Theater of Cruelty

Italian whining?

The long winter. False apocalypses, real crises but the state will not save us (Den lange vinteren)
Forfatter: Federico Rampini
Forlag: Mondadori, (Italia)
ENERGY / When it comes to the energy shortage we are facing, could a possible answer be to let the state rule with a harder hand? And as for the war, are sanctions even an effective weapon? Federico Rampini's answer is no.


The long winter is the Italian journalist and writer Federico Rampini's term lack of energyone we are in. He draws threads back to the energy crisis of the 1970s, the oil crisis in the wake of OPECs boycott of countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Then my thoughts go back to a Sunday in 1973, when mother and I were picked up by a family friend who was going to take us into Oslo. As an American, he had probably not realized that the Norwegian state because of oil crisisn had introduced a ban on the use of private motor vehicles at weekends. I will not forget the silence and the lonely ruts we left in the fresh snow on the E18.

Nationalization of power

By comparing the 70s and today's situation, Rampini draws geopolitical lines that also include the ongoing thriller with the West versus Putin. Naturally with the risk that the events run away from him in book form, as when he hasn't caught up on the latest speculation about who blew up the oil and gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

But with the energy issue as the book's hub, there is much to gain for those who want to delve into daily journalism and form a picture of sanctions, energy and the shift in the geopolitical landscape over the past fifty years in Italy especially and in the West in general. An interesting nerve here is that Rampini shows deep skepticism about the nationalization of power, as in Italy in the 70s it contributed greatly to nepotism and corruption. At the same time, he looks to Eastern models and asks whether we should not reevaluate the importance of public governance: Could a possible answer to the energy shortage be to let the state rule with a harder hand?

The green shift

But then what do we do with the green shift, now that the world is knowingly and willingly entering a new cold war? The Russian gas that supplied Germany was for a long time the subject of criticism within the country, and in 2022 the same governments that had delegitimized fossil energy took the initiative for a reshuffle: They nationalized companies such as Uniper in Germany and Edf in France and directly took over the the German branches of Gazprom and Rosneft. Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered the nationalization of the energy sector. For several decades, China, Russia and the Gulf states have had fossil energy under state control, and the slogan now being whispered in the corridors is that the Western nations are "copying Beijing to stop Beijing".

Italians and Germans have, so to speak, stopped picking up gas – they leave the dirty work to Russia.

But the challenges with it green shift are large; among other things has renewable energy major limitations with today's technology. The Italians and Germans have, so to speak, stopped collecting gas – they leave the dung job to Russia. Beijing sets the conditions for the West's transition to a world of electric cars and solar panels, they are exclusively 'made in China' – we have delegated that dung job to the Chinese: extracting and processing lithium.

Enterprises are still the most important component of the Italian economy. According to Rampini, it makes Italy the most vulnerable country in the West in terms of state governance, due to the huge public debt and the "arrogant, invasive and inept bureaucracy". A part of the population has adopted the welfare system as their only life horizon, it says. With China and Russia as colonial powers, consolidated with several Arab states, far too many Italians listen to the anti-Western siren – and in the belief that this can be more efficient than the market, it can mean paving the way for a domestic tyrant.


Made in China

Last summer we saw the disastrous consequences droughtthe nine summer months, with dried up rivers across the Posletten and other areas. This means increased prices for basic foodstuffs while the population is falling. But with inflation and interest rate hikes, the euro is also becoming more expensive, and then I wonder where Rampini has been when he doubts whether this is perceptible to each and every one of us. After all, he himself says that we have taken the step into a new era, energy-wise, monetarily and militarily.

First of all, he asks if this is a temporary phenomenon that we will get through, as we have gotten through previous crises? Are we talking about the aftermath of the pandemic, exacerbated by the Ukraine war, or are we in a historical era characterized by restrictions, rationing and cuts across the board? In other words, a fimbul winter, also in a metaphorical sense. We have all seen how quickly maritime transport, the lifeblood of the global economy, ground to a halt during the pandemic. Container ships that stopped in the Suez Canal, without being unloaded of Chinese goods. Was it when we really realized that all consumer goods come from the East?

