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  • Media & Comunicazione
  • Rassegna dell'Arma
  • La Rassegna
  • Anno 2004
  • Supplemento al N.4
  • English Version
  • Ist Session

Amb. Dr. Riccardo Sessa

Thank you, General Leso.

A special greeting for the Commander General and the Undersecretary. The Undersecretary will excuse me if I greeted the Commander General first, but here I instinctively thought of the Carabinieri Corps, also in view of the relations mentioned by General Leso I have always had with the Corps. I thank you for the invitation to give my contribution and open this seminar, in the first stage, in the first panel regarding the lessons learned by the MSU experience. The General Commander, in his intervention, traced the essential historical guidelines on the origins of the establishment of this Unit, the tasks they have carried out and will certainly carry out in a future harmonious co-operation with representatives of police forces or armed forces of several other countries, which I greet warmly.

I shall try to add my point of view, based on the lessons learned, according to the title of this first panel, and shall try to add some considerations based - and I believe that this is what the organizers expect of me - on my personal experiences matured during the various offices and especially during the period in which I had the pleasure and honour to serve the Ministry of Defense as Diplomatic Advisor to the Minister, at a time when the Italian military participation to international military operations not only increased but was enhanced in those contents that now permit our country to be second to no one as regards the employment of our units abroad. In this context the employment of men from the Carabinieri Corps is most certainly a flagship: I say this because abroad there are many representatives of all the armed forces and we must be proud of them.

The General Commander mentioned the path that in the late ’90s led to the awareness - in the opinions that arose within the Defense General Staff of the main countries, especially NATO countries and NATO headquarters in Brussels, both in the civil and in the military ambit - to the timeliness of differently conceiving international military operations on the basis of former experiences, giving more consideration to the nature these international military operations were taking on. Worldwide the scenario had started to shift the barycenter of the security politics. At first, and for endless years, this barycenter was anchored exclusively to the defense of national space; later, and today in a consolidated manner, it is projected outside towards crisis areas as required by national security, of defense of national interests and especially where - the undersecretary mentioned the commitment in Iraq - we have solidarity obligations deriving from the alliances our country participates in.

Around the mid 90s, while I was working at the Ministry of Defense, I had the opportunity and the possibility of participating in the development of a new strategic concept regarding the most efficacious manner of guaranteeing an international presence. In those years the complexity of international crises that justified and required an international military intervention made it obvious that it was necessary to flank traditional military units employed in these kind of missions with new units carrying out different tasks in view of the different demands that were arising. That is, the international scenario had changed so much that we no longer needed to carry out traditional military operations: we no longer had to wage true and proper wars.

We no longer needed the sole and exclusive presence of extremely professional units of soldiers and means to face a military enemy. Actually, we had to be ready to stabilize areas where we were asked to intervene, with the awareness that the enemy, the threat to fight, did not come from enemy military units, but from situations, people and territories to be controlled. Those responsible and scholars of international issues and the employment of units abroad started to develop the idea that what had so far been considered as international military operations were actually evolving into different kinds of operations. International police operations were starting to be carried out in the sense that the main objective - as already mentioned - was not to fight a military enemy, but to stabilize a region, an area, a state. In order to meet this new task, governments felt the need to rely on international armed forces and employ units endowed with a different professionalism than the one they were used to, that is units formed by specialists, by particularly specialized soldiers and professionals. This is what gave rise to units of both police and military forces.

At the beginning, the first assessments within the United Nations gave no satisfactory result because the United Nations system had instinctively thought of civil police units. In the case of Italy, as well as of other countries, we soon realized that our civil police units were not professional enough to guarantee police tasks in a decidedly hostile outside environment that also required a militarized force, strong military operational capacities and a specific military training. This is why NATO came up with other proposals that led - as mentioned by the General Commander - to the decision to employ units in Bosnia in compliance with the Dayton Agreements. The idea of using true and proper military units prevailed as long as they had a police component and thus the employment of a structure such as the Carabinieri Corps became a natural fact among decision-making experts.

