Spain deters a pro-Catalonia statement from Latvia, with €63 million of military aid

Catalan MonitorNews Roundup

Photo: Spain sent six Leopard 2E tanks to Latvia to deter possible Russian attacks (Credit: Vilaweb)

By Staff Writers

January 18th, 2018

It is no secret that Spain has been making moves in the diplomatic arena to discredit the Catalan sovereignty movement internationally. A few weeks ago, Spanish ex-Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo, said in a parliamentary commission that Mariano Rajoy had managed to deflect the sympathy Latvia has expressed for the Catalan sovereignty process thanks to the provision of 313 soldiers and 80 vehicles on the Russian border, where a NATO deterrent force is currently stationed. This mission was created to protect the Baltic nations and Poland, who feel threatened by Russia after the annexation of the Crimea in 2014.

The costs of these favors are beginning to emerge, Minister María Dolors de Cospedal will have to justify these next week at the Defense Committee. According to Público, from the preparatory documentation that was sent out to deputies who will be in attendance, the cost of this deployment was 63.4 million euros. Apart from the 313 human troops, six Leopard 2E tanks, 15 Pizarros, 12 TOAs, as well as costs for additional weapons and drones, according to the documentation.

This deterrence and defense mission for the Baltic countries, is a commitment that Spain has acceded to, as part of a NATO plan. However, the Spanish deployment exceeds its obligations under the NATO plan. Spain, as of May, was to send three hundred soldiers in an infantry unit, accompanied by combat vehicles. Spain has gone much further than the requirement and provided 84 vehicles at a very high cost.

Why volunteer all this extra hardware?
Thanks to these military maneuvers in Latvia, which have cost the public coffers €63 million, Spain has ensured that the Baltic country will not make any public statements in favor of the pro-independence process, as it has done in the past. Last month, as we said, the former Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, acknowledged that he had requested assistance from the governments of the Baltic States as a ‘just repayment for the efforts’ of Spain, with reference to the military deployment undertaken in May.

One needn’t read between lines to understand that the Catalan process was part of this exchange: ‘On whether if it is true that I as a minister tried to expose the arguments of Spain as deriving from the constitution and the statute, in contrast to the justification for a secessionist process made by some other organizations and more recently by the Generalitat, whose, I say yes, I did that. And not only in the Baltic countries, but in any place I could see a way in,” he told the congress.

There are well-known precedents of diplomatic tension between Spain and Latvia, as a result of support for the independentist process in Catalonia. In 2013, in an interview with the CAN [Catalan News Agency], Valdis Dombrovskis, who then was Latvian PM, said that he did not see any issues with the formal recognition of Scotland or of Catalonia by Latvia. In the same vein, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius also said that Catalonia had the right to self-determination.

Margallo, at that time, protested loudly, and even summoned the ambassadors of both countries to Madrid, but Dombrovskis refused to alter his course: ‘I said what I said about Catalonia and I will not retract it.’ As a result, a defamation campaign was launched against him, and Interviu published a report quoting the Spanish police, according to which Dombrovskis had taken money from the Pujol family in exchange for defending the sovereignty process in public. The Latvian anti-fraud office disavowed those claims and denied that there was evidence to indicate the collection of any bribe.

Margallo eventually stated on 13TV that he travelled to the Baltic states four times in relation to the Catalan case. It would seem that in the end, these trips produced a mutually beneficial outcome.

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