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    Members of US 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command stands next to a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery during the NATO multinational ground based air defence units exercise Tobruq Legacy 2017 at the Siauliai airbase. (File)

    Italian MP: We Need Soldiers at Europe's External Borders, But Not With Russia

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    On the eve of the NATO summit, US President Donald Trump wrote letters to the allies, warning them: spend more on defense or the US will lose patience. Sputnik discussed this with the regional secretary of the Lega party from Lombardy, MP Paolo Grimoldi.

    Sputnik: Do you consider Trump's warning to alliance members justified, those which do not spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense under the agreement?

    Paolo Grimoldi: I believe that at all levels (including the NATO level), priorities have changed. NATO has always been a military alliance, but now even within the alliance there are some countries that no longer want to pay for others. In Europe, at all levels, and in NATO, too, new times have come, hypocritical politics has failed, and we are returning to seeing things as they are. Each country in NATO or other international organizations ultimately respects its own interests, as it should have been for a long time. Thus, Trump's letter served as a wake up call to all NATO members and drew attention to the overall situation, and in particular to the problem of contributions to the NATO budget.

    Sputnik: What do you think should be the answer of the Italian prime minister to this letter?

    Paolo Grimoldi: Contributions to the defense budget are different. I am fully in favor of protecting our borders, I agree to allocate money for this. On the other hand, if instead we have to maintain international consortiums that manufacture weapons in the United States or elsewhere, I'm certainly not ready to pay for this. So, it's important on what this money will be spent. I've always said that Italy's borders should be protected. This is the position of the Lega party. To date, we have spent 4.7 billion euros on illegal migrants, if this money was spent to protect our borders, so as not to allow illegal immigrants to enter the country, it would be more useful.

    READ MORE: Rome Closes Ports to Italian Ship With Migrants for 1st Time, Vows Punishment

    Sputnik: Fifteen out of 29 NATO member countries have laid out plans to meet the target spending amount of 2% of the GDP on defense by 2024. How much would Italy spend on defense without putting a burden on taxpayers at the same time?

    Paolo Grimoldi: You should ask the people who make decisions in our government. That's what I think: I agree to increase spending to 2% of the budget, but it is important to take into account the political intentions of NATO. If the goal of increasing spending in the defense sphere is another war that will lead to an influx of illegal migrants, then these investments are useless. If the goal is to protect our borders and protect the Italian economy from more expenditures on migrants, then I am for it. However, these defense contributions should not lead to a deterioration in relations with Russia, because Russia is not a problem for us. Our problem is in the south, in Africa and Syria, where migrants come from, and where IS (Islamic State) is raging*.

    Sputnik: By the end of this year Lithuania, Latvia and Romania are expected to spend 2% of their GDP on defence. President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite recently stated that Russia is "danger number one" for the Baltic countries, and called for strengthening the alliance's defense. Do you support her point of view?

    Paolo Grimoldi: I do not live in Lithuania and do not know the motivations of their president. I can only say that it seems to me very strange, the idea that Russia could for some reason, attack Lithuania, because this would lead to the beginning of a third world war. I think that in 2018 Europe and NATO have completely different problems…

    Sputnik: Do you think the new Italian government will reconsider the presence of Italian soldiers in the Baltic states?

    Paolo Grimoldi: I think that if there are plans to send even more of our soldiers to patrol the external European borders, where theoretically terrorists may appear, then it is more useful than sending them to the borders with Russia, where, frankly, there is practically no flow of illegal migrants.

    The main problem in Europe over the past ten years has been its vulnerable security system that failed to prevent terrorist attacks, and it is well known that these acts of terrorism are related to the birthplace, religion and culture of terrorists. Therefore, I would prefer that the soldiers to be close to those borders through which these terrorists can come.

    READ MORE: Italy Keen to Work With Russia on Securing Libya to Fix Migration Issues

    Sputnik: What, in your opinion, are the prospects for the meeting between Trump and Putin?

    Paolo Grimoldi: I think that both Trump and Putin put the protection of their citizens first. This deserves respect. I think that during their meeting an honest discussion will take place defining what are Russian interests, and what are the interests of the United States, and Putin and Trump will come to a compromise, as it usually happens. In Europe, it is often said that leaders do not want to communicate with Putin, because he is a “dictator”. But Putin came to power through elections, and the fact that someone does not want to conduct a dialogue with Putin shows how blind European politics is.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    illegal migrants, migrant, defense budget, agreement, defence sector, GDP, 2018 Italian elections, ISIS, NATO, Lega Party, Giuseppe Conte, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Africa, Syria, Europe, Baltics, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, United States, Italy
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