The Spanish government is committed to dialogue to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, but at the same time supports the “clear message of firmness” that NATO has transmitted in the face of “intimidation” by Russia. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has combined this double speech on Tuesday night in his appearance in the Congress of Deputies to explain the Spanish position in the face of the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Any Russian aggression” against its neighboring country “would be a very serious violation of international law that should have a forceful response”, said the minister.
Albares, who has appeared at his own request before the Foreign Affairs Committee of Congress, explained that the Spanish frigate Blas de Lezo, Sent to form part of the preventive contingent deployed by NATO, it will participate in the mission until June 30, a longer period than initially announced. In addition, he recalled, Spain has deployed fighters in Bulgaria and maintains a 350-strong brigade in Latvia.
The minister has actively and passively repeated the word “dialogue” and has urged that everything possible be done not to take a “military escalation” for granted. But at the same time he wanted to lay down some “red lines” or “indispensable principles”. The main one, that Ukraine is a sovereign state and as such has the right to choose the military alliances it wishes. Russia’s claim to “limit the sovereignty” of its neighbors goes against international law, Albares has insisted, and is therefore unacceptable.
The head of Spanish diplomacy has also taken the opportunity to request the support of all political forces for the Government’s position. And for this he has appealed to the agreements between European countries and the United States: “That what has been possible in Europe and with the transatlantic allies is also possible with the Spanish political forces.”
Before the appearance of the minister, United We Can had moderated this Tuesday hours its criticism of previous days to some positions of members of the PSOE Government in the face of the crisis in Ukraine. The president of the parliamentary group, Jaume Asens, even celebrated this Tuesday the “change of tone” of his socialist partner and that the focus is now being put more on de-escalation and diplomatic channels rather than “on frigates and fighters” from a first moment, something that he identified with “the bellicose pulse” of some of his members of the Executive, in an implicit allusion to the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, whom many leaders of United We Can often place even in public in the less progressive part of the government.
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The deputy of United We Can stressed this Tuesday at a press conference in Congress that the best response “to Russia’s provocation” is diplomacy and that the sending of troops or weapons can generate an escalation in tension. Asens did not question, at least in public, the good intentions of Minister Robles in deciding to send a frigate to the area and to assess the possibility of an aerial deployment in Bulgaria in which Spain participates, but he did point out that these actions can be counterproductive. When Asens was asked specifically what United We Can vote for if the Government has to take participation in a military conflict to Parliament, the deputy asked for more time to evaluate that option but clarified that it would be easy to anticipate the meaning of that vote taking into account account that his formation is pacifist and is against wars.
The PP, for its part, continues to say that it is with the Government throughout this conflict but at the same time fills its speeches with criticism, especially of the president, Pedro Sánchez, for not appearing himself in Parliament to give explanations and send in exchange to the Foreign Minister, and above all, for not personally calling the opposition leader, Pablo Casado. It was the thesis in which the PP spokeswoman in the Chamber, Cuca Gamarra, abounded on Tuesday afternoon, who came to question the chief executive by saying that “Sánchez cannot govern in a democracy as if he were Vladimir Putin in Russia ”.
The PP protested in this way because the appearance of the Foreign Minister on Tuesday took place “at night”, since it began after eight in the afternoon, after the celebration of the plenary session of Congress. Gamarra understands that the president “should rise to the occasion” and be the one to come to explain. And he supported that thesis that it is the president who is maintaining contacts with other international leaders and who, in view of the divergent positions of his partners in United We Can, is the one who should set a single criterion and “set the position of our country”. The popular leader once again regretted the absence in the Chamber of Sánchez, the lack of a “minimal dialogue” with the head of the opposition and the PP recalled that the socialist leader will not submit to control questions until after the elections of the 13 February in Castilla y León. Gamarra harshly attacked Sánchez’s way of governing “with lies, arrogance and inefficiency” and pointed out that when big state issues are at stake, like this one in Ukraine now, the PP is always there against the positions of the usual partners: ” We support our country, regardless of the impoliteness of the president.”
Deputies from PP, Vox and Ciudadanos have made ugly, on the other hand and on Ukraine, the lack of leadership and role of Spain and its president, by not having included the US president, Joe Biden, in a videoconference that he did hold with other leaders Europeans. Biden thus spoke with the president of the European Commission, the president of the European Council, the secretary general of NATO, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, Italy and Poland, who It borders with Ukraine. The PP spokeswoman, Cuca Gamarra, related it to her lack of international weight, as did the Vox spokesperson, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, who added his interpretation that Sánchez lacked an Atlanticist vocation: “I would like Sánchez to paint a little more because it would mean that Spain paints a little more”. The parliamentary spokesman for Ciudadanos, Edmundo Bal, also lamented Sánchez’s absence from that summit: “We are not happy about this, we would have loved that Sánchez had been at that videoconference, because it seems that Spain is not even heard.” JuntsxCAT’s representative in Congress, Míriam Nogueras, found it even “more worrying” that the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, the Catalan Josep Borrell, was not in that conversation either.