The Five Eyes look to the East. And Italy?

A press release issued by the US Department of Defense on 15 October 2020 aseptically announces the results of the last (official) meeting between the members of Five Eyes, the agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for the acquisition and exchange of information on strategies and tactics to protect national interests by Andrea Monti – Originally published in Italian by

The text of the press release is devoid of content, containing only general statements on the importance of cooperation and the commitment to continue along the path already established. On closer inspection, however, the penultimate paragraph contains an unequivocal message about the operational priorities of this intelligence structure:

Ministers discussed current and future international initiatives and considered how the Five Eyes might increase cooperation to address shared global security challenges. They concluded the meeting by sharing their respective engagement strategies in the Indo-Pacific region and identified ways to better coordinate efforts.

The Five Eyes reaffirmed a prevailing interest in the Indo-Pacific rather than for other geopolitical areas, in evident competition with the European attention to the same scenario. Secondly, and as a consequence, the Five Eyes have announced that they are taking action against threats to their security.

The strategic choice of the Five Eyes does not seem to be of particular interest to Italy. However, recent history tragically teaches us that this is not the case and the actions decided in Beijing or New Delhi – but also in Tokyo or Seoul – provoke reactions also from this part of the (former) Iron Curtain and in our country in particular.

It is not just a question of economic repercussions, as in the case of the Italian involvement in the Silk Road, or the controversy over China’s interest in the port of Trieste or national security issues (as in the 5G affair). The activism of the East Tigers has long since begun to manifest itself also (and above all) in foreign policy issues traditionally belonging to the Euro-American area, with China as a candidate for a leading role in the solution of the Middle East conflict.

Consequently, for Italy, which no longer has the privileged relations of the past with countries in North Africa and the Middle East, it becomes fundamental to have access to information of strategic importance that only the Five Eyes can collect and (choose to) share. Moreover, it is precisely the sharing of information that represents the Gordian knot that must be cut for Italy to be able to access the enormous wealth of Five Eyes information. Currently, the intelligence network can choose at their will when what and how much information can be shared. Above all with whom and under what conditions. In other words, if Italy wants to become the “Sixth Eye” it must allow at least part of its national security infrastructure to be “co-managed” by the Network.

Given the absence of a similar structure in Europe – which at present does not seem even remotely considered in the projects of the EU legislator – there is no alternative to entering the “good living room” of electronic intelligence, except to take action to stipulate a treaty with individual countries in Europe and the East. It is precisely the reluctance of the Five Eyes to extend full membership to other potential candidates that could support the creation, perhaps under Italian leadership, of a competing project to protect national interests.

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