Rajoy reminds Trump of Madrid’s role in NATO international missions

“Our country has always responded to every crisis,” says Spanish PM over spending commitments

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has defended Spain’s commitment to NATO in response to US President Donald Trump’s criticism in Brussels at a summit on Thursday, when he claimed that most members were not pulling their weight. Without referring specifically to Spain, Trump said: “Twenty-three of its 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense.”

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy at Thursday's NATO meeting.
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy at Thursday's NATO meeting.STEPHANIE LECOCQ / EFE

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Speaking at a dinner attended by NATO’s members, including its newly joined 29th state, Montenegro, Rajoy pointed out that Spain’s commitment to global security “is not related solely to percentages of investment in defense,” and listed the missions that Spain is part of, adding: “Our country has always responded in time and in practice to every crisis scenario, which puts us in an exceptional position among our allies.”

A photo tweeted from Rajoy’s official account of his handshake with Trump at the NATO summit. “With @realDonaldTrump on the fringes of the #NATOmeeting. The US and Spain are working together to guarantee security and wellbeing.”

Spain spends 0.91% of its GDP on defense, compared to the 2% Trump said was the “minimum required.” In 2014, at the NATO summit in Wales, Spain committed itself to reaching 2% within a decade and is expected to outline in detail its proposals to reach that objective later this year. Compliance will be periodically evaluated, but NATO has also accepted other factors in its assessment of members’ contributions, such as participation in international missions or providing other services.

Spain is among NATO’s most active members of international missions. Other allies, such as Greece, which spends more than 2% on defense, rarely send troops abroad. At present, Spain has more than 2,900 members of its armed forces taking part in around 20 international missions led by the EU, the UN and NATO, and is sending 300 armed personnel to Latvia.

Spain is among NATO’s most active members of international missions

Rajoy took the opportunity to condemn the terrorist attack earlier this week in Manchester, and backed NATO’s formal inclusion in the international coalition against so-called Islamic State (ISIS), noting: “Spain is a country that sadly has long experience in the fight against terrorism,” a reference to armed Basque separatist group ETA, which waged a four-decade terror campaign that killed more than 850 people.

Rajoy spoke briefly with Trump on the sidelines of the informal summit; until now he has only spoken to him by telephone. The Prime Minister’s office tweeted a photograph of Rajoy with Trump, saying: “The United States and Spain collaborate to guarantee security and well-being.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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