Why is Spain Trying to Arm Chavez and Rehabilitate Castro?

What can the United States expect of a NATO ally, or the EU expect of a member?

What can the United States expect of a NATO ally, or the EU expect of a member?

In 2005, the government of Spain announced plans to sell 12 military aircraft to Venezuela despite American objections based on Hugo Chavez’s strident anti-Americanism coupled with his feting of Iran’s Ahmadinejad and Cuba’s Castro. When the Spanish wanted to move the deal forward anyhow, the U.S. denied Spain an export license for the engines – just one of many of the planes’ American-origin components. The deal, which also included military patrol boats, was worth more than $1.5 billion. Ultimately, it stalled, though not for want of Spanish creativity. So determined were they to do the deal that Spain tried to obtain replacement engines from Russia (which would not work without significant costs to alter the airplanes) and Israel (which flatly refused).

The EU imposed sanctions on Cuba in 2003, following the arrest of 75 dissidents and the execution of three men who tried to flee to the U.S. But Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos was in Cuba last week with a gushy letter for Castro from King Juan Carlos [“my most affectionate greetings and my best wishes…”] and stiffing the families of Cuban prisoners who wanted his help. Saying his talks in Havana would “not exclude a single subject,” meaning perhaps he was planning to raise the issue of the prisoners himself, Moratinos was made the fool when Cuban Foreign Minister Perez Roque said Havana does not discuss Cuban prisoners “with other countries.”

Moratinos continued with his government’s business anyhow, working to cement Spain’s position as Cuba’s third largest trading partner.

We were never fans of the U.S. embargo on Cuba – certainly there must be a way for us to establish ties with Cuban institutions, people and businesses to be part of the transition after Castro finishes dying. The island is our neighbor and having kept faith with the people against their government should serve us in the future.

But the Spanish government isn’t doing transition – it’s doing rehabilitation of a dying dictator without regard to its obligations to the institutions of which it is a voluntary member. The Cuban government SO egregiously trampled the rights of its people that the EU was moved to act against it. Spain not only undermined the EU, but also the Cubans who were brave enough to ask for a meeting. Their safety lies in part with the steadfastness of foreigners – Moratinos left them at greater risk.

And as for us, NATO is a military alliance, the sine qua non of which is interoperability of the systems that will enable us to fight together when need be. To make it work, NATO countries have the inside track on buying, selling and proprietary information. But then it seems that the U.S. has some right to expect a NATO partner not to sell those same combined systems to a dictator (Chavez) – IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! – who undermines American interests in Latin America and plays footsie with dictators in the Middle East trying to undermine us there.

It would be fair for the U.S. to take Spain off that inside track as long as its foreign policy leads it places that threaten American interests.