After Germany, Spain made a 180 degree turn and became involved in the conflict in Ukraine. By announcing to the Congress of Deputies that Madrid was going to send “offensive military equipment” – 1,370 grenade launchers, 700,000 cartridges and light machine guns – at the “Ukrainian resistance”the head of government, Pedro Sanchez, has changed his line, which until now consisted of limiting his contribution to the European budget of 450 million euros to arm Ukraine.
Podemos frontal opposition
Until Tuesday March 1, the spokesperson for the executive limited itself to repeating that Spain would only participate in the European fund. But seeing that several nearby European countries were also taking the plunge by sending arms directly and that the debate was swelling in the country, the government revised its position.
→ MAINTENANCE. European Union: “To drop Ukraine would be a sign of cowardice”
“I see no other reason than the presence of Podemos within the government coalition to explain Pedro Sanchez’s hesitations”, assures Pablo Simon, analyst and professor of political science at Carlos III University. Since January 2020, the Socialist Prime Minister has governed with the radical left party Podemos. But the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) occupies not only the presidency of the government, but also the ministries of weight, foreign affairs and defence.
The Socialists have had to deal in recent days with the frontal opposition of Podemos on the sending of arms. “The variables of international and domestic Spanish policies collide, in this sense, I think that Pedro Sanchez was wrong to hesitate and let this debate develop. Internal issues cannot paralyze these international decisions,” concludes Pablo Simon.
Very strong pacifist tradition in Spain
To these internal political dissensions is added a very strong pacifist tradition in Spain, due to “our past, a civil war and a dictatorshipexplains Pablo Simon. If the country participates in humanitarian operations, war in general is frowned upon in Spain. » The demonstrations shouting “no to war” during the second Iraq war in 2003 still resonate. A majority of Spanish public opinion had opposed the decision of conservative Prime Minister José Maria Aznar to send troops and align itself with the bellicose positions of US President George W. Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair.
Just before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the think thank Institut Real Elcano published an enlightening barometer: 52% of Spaniards would refuse Spain’s participation in a conflict in the event of NATO intervention. In the case of Ukraine, the gaps widen according to political opinions: 60% of left-wing voters would be against an intervention by the Atlantic Alliance to support Ukraine.
In 1982, joining the Atlantic Organization was not painless. The debate will have lasted for years to come because, in 1986, the socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez organized a consultative referendum – with the promise not to integrate the military structure of NATO (1) –, which made it possible to ratify the entry of Spain into NATO (52.5% yes, against 39.8% no).