Former President of the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI) Stefano Silvestri said US President Donald Trump’s policies would have a “divisive effect” on European countries.
"European countries are aware that Trump's policies could affect us in a very negative way, on many levels,” Silvestri told the Tasnim News Agency.
"…the main risk for Europe is that Trump will have a divisive effect, undermining the EU and possibly NATO,” he added.
Stefano Silvestri has been President of the International Affairs Institute from 2001 to 2013. He has been a lead writer for Il Sole 24 Ore since 1985. Between January 1995 and May 1996, he served as Under Secretary of State for Defense, having been an advisor to the Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs, for European matters, in 1975, and a consultant to the Prime Minister's Office under various Governments. He continues to act as a consultant to both for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministries of Defense and Industry. As a professional journalist, he has been a special correspondent and columnist for Globo (1982), member of the Policy Committee of Europeo (1979), and has contributed articles on foreign and defense policy to numerous national daily papers. He was Professor for Mediterranean Security Issues at the Bologna Centre of Johns Hopkins University (1972-1976) and has worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (1971-1972). He is currently a member of the administrative council of the Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security (AIAD), and of the Trilateral Commission.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: Recently, the British security minister said that Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) militants have aspirations to launch chemical attacks on targets in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. In fact, European authorities fear that as the militant group was driven out of strongholds in the Middle East such as the Iraqi city of Mosul, their nationals fighting for the terrorist group would return home and pose a growing domestic threat. It seems that Europe is going to face an influx of Takfiri militants as a continent battered by a string of terror attacks. Why is that so? What would Europe do in order to contain this threat?
Silvestri: We don’t know how many terrorists with a European passport are still alive and willing to fight. Very likely the number will not be so high as some have originally thought. Yet it is likely that some terrorists will try to increase the terror level in Europe, to compensate for the failures and defeats of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. I suppose that this threat will continue for the next 2-3 years at least. Yet, the ability of the intelligence and police services to counter it might be underrated: A large number of the European nationals fighting with Daesh have been already identified and their offensive attempts could be prevented. Moreover, I think that the increasing evidence of a Daesh defeat will have a negative impact on many terrorists, simplifying the intelligence and investigative work. Obviously, European public opinion is more vulnerable than the Middle Eastern one to the effects of a successful terrorist attack, thus giving the impression of a lower level of societal resilience. This theory, however, has been constantly proved wrong in the past and there is no reason to believe that it will be different in the future. The main negative consequences might be felt by the immigrant communities in Europe.
Tasnim: Thousands of Europeans are thought to have traveled to Syria, many to join Daesh, since the outbreak of the foreign-backed war in that country. It sounds that chickens are coming home to roost. What do you think?
Silvestri: Those who are still alive and willing to fight, as well as able to escape identification will be a tiny minority. Still, they will be a significant threat, but I doubt that they will become a systemic threat.
Tasnim: Reports suggest that certain European states have been supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East. Do you believe that they will finally reconsider their position on Syria and the rest of the region?
Silvestri: European and non-European states have done so, and some are continuing to do so, especially among non-Europeans. The effectiveness of these choices has been at best limited and of a tactical nature, while their overall strategic impact has been, in my opinion, negative. However, many countries remain more tactically than strategically oriented.
Tasnim: Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to "America First” policies at home and abroad. How would US-Europe ties change under Trump? Will Europe try to turn to other powers as a replacement for the US?
Silvestri: European countries are aware that Trump's policies could affect us in a very negative way, on many levels. Yet we do not know yet what he will do, where and how successfully. Thus, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I doubt that we could change alliances: There is no credible replacement for the US (and it is likely that we will not have to replace it on many grounds, but simply to reduce its overall value). The main risk for Europe is that Trump will have a divisive effect, undermining the EU and possibly NATO. Some Europeans would like very much those developments. Others are trying to go for a stronger European role and identity. Lines are being drawn. Wait and see.