What does NATO expect from Spain?

Spain's role in Red Sea crisis

Spanish Frigate Victoria (F-82). Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Jeremy L. Wood/Public domain/creative Commons

Could Spain soon be expected to join the critical mission of ensuring the safe passage of shipping in the Red Sea?

Despite denials from Defence Minister Margarita Robles, NATO anticipates that Spain will play a role alongside the United States in addressing the threats posed by Houthi rebels to maritime navigation.

It has been reported that high-level discussions between US and Spanish military officials hinted at Spain’s potential involvement.

On Monday, January 8, General Charles Brown, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff head, and Admiral Teodoro Lopez Calderon, Spain’s Defence Staff chief, discussed the volatile situation in the Red Sea, where confrontations have resulted in casualties among both rebels and American personnel.

Spain’s strategic role

Sources within the Atlantic Alliance suggest that Spain will contribute in some capacity, possibly under the guise of logistic support.

This comes amidst the Spanish government’s reluctance to openly support a US-led mission, especially given the sensitive political context of Israel’s conflict with Hamas.

NATO sources indicate that Spain might utilise existing operations, such as the Marfil or Orion surveillance detachments, to provide covert air support from the coast.

This approach would enable Spain to participate subtly, without a dramatic shift in its public foreign policy stance.

The European perspective

Spain’s Defence Ministry has previously ruled out joining a new mission, citing commitments to Operation Atalanta, a piracy-monitoring initiative in the Indian Ocean.

This operation, focused on monitoring piracy in the Indian Ocean, already involves significant Spanish resources, including the deployment of the frigate Victoria.

However, the European Union has launched a project to support US efforts in the Red Sea. Despite official denials, NATO sources maintain that Spain will eventually play a role in addressing the Red Sea crisis.

The Houthi rebels, with backing from Iran and connections to Hamas, have been attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea. These assaults are seen as retaliatory actions against Israel’s military efforts against Hamas in Gaza.

The US military operation, named ‘Guardian of Prosperity’, aims to secure this vital maritime route, critical for global trade, amidst increasing tensions between the US and Spain.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Bertie Milner

      14 January 2024 • 11:38

      I think the last thing that the Spanish public would want is for Spain to be sucked into a larger conflict between the US led Nato and Iran due to them being much closer geographically to the Middle East and Iran’s allies to the East.

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