12:17 GMT +315 November 2018
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    Soldiers take pictures of military aircrafts taking part in the opening ceremony of NATO’s large scale exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at the Italian Air Force Base in Trapani, Sicily

    Pivot to the Med: Italy Wants NATO to Rebalance Resourses From East Europe

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    Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi believes that foreign fighters coming to Europe from Libyan ports pose a security threat to the continent requiring alliance support.

    "We will strongly ask the NATO summit for a rebalancing of the Atlantic Alliance's commitment toward the Mediterranean. We should have an equal commitment toward the east and south," Milanesi said, speaking to lawmakers on Tuesday ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels which starts Wednesday.

    The foreign minister warned that Rome has evidence of a terror threat posed by the migrant flow, with the danger of jihadist fighters sneaking into Southern Europe on migrant boats requiring NATO assistance, according to the official.

    This is not the first time Italy's new government has appealed to the alliance to help deal with the migrant crisis since it came to power in June. Speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last month, Milanesi stressed that he would affirm in Brussels the need for a "360 degree security policy without neglecting the southern flank from where serious challenges emerge for the alliance, starting with terrorism."

    Earlier, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Italy was "under attack" by the migrant crisis and appealed to the alliance for protection. "Italy is under attack from the south and not from the east," he said. The new government has taken a hard line on dealing with migration, proposing the creation of settlement camps in North Africa.

    Rome has also called on its allies to soften its policy toward Russia, suggesting a new approach on sanctions policy, and praising Moscow's role as a mediator in the Syrian, Libyan and Yemeni crises. In June, Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta said Italy could become a "bridge" in relations between East and West.

    Washington's NATO allies are heading into the alliance summit in Brussels this week amid tensions over President Trump's demands that members contribute their fair share to defense. Foreign Minister Milanesi noted that the US was Italy's "main ally," and defense spending is "a commitment that we will have to face."

    Italy spent $29.2 billion, or 1.7% of its GDP, on defense in 2017. Trump has called on alliance members to meet the 2% of GDP pledge outlined in alliance agreements.

    NATO expanded its presence in Eastern Europe significantly in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and Crimea's reunification with Russia, deploying rotating battalion battle groups in Poland and the Baltic states, dramatically increasing military exercises and building a US missile defense shield in Poland and Romania. Moscow has responded to this perceived threat on its doorstep by upping its own military readiness. Italian forces have participated in the exercises, and have a mechanized infantry company currently stationed in Latvia.

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    rebalance, pivot, NATO, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italy, Europe
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