Abuse of the welfare state

Rampini devotes an entire chapter to what he calls "the Italian whining", complaining about the misuse of welfareone. Memories of cold Milan winters when you put on an extra sweater are like an echo of my own father growing up on Tynset, when they put on an extra wool sweater for every ten degrees of cold. We hear the economist Rampini complain about the new political climate, where one is no longer allowed to talk about the economic miracle of the 60s, since economic progress is exclusively associated with climate destruction.

According to the author, Italy is the most vulnerable country in the West in terms of government management, due to the enormous public debt and the "arrogant, invasive and inept bureaucracy".

Instead of pointing a finger at the cultivation of individuality and narcissism, perhaps he should come up with constructive views on how we should face the long winter. Too with whining he means, we understand, culture of violation, automation and alarmism. All clearly signs of the end that lead us into the apocalypse. And according to him, the Italian distrust of the market economy leads to a brain drain of entrepreneurial talent and people with a willingness to take risks!


Then it is more interesting to read in the book about how effective the sanctions are against Russia in the wake of the Ukraine war has been. Yes, is sanctions at all an effective weapon? The answer is no. They are only partially carried out, and are limited to a blockade. All previous examples, from Rome's sanctions against Carthage, England's against Napoleon and, for Italy, Mussolini's against Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1935, were in vain.

The failure of the Russia boycott is also due to the weakening of credibility when the US runs its own race with isolationism and does not follow the UN. The sanctions have the greatest effect when they are implemented against smaller states, and often have a boomerang effect. Like when Roosevelt rallied the West in an oil blockade against Japan to punish aggression in the East, possibly triggering the attack on Pearl Harbor. Putin has a tamed and organized mafia there is reason to fear, in addition to secret agents and advanced hackers. Since the aggression was planned as early as 2008, he has had all the time in the world to organize a shadow


A crack in the Western economic fortress is Switzerland. In February 2022, the country adopted a suspension of the legislation, in order to participate in our sanctions against Russia. Something special for a neutral country, especially when so many Russian oligarchs have asylum. However, the positive effect did not materialize, because already in the summer of 2022 it became clear that Sveits practiced mapping and confiscation of the oligarchs' assets. In this way, the Bern government acquired an ethical alibi, without following through on its promises.

In the canton of Zugo, known as "The Little Fly", known for its high concentration of secondary residences of Russian oligarchs, only one company out of 30 was identified as being linked to Russian citizens on the sanctions list. As many as 000 people with residences, companies and accounts there have a personal connection to Putin, and 32 percent of all international trade with Russians takes place through companies based in Switzerland.

All previous examples of sanctions, from Rome's sanctions against Carthage, England's against Napoleon and, for Italy, Mussolini's against Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1935, were in vain.

Russia has also established an excellent relationship with OPEC, to the extent that the cartel has been renamed OPEC+ (plus Moscow). The Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia could create major difficulties for Putin if they increased oil production; it would be a harder blow to Russia than the US embargo (the US imports very little oil from Moscow). But the Saudis and other members of the cartel will not sabotage their "extra member", and within OPEC Putin has managed to create alliances.

I Dubai you hear more Russian than Arabic, where Russian oligarchs stay in 7-star hotels for tens of thousands of kroner a night. Many of them have had a plan B ready. It is not only the Russian economy that is suffering, Putin's geopolitics is winning from it, with his alliance with Syria and Iran. Putin's military muscle inspires fear and admiration in the Middle East and Africa.


After Russia, only the Netherlands and Norway profit more from gas. As a member of the EU, the Netherlands is an important supplier; nevertheless, the country has no intention of increasing production. Norway is a member of NATO, but the Atlantic Pact does not include gas.

An amusing digression is Rampini's reference to the Norwegian TV series Okkupert, where environmentalists take over power in Oslo and issue a halt to all supplies of fossil energy – where then there is an occupation by the Russian military to restore gas extraction. The real world is more cynical and banal, writes Rampini, and here it is hard not to agree with him. We condemn Putin, but use the war to enrich ourselves.

At the same time, Italy today sits on the fence and watches countries like Croatia suck up the gas in the maritime waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Astrid Nordang
Astrid Nordang
Nortdang is a regular literature reviewer in MODERN TIMES. Is a translator and author.

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