Spanish government expands national security objectives
The world is once again experiencing uncertain times, in which old-fashioned military conflicts cannot be ruled out – the situation in Ukraine and also in the China Sea is of particular concern – and in which there are also new threats, such as cyber-attacks, sabotage, the climate crisis or the hijacking of basic supplies. The pandemic has exposed Spanish and European vulnerability in many areas and this has forced the PSOE-Podemos government to bring forward the publication of its National Security Strategy by one year; it was made public last week.
The essence remains intact, with an increase in the Defence budget and a commitment to ensure the State's military commitment reaches the levels demanded by NATO and the European Union. This will be an important point this year because in June Madrid will host a NATO summit in which the focus will be on the EU's southern border, both in terms of immigration control and dealing with the growth of jihadism in the Sahel, which is now one of Western powers' great concerns.
The big debate, however, will undoubtedly focus on the relationship between NATO and the EU. One of the objectives of France's European presidency, which began at the start of the year, is to make progress on a European security strategy of its own and will organise a specific summit on the subject. It remains to be seen how this will fit in with the Atlantic Alliance agreements. The relationship between the two main Atlantic partners has experienced moments of crisis since Donald Trump began his country's military withdrawal abroad – which has been continued by Joe Biden, with the well-known fiasco of the retreat from Afghanistan – and with the demand that European partners increase their economic contribution to the Alliance's budget.
Europe knows it cannot rely solely on the United States to control its security, and last year's signing of the Aukus pact –the military agreement between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom– is a clear demonstration of how America's interests and fears now only look towards Asia and the supposed Chinese threat.
The new Spanish strategic plan reviews the situation and has the novelty that it expands the potential number of threats to areas in which the army has not played a major role until now –climate crisis, energy vulnerability, pandemics, cyberattacks, disinformation...–, but it also makes clear the main objective of the presence of Spanish troops abroad, which it is committed to maintaining as it has until now. Apart from the rhetoric of humanitarian aid or the preservation of democracy abroad – which, given what has happened in Afghanistan, is hard to believe – the document states what all the countries of the world do and recognises, for example, that the intervention of Spanish military ships in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa is to protect fishing boats and oil tankers, since it is an area of "great strategic importance for the safeguarding of Spanish interests". There is no need to hide.