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Berlusconi skimming off the top of Gazprom deals?

Here’s the inflammatory 2009 cable on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s relationship with Russia which was first reported by the Guardian. The cable contains suggestions that Berlusconi is personally profiting from energy deals with Russia and reports that Italy’s Russia policy is handled entirely by the prime minister himself: Berlusconi admires Putin’s macho, decisive, and ...

Here’s the inflammatory 2009 cable on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s relationship with Russia which was first reported by the Guardian. The cable contains suggestions that Berlusconi is personally profiting from energy deals with Russia and reports that Italy’s Russia policy is handled entirely by the prime minister himself:

Berlusconi admires Putin’s macho, decisive, and authoritarian governing style, which the Italian PM believes matches his own. From the Russian side, it appears that Putin has devoted much energy to developing Berlusconi’s trust.

6. (S/NF) Contacts in both the opposition center-left PD Rome party and Berlusconi’s own PdL party, however, have hinted at a more nefarious connection. They believe that Berlusconi and his cronies are profiting personally and handsomely from many of the energy deals between Italy and Russia. The Georgian ambassador in Rome has told us that the GOG believes Putin has promised Berlusconi a percentage of profits from any pipelines developed by Gazprom in coordination with ENI. Whenever we raise the issue of Russia and the P with our contacts in PdL, Berlusconi’s own party, they have usually pointed us to Valentino Valentini, a member of parliament and somewhat shadowy figure who operates as Berluscon’s key man on Russia, albeit with no staff or even a secretary. Valentini, a Russian-speaker who travels to Russia several times per month, frequently appears at Berlusconi’s side when he meets other world leaders. What he does in Moscow during his frequent visits is unclear but he is widely rumored to be looking after Berlusconi’s business interests in Russia. Our contacts uniformly deem Valentini, a multilingual former interpreter, close to Berlusconi with regard to Russia, but not a polic person.

7. (C/NF) All of our interlocutors – xxxxxxxxxxxx – report that Berlusconi determines Italy’s policy on Russia single-handedly, neither seeking nor accepting counsel. Virtually all are reluctant to confront the PM even when he is at his worst on Russia. In November 2008, after a disastrous press conference in which, inter alia, the PM described NATO expansion, recognition of Kosovo’s independence, and missile defense as "U.S. provocations" of Russia, GOI officials did a classic duck- and-cover. In response to our objections, MFA and PM staff sheepishly directed us to the PM himself, rather than deliver the unpleasant news to him that he had angered not only the Americans but other members of the Contact Group for the Balkans, not t mention the Czechs and Poles. Even FM Frattini admits to wielding no influence on Berlusconi on Russia. During an early September visit to Italy, former VP Cheney confronted Frattini on Italy’s very public and unhelpful stance on the Georgia conflict. A subdued Frattini noted that, while he had strong opinions on the issue, he nevertheless received his marching orders from the PM.

The cable describes Italy’s foreign policy as one "designed to deny Russia nothing" and says the prime minister has an "overwhelming desire is to remain in Putin’s good graces."

Speaking at the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan, Berlusconi denied having financial interests in any foreign country. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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