I sort of feel sorry for the press corps covering the Berlusconi-Putin Spaghetti summit in Sardinia – it must be difficult to constantly think up new questions that will not receive any substantive answers. That’s not to say that there weren’t tremendous issues at stake for Italians and the rest of the European Union: The perennial showman Berlusconi, whose adventures in plastic surgery seem to be intensifying, offered his Russian guest unprecedented opportunities for Gazprom to take over Eni’s assets in Libya, sell gas directly to Italian consumers, grease the wheels for Aeroflot to swallow up Alitalia, and significantly deepen economic ties between the two countries so that Italy, not Germany, can act as the Kremlin’s ambassador and problem solver in the EU. The only good idea Berlusconi had was the proposal to scrap the harsh and unfair EU-Russia visa regime. But did reporters press the two leaders on these important issues? No, instead we were treated to a show of masterful banter by the two politicians-for-life, fending off questions about Putin’s alleged romance with a gymnast while Silvio pretended to “gun down” the probing journalist. After the cut, see the frighteningly hilarious scene of authoritarian bravado…
“In other publications of the same type, the names of other successful, beautiful young women from Russia are mentioned,” Putin began. “I think it won’t be unexpected if I say that I like them all – just as I like all Russian women.”Russian women, he declared, are “the most talented and beautiful” in the world.”If anyone can compete, it may be only Italian women,” Putin said.At that, Berlusconi laughed and raised his eyebrows in approval. The reporters cheered and applauded.The Italian premier-elect, who triumphed in elections this week, has long been a friend and political ally of Putin – and he was quick to show his loyalty.He mockingly pretended to mow down the offending reporter with a machine gun, then jokingly proposed swapping the Russian press with the Italian press.
Given that Russia is one of the most hostile countries in the world for a journalist to work, Mr. Berlusconi might want to reconsider before sending his employees over there. On the other hand, no doubt that the Russian reporters would very much enjoy the well-deserved safety and amnesty of a post in Italy.