victory in 2016 and the election of Conte’s government.
If Congress does not deliver on his proposals to fortify the southern border and end chain migration and diversity visa lottery, Trump said he would “have no problem doing a shutdown.” Without a continuing resolution in Congress, the federal government operations will run out of money at the end of September. As Republicans don’t have absolute majority in the Senate, some Democrat votes would be required for such a resolution.
“It’s time we had proper border security. We’re the laughingstock of the world. We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world,” Trump said.
Contradicting reports in the US media, Conte praised Trump’s performance at the G7 summit in Canada and the NATO summit in Brussels, calling the US president a great negotiator and a proper advocate for US interests in the world.
Trump’s proposals for inviting Russia back into the G8 and having NATO members increase their military spending were “absolutely reasonable positions,” the Italian PM said.