- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 20, 2011


The former U.S. ambassador to Italy described Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as a self-obsessed politician who has offended Italians of “nearly every demographic” and damaged Italy’s reputation in Europe and Washington, where many U.S. officials see a “comic tone” to his behavior.

The excoriating review from Ronald P. Spogli came in a confidential diplomatic cable as he was preparing to end his tour of duty in February 2009, two years before Mr. Berlusconi’s latest scandal. The 74-year-old prime minister is on trial on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

Mr. Spogli, a political appointee of President George W. Bush and a former investment banker, wrote that Mr. Berlusconi “has inadvertently come to symbolize” Italy’s “unwillingness and inability” to address “chronic problems” like a “decaying infrastructure, raising debt and endemic corruption.”

“His frequent verbal gaffes and poor choice of words have offended nearly every demographic in Italy and many EU [European Union] leaders,” Mr. Spogli said in the cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

“His perceived willingness to put his personal interests above those of the state, his preference for short-term solutions over long-term investment and his frequent use of public institutions and resources to gain electoral advantage over his political adversaries have harmed Italy’s reputation in Europe and has provided an unfortunately comic tone to Italy’s reputation in many quarters in the U.S. government.”

Despite Mr. Berlusconi’s antics, he remained a close friend to the United States, Mr. Spogli wrote in his cable to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a briefing for the new U.S. ambassador, David Thorne.

Mr. Spogli noted Italy’s deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and its support for U.S. foreign-policy goals. He called Foreign Minister Franco Frattini a “serious and experienced statesman.”

“The combination of Italy’s economic decline and political idiosyncrasies have cause many European leaders to denigrate the contributions of Berlusconi and Italy,” he said.

“We should not.”


Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Conservative Party member of the European Parliament and co-chairman of the parliament’s Free Iran Caucus. He meets with State Department officials to call for the removal of the Iranian resistance from the U.S. blacklist of terrorist groups.


Erion Veliaj, coordinator of Albanian opposition parties. He discusses Albania’s ongoing political turmoil at a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Monica Herz of the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro; Mustafa Kibaroglu of Turkey’s Bilkent University; Nizar Messari of Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University. They participate in a forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on the failed diplomatic efforts of Brazil and Turkey to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.


Vladimir Kara-Murza of the pro-democracy Russian Solidarity Party. He addresses the American Enterprise Institute on the political climate in Russia since the show trials of businessmen and entrepreneurs Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev and the impact on U.S.-Russia relations.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail [email protected]

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