Some could say Trump has made this possible by being too busy to care….
Or maybe something else?
President Trump made the most of his short time in Italy. He was treated to a private audience with the pope, met with both the country’s president and its prime minister in Rome, flew to Sicily for a summit meeting of world leaders and visited with American troops at a nearby naval air station.
But as the sudden burst of diplomatic activity subsided with his departure, European and American officials fear a return to the new normal of American inattention as the administration struggles with political turmoil and Russia-related scandals back home.
All the while, Russia is assiduously courting Italy, a country that once had the largest Communist party outside the Soviet bloc and that many analysts consider the soft underbelly of the European Union.
In Rome, Mr. Trump left behind an embassy without an ambassador, and forfeited a geopolitical playing field that Moscow’s ambassador in Rome, Sergey Razov, is exploiting.
A deliberate, gray-haired career diplomat, Mr. Razov has been plugging away at building relationships with Italian politicians, organizing concerts for Italy’s earthquake survivors and visiting Italian regional officials who lament the “unfair” sanctions on Russia — which Moscow dearly wants lifted.
Next month, Mr. Razov will offer a sumptuous buffet when he hosts the annual Russia Day celebration amid the dripping chandeliers, coffered ceilings and gilded interiors of his Villa Abamelek residence.
Like Mr. Razov’s energetic diplomacy, much of Russia’s relationship building is being done in plain sight, as when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia hosted Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni this month in Sochi, and President Sergio Mattarella a few weeks before that in Moscow.
But there is a fear among Italian, European and American officials that Russia is also using the same kind of behind-the-scenes influence and news media obfuscation it has employed in the United States and elsewhere, creating a tilt in Italy toward Moscow…..