Photo: cordobabn.com

Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

The Alliance asked Spain to strain.

On January 22, the Spanish frigate Blas de Leso left the port of Ferrol in Galicia and headed towards the Black Sea. On board the flagship of the Spanish fleet with a length of 146 meters – 220 sailors and officers. The vessel is packed with SPY-1D radars and Aegis air defense systems. All this stuff has been put forward for NATO naval exercises.

A few days earlier, the Spanish minesweeper Meteoro left the port of Las Palmas in the Canaries and joined another NATO naval group that patrols the coasts of Bulgaria and Romania. In February, six Eurofighter fighters flew from Spain to Bulgaria.

When the Spanish Defense Minister announced all these maneuvers, the Iberian Iberian Kingdom began to boil. The Podemos party, which is part of the ruling coalition together with the Socialists, firmly stands on anti-war positions. It got to the point that she refused to take part in the celebrations dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the country's accession to NATO. Equality Minister and party member Irene Montero stated the following: Podemos not only does not accept the increase in maneuvers of our ships and aircraft in these zones, but also believes that the expansion of NATO at the expense of Ukraine and Georgia in the interests of the United States makes no sense." In the communique, she recalled that "Spain remains an anti-war country." This was the slogan of the demonstrations of 2003, when the then Prime Minister Asnar decided to participate in military operations in Iraq.

And then, at the just-ended Madrid NATO summit, the following happens. According to the calculations of the North Atlantic Alliance, Spain's defense spending amounts to $ 13.035 billion, that is, 1.01 percent of GDP. This is a mess. Expenses, according to the NATO Charter, should be 2 percent of GDP. This decision was made in 2014, at the summit in Wales. That is, the Spanish budget will have to double defense spending, namely, to find an additional $ 12.8 billion. Well, in order to feel this already "pleasant" news even more acutely, fully assume all the costs of the last Madrid summit.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at a press conference: "Spain has set itself a goal - to achieve the task by 2029 – and I will work with all political forces to get their support." The prime minister did not have time to finish the sentence, as Podemos declared that it would not support anything like that. Moreover, NATO's calculations are based on 2015 prices, and at present the country spends 14.8 billion.

Spain, with its 1.01 percent, is among the three NATO countries contributing the least to the cash register. Luxembourg, which has 0.58 percent of GDP, and Iceland, which has no armed forces at all, fit on this "inverted pedestal". Curiously, only 7 out of 30 NATO countries pay more than the agreed 2 percent. These are the three Baltic powers, Croatia, Poland, which overpays 2.5 billion, Greece, and the United Kingdom. Such alliance locomotives as Germany (– 20 billion) or France (– 2.7 billion) also do not give enough to the treasury, but they have not yet been presented with anything. Although there are quite tricky and complex calculations. NATO membership costs $624 to every German, and $ 734 to every Frenchman. Spaniards pay the least – $275 per nose.

Spain is not the most active participant in NATO operations. The most soldiers were sent to Afghanistan – 1,523 people, and the least – to Kosovo – 1 observer (Spain does not recognize the independence of Kosovo).

Basically, the kingdom provides the allies with infrastructure. The General Staff of the Land Forces in Betera, this is Valencia, the General Staff and the Navy training Center in the Company that is opposite the fortress of Cadiz in the southwest of the country, right on the Atlantic (that's where you don't want to be demobbed from!), part of the air base in Torrejon, the Air Force command in southern Europe will be mixed there.

At one time, the Spaniards were attached to the international battalion "Adagio" in Latvia, it is commanded by Canada. 350 fighters serve there. There is a battery of "Patriots" in Turkey, which is designed mainly to observe Syria, and to carry out sea and air patrols in Lithuania, Estonia and Romania. NATO regulations prescribe what and how to spend from national defense budgets. Spain has everything in order here: 26 percent for equipment, and 2.5 billion for the military bureaucracy in Brussels and elsewhere.

Doubling the military budget will not be easy for Spain. For comparison: since 2014, when the decision was made on 2 percent of GDP, the country has increased it by 0.1 percent. But then it will be even more difficult. First, as Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned, "This is not a ceiling, rather we are moving towards the floor. In the context of the events of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this threshold will increase." Secondly, Spain sets the task of GDP growth, which means that the cost of military service will grow in direct proportion. How the prime minister or his replacement will convince the population that NATO needs it is not very clear.

On the eve of the Madrid summit, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Alvarez said in an interview with French Figaro: "The meeting, of course, should give an answer to the challenge from the East, but we are waiting for decisions on the southern flank, and this should be reflected in the Strategic Concept of NATO."

What's the southern flank? Retired General Jose Enrique de Ayala, an analyst at the Alternatives Foundation, explains: "This term has been launched in NATO for a long time. It was invented to contrast the threat from the East, against which NATO was created." This is the fight against hybrid threats coming from the South – cybersecurity, juggling threats of energy or migration flows for political purposes, jihadism.

Spain, with the support of Italy, spoke at the summit in favor of strengthening NATO's presence in the southern direction – in North Africa and the Sahel, while not excluding the alliance's actions in Mali, a hotbed of terrorism and jihadism. But the Strategic Concept of NATO still considers migration and terrorism on the southern flank as new potential sources of instability, which are worth watching.