Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Micro-state San Marino a hub for Russian activity

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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San Marino, a tiny micro-state, is causing concern for its much larger neighbor, Italy, due to its friendly relations with Russia. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), social and political trends in the world’s fifth-smallest country closely mirror those of Italy. However, Italy is a founding member of NATO and supports Ukraine against Russia.

Watch the above video as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan explains why and how San Marino’s politics diverges from Italy’s.


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Excerpted from Peter’s June 24 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Micro-states like Monaco and San Marino aren’t often included in major geopolitical discussions, but every so often they get called up to the big leagues. Next up to the plate: San Marino.

San Marino, located in Italy, has recently gotten some attention… and not the best kind. As the Ukraine war rages on, Europe has tightened its intelligence operations and foiled the covers of many Russian agents. However, many of these agents have found San Marino to be quite accommodating in facilitating their entry into the European Schengen zone.

As you could imagine, Italy isn’t too happy with San Marino becoming a hub for Russian activity. So, to answer the age old question — does size matter? — I’ll give you every strategist’s favorite answer, it depends.

Hey, everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from the hills above Monaco and San Marino. Monaco is one of the microstates here in Europe and pretty much their own Europe. No, I think about it. And I’m not talking about here like small places like Luxembourg. I’m talking about microstates that are just a few square miles. Monaco here. So under a square mile itself, second smallest state in the world.
The existence of microstates is kind of a weird little story. Basically, you get a geography that is rugged enough that little patches can be carved out and they’re difficult to access from other places. So for example, Liechtenstein is an occupies a specific mountain pass between Austria and Switzerland. And either they’ve been able to be tough enough to conquer that you leave them be, or they’re useful as kind of a diplomatic go between. In the case of Monaco, it traded hands a lot, from the post Roman period, into the Italian civil wars and reunification, ultimately into World War Two and ever since then independence. And now of course, Monaco is most famous for the Grand Prix, which plays well, by the time you guys see this Orbea over. And gambling. Basically, if you’ve seen James Bond, you’ve seen Monaco, it’s also I can see this with authority, Creek, pleased to have lunch.
microstates rarely, rarely play a big role
for micro, but every once in a while is certain constellation of factors comes together and makes them really matter. So the one that matters right now is San Marino. Now that’s not here in France, that one is down in Italy. But during the Ukraine war, the Russians have discovered that most of their normal avenues for intelligence gathering, but shut off, because instead of just having the Americans go after their spies, everybody in Europe did at the same time. And one of the things you normally do when you have a spy is if you get caught, you just redeploy them somewhere else in the world. Well, when something like two thirds of the Russian diplomatic corps and spies were declared persona non grata in some form, everyone started exchanging biographical information on all the agents. And so you could no longer deploy those people anywhere in the world. Unless you had a government like, oh, yeah, we’re okay with a bunch of Russian spies, that’s fine. And that doesn’t happen. So basically, something like half the roster of Russian intelligence agents got vaporized, and they’re gonna have to be deployed for other things. San Marino comes in because San Marino has been a location where some of these people are getting recycled. And in addition to like the normal money laundering things that Microsoft states are famous for. San Marino is now providing diplomatic cover for the Russians to get whoever they want into the European Schengen zone, which is the free transport union that the Europeans have. So the Italians are starting to get a little aggroed at San Marino for serving as this bastion for Russian intelligence, diplomatic and financial power in the heart of their country hasn’t gotten to the point now yet that they’re starting to renegotiate forcibly some of the treaties that allow San Marino to function, but the Italians are starting to look at it.

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