Viewing cable 05MADRID1626, SPAIN: SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY RUMSFELD'S
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|05MADRID1626||2005-04-27 06:06||2010-12-07 12:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Madrid|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 001626 SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM AND WHA/AND DEFENSE FOR OSD/ISP (P. GRAFF) E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/26/2015 TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER SP SUBJECT: SPAIN: SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY RUMSFELD'S MEETING WITH DEFENSE MINISTER BONO REF: MADRID 1604 Classified By: Charge d'Affaires J. Robert Manzanares, reasons 1.4(b) and (d). ------- SUMMARY ------- ¶1. (C) The Zapatero government believes it has taken significant steps to put relations with the U.S. back on track, such as agreeing to lead both a PRT and an FSB in western Afghanistan. Military-to-military relations between Spain and the U.S. have remained strong over the past 14 months despite the change in government, as has bilateral cooperation against terrorism. Spain continues to provide U.S. forces full access to its naval base at Rota and its air base at Moron, as well as providing blanket flight clearances for U.S. forces moving to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Minister Bono will acknowledge that the U.S. and Spain still have differences over issues such as Venezuela but will ask that the U.S. focus on areas of cooperation, and not only on areas of disagreement. Your meeting with Bono can be an opportunity to send a clear message to the Spanish government that while the U.S. appreciates Spain's cooperation in Afghanistan and other areas, the U.S. remains concerned about Spanish actions that negatively affect our interests, such as Zapatero's Venezuela policy. End Summary. -------------------- MILITARY COOPERATION -------------------- ¶2. (C) Military to military relations between Spain and the U.S. remain very strong despite the change to a Socialist government; the Zapatero government has continued to provide broad access for U.S. forces at Rota Naval Base and Moron Air Base. There are currently over 2500 active duty U.S. military stationed at the two bases, the vast majority at Rota. Including U.S. civilians and dependents, the American presence at the Spanish bases tops 5,000. Zapatero has also left untouched Spain's practice of providing blanket flight clearances for U.S. military aircraft, including in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Spanish military is still smarting from its ignominious withdrawal from Iraq and, largely as a result of the Iraq withdrawal, is displeased with the Socialist government. The Spanish armed forces strongly support close relations with the U.S. and consider Zapatero's distancing from the U.S. a profound error. ----------------------------- COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION ----------------------------- ¶3. (C) A critical element in our bilateral relationship is our high level of cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism issues. Spain remains an active front in the War on Terror. Investigations since the 3/11 attack have confirmed suspicions that there is a large pool of Islamic extremists throughout the country, including one cell that plotted attacks against Spain's High Court and other targets during the latter half of 2004. ETA also continues to carry out small-scale bombings, though it has been greatly weakened in the last year by arrests of key leaders in Spain and France. Spanish authorities arrested 117 suspected Islamic terrorists during 2004, routinely sharing with USG officials information derived from those arrests. Attorney General Gonzales and Minister of Justice Aguilar issued a joint statement on March 11, 2005 committing the USG and GOS to closer cooperation on counter-terrorism investigations. ----------------------------- ISSUES BONO WILL LIKELY RAISE ----------------------------- Venezuela --------- ¶4. (C) While he hopes Venezuela will not be the focus of your meeting with him, Bono will come prepared to discuss Spain's outreach to Venezuela, including its planned sale of military ships and planes. Bono has told us the reason Spain is selling the ships to Venezuela is to save ailing state-owned shipyard Izar (reftel). This is probably partly true -- it is also clear President Zapatero believes he can influence Chavez and restrain his anti-democratic tendencies by engaging him. Nonetheless, Bono will point out that the sale amounts to USD 1.7 billion in equipment and will provide Izar with 600 jobs over a 4-5 year period. He will also insist that neither the ships nor the planes will have offensive capability, and that Chavez has agreed not to use the equipment for offensive purposes. ¶5. (C) Embassy and other USG officials have made clear many times to high-level GOS officials (including to President Zapatero himself by Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick) that the U.S. believes the sale would bolster Chavez' military capabilities and thus his capacity to cause instability in the region, and would also lend him political credibility when he is taking steps to curb democracy in his own country. In addition, we have told Spanish officials that given that Spain-U.S. relations were slowly improving, now was not the time to make a major military sale to Venezuela. S-80 Submarine Program ---------------------- ¶6. (C) The Spanish Navy plans to procure 4 new diesel submarines of Spanish design, called the S-80A. Izar will be the prime contractor for the vessel's construction. Izar has put out for competition a contract to assist in the building of the sub's combat system. Two