Naples, and not Rome, was the focus of Italian Armed Forces Day on November 4. Five battalions of troops paraded along the Caracciolo seafront. But the highlight was the inter-force exhibition area, which for five days drew mainly young people and children to Piazza del Plebiscito, Naple's largest square.
They could board a fighter, fly a helicopter with a flight simulator, admire a Predator drone, enter a tank, train with military instructors, and then go to the port to visit an amphibious assault ship and two missile frigates.
It was a huge “War Festival” set up for a specific purpose: recruitment. Seventy percent of young people who want to enlist in Italy’s military live in the South, especially in Campania and Sicily where youth unemployment is 53.6 percent, compared to an European Union average of 15.2 percent.
For these youth, the only source of “secure” employment is the army. After the screening, however, the number of recruits has been lower than necessary.
The Armed Forces need more personnel, as they are engaged in 35 missions in 22 countries, from Eastern Europe to the Balkans, from Africa to the Middle East and Asia.
These are the “peace missions” carried out above all where NATO under U.S. command has unleashed, with the active participation of Italy, the wars that have demolished entire States and destabilized entire regions.
To maintain adequate forces and armaments - such as the Italian F-35 deployed by NATO in Iceland, shown by RAI on November 4 - about 25 billion euros per year of public tax funds are spent by Italy.
In 2018, Italian military spending rose from 13th to 11th place in the world, but the USA and NATO are pressing for a further increase, especially as a result of the escalation against Russia.
Last June, the first government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte “unblocked” 7.2 billion euros to add to military spending. Last October, in the prime minister’s meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, the second Conte government pledged to increase military spending by about 7 billion euros starting in 2020 (La Stampa, 11 October 2019). [1 euro = $1.11 as of Nov. 6]
It is thus going to go from a military expenditure of about 70 million euros a day to one of about 87 million euros a day. This is public money taken away from fundamental productive investments, especially in regions such as Campania [where Naples is located], to reduce unemployment, starting with youth unemployment.
The “investments” made in Naples are quite different. The city has acquired a growing role as the seat of some of the most important U.S./NATO military commands.
The Command of the U.S. Naval Forces in Europe is based in Naples-Capodichino, operating under the orders of a U.S. admiral who at the same time the commands U.S. Naval Forces for Africa and the Joint Allied Force (JFC Naples) with headquarters at Lago Patria (Naples).
Every two years, JFC Naples takes command of the NATO Response Force, a joint force for military operations in the “area of responsibility” of the Allied Supreme Commander in Europe, who is always a U.S. general, and “beyond that area.”
In the headquarters of Lago Patria, since 2017, the Hub of strategic direction has been operating. NATO for the South is a centre of intelligence − that is, of espionage − concentrated on the Middle East and Africa.
The U.S. Sixth Fleet, based in Gaeta, is subordinate to the command of Naples and − as U.S. Vice-Admiral Lisa Franchetti informs the public − operates “from the North Pole to the South Pole.”
This is the role of Naples in the framework of NATO, defined by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in the message of November 4, “an alliance to which we have freely chosen to contribute for the protection of peace in the international context, to the protection of the weakest and most oppressed and of human rights.”