Robles and British counterpart Ben Wallace express strong support for Ukraine and highlight NATO unity

News - 25.5.2022

This is the first visit by a British defence minister to Spain since the then defence ministers Geoff Hoon and José Bono met in Toledo in 2005, and forms part of the series of meetings held by the Spanish defence minister with her counterparts from partner and allied countries at a delicate time in the international situation.

After receiving the Secretary of State for Defence with the honours of ordinance, the two ministers held a bilateral meeting at which they exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine. In this regard, Robles pointed to the need to continue providing military, political and humanitarian assistance to the country, in addition to "supporting ongoing investigations to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes that have been committed".

"The war we are experiencing is a priority for the countries of the European Union and for NATO, and our support is total and absolute, as is our strongest condemnation of Russia's cruelty," said Robles in a subsequent meeting with the media.

In the same vein, Wallace stated that Spain and the UK are acting "shoulder to shoulder" to help the people of Ukraine, who are defending their country in a situation that he described as "atrocious", in reference to the various forms of war crimes being committed by Russia.

"Russia is totally convinced that it has to wipe the country out. What they want is to do away with the very idea of Ukraine as a nation, and we are seeing that on the ground," Wallace said at the joint appearance. "But if there is one thing we should be happy about, it is that both the European Union and NATO are very united," he added.

New strategic compass

With regard to the NATO Summit, which Madrid will host on 29 and 30 June, the minister indicated that this is an opportunity to "reinforce the validity of our shared values and the strength of our unity and cohesion", and to value very positively the membership applications from Sweden and Finland, which are in line with Spain's position of keeping the "doors of the Alliance open".

"The fact that this summit is being held here in Madrid is the recognition by all NATO members that Spain as a serious, reliable, responsible and committed partner that always defends the values of the Alliance, democracy, peace, freedom and security," said the Minister for Defence.

Robles assured that this will be a historic summit, both because of the enlargement to two more important members, Sweden and Finland, and because of the approval of NATO's new strategic compass, which will be signed in Madrid in the same year that Spain celebrates 40 years of membership in the Alliance.

In this respect, Robles expressed her satisfaction with a text that has been improved in successive drafts with multiple contributions and that "despite the existence of a brutal open war in Europe, reinforces the idea of deterrence and balanced defence at 360 degrees and looks to the future".

NATO's new strategic compass must respond to the latest challenges in the form of hybrid warfare and confrontational spaces like cyberspace and maritime space, reinforcing the importance of the Alliance's collective defence, while at the same time relying on cooperative security to project stability and assist neighbouring countries.

"I am looking forward to the summit. I think it is going to be a great success, and it is also very important in the sense that people will realise that NATO is for everyone and that we do not just focus on parts of Europe," said the British Defence Secretary.

Wallace urged not to "underestimate" Russia's influence in countries like Mali and Libya through the Wagner group, with "weapons" that include illegal migration flows and attacks in cyberspace.

Excellent bilateral relations

The two politicians reviewed the numerous exchanges and collaborations that take place between the two countries at the military level, between staffs, hydrographic institutes, ships and units, and exercises and in the field of military education.

They also highlighted the cooperation between Spain and the United Kingdom in the field of the defence industry, both taking part in such important projects as the Eurofighter and the A-400M transport aircraft, among others.

"Today's visit highlights the magnificent bilateral defence relations between Spain and the UK, and above all underlines the commitment we have to work towards this summit being the success we need it to be," said Robles.

So far this year, Robles has held meetings with the defence ministers of Germany, Christine Lambrecht, France, Florence Parly, who left her post last week, and Estonia, Kalle Laanet. Robles also met with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in Washington on 19 May.

Non official translation