American companies, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, are competing with each other and against a French and German company for the $115 million deal. The Spanish government has been mulling the competitors' submissions for nearly a year and has yet to reach a decision. The Spanish Navy has made clear its support for a U.S. solution for the combat system, arguing a U.S. system will provide critical interoperability with the U.S. Navy. The Zapatero government, however, has told us they have received significant pressure from the French government to award the contract to the French competitor. Embassy has advocated tirelessly on behalf of the U.S. companies. Tomahawk Missile ---------------- ¶7. (C) Bono has said that if the U.S. government releases the Tomahawk missile to Spain, Spain will purchase the missile. We understand the release of the missile has cleared a number of hurdles in Washington. He may well express the Spanish government's interest in purchasing the Tomahawk missile to you and his hope that the release will be approved. ------------------------------------- BACKGROUND: SOCIALISTS REMAIN POPULAR ------------------------------------- ¶8. (C) One year after taking over the presidency, President Zapatero enjoys an approval rating of over 60 percent and, barring a major setback, is likely to remain in power for at least one term (until 2008). The Socialist Party (PSOE) as a whole also gets much higher marks today than the PP opposition. Zapatero's withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq was wildly popular with the Spanish public and the social agenda he has pushed appeals to Spain's center-left electorate (gay rights, curbing the power of the Catholic Church, better relations with regional governments in Catalonia and the Basque Region) further broadening the Socialists' appeal. Aznar and the PP, meanwhile, remain unapologetic for their handling of the 3/11 bombings and declined to sideline leaders discredited by their actions in the wake of the bombings, further eroding their public support. Zapatero's main internal challenge is an effort by the Basque Regional Government (comprised of moderate Basque nationalists opposed to ETA violence) to increase its autonomy from Spain's central government. This is a potential powder keg since most other regions of Spain strongly oppose increasing the Basque Region's already considerable independence, unless they too are given greater independence. ------------------------ RECENT POSITIVE GESTURES ------------------------ ¶9. (C) Since November 2004, Spanish officials at all levels have made clear their desire to restore strong bilateral ties, with the Foreign Ministry's Director General for Foreign Policy (under secretary equivalent) telling us bluntly, "We want back in." In response, we've told our Spanish contacts that we are prepared to move forward on issues of bilateral importance and that unambiguous, positive steps by Spain would be the best signal to the USG that they too were ready to move forward. Spain subsequently agreed to USG requests that it lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team and a Forward Support Base in western Afghanistan as part of NATO's mission in that country, issued positive statements regarding the Iraq elections, and contributed $20 million to the Iraq elections fund. Spain also continues to disburse $300 million in assistance to Iraq pledged during the 2003 Iraq Donors Conference in Madrid, and has agreed to train Iraqi security forces in Spain. We fully expect Minister Bono to highlight these moves to you as evidence that Spain has taken significant steps to demonstrate its interest in improving relations with the U.S. ¶10. (C) The USG has welcomed these steps, while making clear that we remain troubled by mixed signals from Spain, such as that sent by Spain's policy of engagement with Hugo Chavez. We also want Spain to lift its caveats on the deployment of Spanish NATO officers to participate in NATO missions, and lift the caveats on its national forces' actions in Afghanistan. ¶11. (C) Some in the Spanish government, including Bono, have expressed the belief that Spain is getting little in return for these positive steps. Bono has said that at times it appears the U.S. focuses only the on the problems in U.S.-Spain relations, not the positives (reftel). -------------------------------- COMMENT: SENDING A CLEAR MESSAGE -------------------------------- ¶12. (C) The USG will not re-establish with the Zapatero government the deep and close relationship we had with the Aznar administration. Nonetheless, the U.S. has key interests in Spain we are working hard to promote and secure, not the least of which are continued access to Spanish military bases (including flight clearances) and counterterrorism cooperation. Spanish officials -- including Zapatero and Bono -- have expressed surprise that their Venezuela policy could derail recent improvements in U.S.-Spain relations. This is despite that fact that this embassy and various U.S. officials, including Deputy Secretary Zoellick, have told the Spanish that engaging SIPDIS Chavez and selling him military hardware could hurt relations at this sensitive time. Bono and others have also said they feel that the U.S. does not sufficiently recognize the positive steps Spain has taken to improve relations with the U.S. Your meeting with Bono can be an opportunity to make clear that while the U.S. appreciates Spain's cooperation in Afghanistan, the full access Spain has granted U.S. forces to its military bases, its continued monetary contributions to Iraq reconstruction and other positive steps, the U.S. remains concerned about Spanish actions that negatively affect our interests, such as Zapatero's Venezuela policy. MANZANARES