NATO summit

Sánchez pleases Biden and will allow more U.S. warships in Rota

The two countries sign a joint declaration that replaces the one signed by Aznar and Bush

3 min
The Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to Moncloa

MadridSpain and the United States have signed a new joint declaration where they commit to deepen bilateral relations in the most diverse areas, replacing the agreement signed in 2001 by the governments of José María Aznar and George W. Bush. Pedro Sánchez's team has been working stealthily on this document for months in order to show it off as a diplomatic triumph in the day before the start of the NATO summit. In exchange, the Spanish government accepts the U.S. request to increase the presence of American destroyers at the Rota naval base. Sánchez was "especially satisfied" in his appearance alongside the US President, Joe Biden, although he probably did not expect that the Melilla tragedy would overshadow this diplomatic success.

"Both countries intend to expand their defence cooperation through the permanent stationing of additional U.S. warships in Rota," the joint statement reads. The decision, however, will now have to be approved by the cabinet first and then by the Spanish parliament, which could provoke new tensions between the Socialists and Unidas Podemos and their parliamentary allies, who oppose NATO and increased military spending. Sánchez will probably have to rely on the PP to progress with this commitment.

From four to six destroyers

This increase in US military presence in Rota, which will go up from four destroyers to six, responds to the general increase in resources which will be discussed at the NATO summit. Biden praised Spain's commitment to NATO missions deployed in countries bordering Russia, such as Latvia, where Spain has doubled the number of troops to 600, and also the reception of Ukrainian refugees. "It is a fact that demonstrates the solidarity of the Spanish people and their leadership in times of crisis," he said. Earlier Biden stressed that Spain had become an "indispensable partner of the United States" since it joined NATO 40 years ago.

The US president has been, as on other occasions, particularly harsh on Russia. "Sometimes I think Putin wants to wipe out the entire Ukrainian culture and people," he has said. In this sense, Biden has praised the courage of the Ukrainians when facing the invasion and has assured that they will continue to provide them with weapons and will pressure Russia with more sanctions.

Immigration and human rights

The joint document, however, goes further, addressing issues such as climate change, gender equality, LGTBI+ rights, collaboration in the field of justice and cybersecurity, trade relations and also immigration management. In this regard, the text states that "both countries intend to collaborate on a comprehensive approach to the management of irregular migratory flows that ensures fair and humane treatment of migrants." This reference coincides, on the one hand, with the death of at least 23 migrants at the Melilla fence, for which the Public Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation, and also with the discovery of 46 corpses in a lorry in Texas. "Spain and the United States equally recognise the importance of continued cooperation in response to the challenges of irregular migration in the North African region."

The Spanish government downplays this coincidence and stresses that the document looks to the future and is a framework that will last for years. According to the Spanish government, the agreement "strengthens and updates their bilateral relationship", and above all replaces the one signed, on behalf of their presidents, by the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué. Sánchez showed off good rapport with Biden at the presidential palace, where they met for an hour-long conversation. Biden reciprocated by saying that he had had a "warm and personal conversation" with Sánchez and hoped they could meet again during the summit. Biden then went to the Royal Palace for a meeting with King Felipe VI before the gala dinner. In a brief speech, the king stressed that the two countries share "values and principles".

The President of the United States, Joe Biden, received by the King of Spain, Felipe VI, at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base.

Sánchez's international agenda continued after Biden with a meeting with Icelandic PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir. In the morning, before visiting NATO headquarters, he received Australian PM Anthony Albanese, and New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern, and they exchanged their national football team shirts. Tomorrow Sánchez will not be subject to questions from the opposition in Parliament because he will be participating in the NATO summit. It will be his ministers, especially the Minister of the Home Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who will have to give explanations over the events in Melilla, a crisis which has hindered Sánchez's big PR relaunch.