Contemporarily, we also turned to other structures in countries with institutions having tasks, organization and aims more or less similar to those of the Carabinieri Corps, such as the French Gendarmerie, the Spanish Guardia Civil, the Portuguese Republican Guard: Institutions with which the Carabinieri Corps, at the time in search of natural affinities - was working at the first co-operation agreements among these four units, which are now fully operational. This is how we ended up - as formerly mentioned by the General Commander - in Bosnia, in Albania, in Kosovo and today in Iraq. The Kosovo experience is probably the one that better characterizes the growth of the MSUs. As usual (it is quite normal) we learn from previous experiences and thus from the first timid experiences lived in Bosnia and in Albania. In Kosovo (where we then had to face a far more articulated intervention) the Carabinieri Corps managed to deploy a unit that quickly won the consents and appreciation of the civil components of the missions of the United Nations that had the general responsibility - both civil and military - for the stabilization in Kosovo, as well as for the units engaged in the KFOR stabilization force. That was an exhalting experience for all participants (and I am certain that among you there are officers who lived this experience on the terrain), which gave a remarkable contribution to the stabilization of that province.

I have direct memories of it because at the time I was ambassador in Belgrade and, especially after the allied military operations of ’99, I often went to Kosovo in the attempt to co-ordinate our aid to those populations. I must say that the activity carried out by the MSUs flanked an equally energetic action by our soldiers in the international brigade, which we commanded, in an extremely difficult province (such as the province of Petch that had a Serbian majority and thus an enclave within the Albanian nation, which was certainly not ideal as regards co-habitation). Step by step our MSU units, with the initiative the Carabinieri officer has always shown, extended their competencies and eventually covered the entire Kosovo to the great satisfaction of the KFOR commanders and finally also the Kosovo province once the initial perplexities by the single commanders of the various responsibility areas it had been divided in were overcome.

It was therefore an extremely interesting experience which we are repeating now in Iraq with some further components: the General Commander rightly mentioned how the strategic concept of these units is by modules and is based on previous experience to modulate the intervention according to the different functions. Nowadays the Corps’ personnel operating in the MSUs in Iraq (within the context mentioned by undersecretary Bosi) is based on UNO resolution No. 1511, which in items 13 and 15 states that the multinational force is in Iraq to guarantee the transition stage and will remain to the completion of this stage that today, unfortunately, is no longer in terms of 30 June, but January 2005, when elections are scheduled. I would thus say that there is a juridical basis for our intervention, which is extremely clear, and no one has ever opposed it. The stage we shall have to face after June 30 is entirely different and will require a further United Nations involvement and perhaps another resolution though not to justify the presence of stabilization forces, but to define the tasks the United Nations will have to carry out during the subsequent stabilization stages of the country. This is the juridical and political picture and the reason why everyone nowadays, no one excepted, maintains that the United Nations’ presence must be increased, but for this very reason this will require an ad hoc resolution on the motivations.

This said and going back to the MSUs, it is obvious that starting from experiences matured in Albania, in Bosnia, in Kosovo and in Iraq, the Carabinieri Corps has been able to deploy all the skills and experiences matured in previous missions that, moreover, were no novelty because whoever knows the history of the Corps knows that it did not go abroad only in the mid ’90s, but at the end of 1800 when it already exported its professionalism from Greece to Chile to form police corps, and help those countries to create modern and original tools such as those the Corps was endowed with since the end of 1800. This said - as mentioned by the General Commander - the Corps’ personnel in Iraq (as normal and obvious) can rely, within the MSUs, on all the components and specializations the Corps is endowed with and can thus contribute at 360 degrees to the stabilization activity in the areas it is responsible for that the General Commander mentioned within the Tickard province where our military contingent is deployed, in an area the British are responsible for within a unit under the Polish command.

