DIPLOMACY

US wants Spanish military bases deal extended to 2021

Defense minister travels to Washington to negotiate terms

The United States wants an eight-year extension of its defense cooperation agreement with Spain, which regulates the presence of US troops in the military bases of Rota (Cádiz) and Morón de la Frontera (Seville).

The proposal is part of ongoing negotiations over the installation of the naval component of NATO’s missile defense system in Rota, an issue that will dominate Monday’s meeting between the defense ministers of Spain and the US at the Pentagon.

The current deal was signed in 1988, then partially amended in 2002 and extended for a further eight years under the conservative government of José María Aznar. That period ended in February 2011, and since then one-year extensions go automatically in effect if neither party expresses opposition.

The deployment in Rota of four Arleigh Burke Class Aegis destroyers – the naval component of NATO’s anti-missile shield -- requires a new amendment protocol, and Washington wants to take this opportunity to add an eight-year extension, just like in 2002.

The Spanish government has yet to reply, but if the answer is affirmative, the bulk of the treaty would remain in force for over three decades.

The previous Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero already approved the ship deployment last October, meaning that Spain gave up its main leverage before even sitting down at the negotiating table. The new situation, which increases US troops in the area by 1,200 service members, will not require a change to the personnel ceiling in the agreement, since the total figure will still be far from the authorized maximum of 4,750 troops.

As for what Spain gets out of it — Zapatero talked about up to a thousand new jobs — this will be negotiated separately at technical meetings and the deals that come out of there will not be part of the overall treaty, and therefore their legal status remains unclear.

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