Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov heads to Italy for high-level talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will begin a two-day state visit to Rome today, where he will attend a bilateral

lavrov italy

Photo: Jure Makovic/AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will begin a two-day state visit to Rome today, where he will attend a bilateral meeting with his counterpart, Luigi Di Maio.

The two will devote serious attention today to the topic of improving bilateral economic ties. Since 2013, Western sanctions slashed the total value of trade between both countries. In the last two years, bilateral trade has slowly increased, but at $24 billion last year, it remains far from the 2013 level of $54 billion.

Russia sees Italy as a valuable partner in the West. The Russian government has taken advantage of a history relatively free of diplomatic disputes between the countries to foster an advocate, particularly against an anti-Russia international sanctions regime.

While Rome will likely continue to offer broad political support for its European and US allies, Moscow may attempt to drive a wedge between the former and the latter. Seizing on the country’s struggling economy, Russia could look to entice Italy with the prospect of a revived trade relationship—most likely in the energy and manufacturing sectors—and new investment opportunities previously crippled by EU and US sanctions.

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