It was there that the problem arose (I mention it only for the sake of history) whether to allow the MSU operativeness over the entire Iraqi territory and it was then decided to limit the employment of the MSU to the area under our responsibility for security reasons. Thus the MSU personnel intervened and is intervening in Iraq in a number of sectors typical of the Corps professionalism and specializations, already mentioned by the General Commander and to which I would like to add that the Carabinieri responsible for the Safeguard of the Artistic heritage performed an appreciable job both in the past and in the present. I would say that Italy in Iraq has taken on the responsibility of restoring the Iraqi cultural heritage by a series of interventions funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and carried out in many ways by the Ministry for the Cultural property and, obviously, by the Carabinieri of the Artistic heritage Safeguard Command. This is more or less the picture I wanted to outline. I wish to add a few things as regards the lessons learned. It is no secret that the MSU is the model the Carabinieri Corps created and exported. The MSU enjoys the greatest consideration. I believe no one needs to be jealous. Not only are we proud of our Carabinieri, Honorable Undersecretary, General Commander, but so are foreigners.

I was present at several meetings of the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with foreign personalities: when mention is made of particular units capable of carrying out both police and military tasks, our thoughts go immediately to the Carabinieri. The Americans are enthusiastic about them, and so are the British, both politically and militarily. Last year, at the end of September, during the United Nations general assembly, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the other 24 EU countries, we met a delegation of the Iraqi provisional government council, with the president in charge and several ministers among whom the minister of Foreign Affairs.

The president in charge made an appeal (addressed firstly to us because Italy then detained the EU presidency) inviting us (and all the other member States) to increase the units of men responsible for the security of Iraq by employing the Carabinieri whom he explicitly mentioned by saying: “ We want more Carabinieri in Iraq”. Moreover, he asked us (and here we enter a component that is becoming ever more important in carrying out this mission) to help them (which thing we are already doing, but perhaps not as much as we could) to form and train the new Iraqi police that is now being restored. I would briefly like to mention a few issues before concluding. The experience is positive. Appreciation is unanimous. What lessons are to be learned? Of course - I speak from a diplomatic viewpoint, as a person who must contribute with his professionalism to the choices the government must make in matters of foreign policy - a model such as that of the MSUs is one that must continue and develop further.

I mentioned above that international military issues are becoming more and more international police operations for all the reasons mentioned, which the General Commander explained far more efficaciously. This requires specialized multinational units, that is more MSUs as well as a greater attention by the Carabinieri Corps (but also by the complex defense system) to the contribution that this kind of unit will be able to give. We must not deceive ourselves: I believe we are already going towards a system of international relations within which these kinds of missions are unfortunately destined to increase. I say “unfortunately” because of all the costs in terms of human lives, human and financial resources as well as political to manage this kind of operations; we will inevitably have to turn more and more to this kind of military commitment abroad. This is essential, however, considering that the military tool is seen as one of the tools (if not the tool) designed to accompany the governments’ international policy.

In view of the above, the Carabinieri Corps does well to devote two days to this issue; it does well to enhance its preparation in agreement with the countries with which it has already operated and established models of interoperativeness and with which it will be able to work more and more. Obviously (and I wish to conclude with a question that will give rise to some debate) there is an objective problem of relations with the other components of a national military deployment. What I am referring to is obvious: that is, other land components will certainly continue to be employed in international operations and if these operations become ever more often international police operations requiring particular skills and professionalism, such as for the MSUs, a problem of balance will certainly arise.

This problem is not only an Italian problem, but it is universal and regards the other components to be employed in the theatre because there is a risk that those not wearing a black uniform may say: “What room is there for those not operating within the MSUs?”. I shall not answer this question because it is not my job. I only wish to provoke some thoughts on the matter. I am sure that the Carabinieri Corps, with the wisdom that has always characterized it, will find a balanced answer that will in no way alter the balance. Thank you

(*) - Transcript from an audio recording corrected by the author.
(**) - Italian Ambassador, Chief Secretary for the Countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.