Felipe VI promises support to the Baltic republics in the face of the Russian threat: “You can count on Spain” | Spain

“Spain may be on the other side of Europe, but believe me, we feel very close to you. “You can count on Spain as a friend, as a partner in the EU and as an ally in NATO.” The king took advantage of his speech at the dinner hosted by Estonian President Alar Karis at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn to launch the main message he is putting forward. his tour through the three Baltic republics: Spain's firm commitment to its defense in the event of Russian aggression.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and especially its large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, have awakened the ghosts of the past in some republics that share a border with Russia and only regained their independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. in 1991. “We live in difficult times, with a terrible war that is shaking the heart of Europe, and many of our citizens fear for their future,” said Felipe VI in a show of empathy for the Europeans who feel most threatened by Putin.

Spain's solidarity with its eastern allies is not limited to speeches, nor even to the commitment to mutual assistance in the event of aggression, as required by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, but is already taking shape through the deterrent efforts of more than 4,000 Spaniards . soldiers on NATO's eastern flank. Felipe VI confirmed in Tallinn that Spain will send a battery of NASAMS missiles to Estonia after the summer to protect its airspace, as it did last year, when an anti-aircraft detachment with a hundred soldiers was deployed to the Amari base for several months. .

Before attending the official dinner, the king went to the port of Tallinn, where the aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I and the frigate Blas de Lezo are docked and are taking part in the BALTOPS exercises, NATO's largest in the Baltic Sea. Accompanied by the Estonian president, the king boarded the ship named after his father, from which six Harrier vertical take-off aircraft, three AB-212 helicopters and a landing battalion operate. Lieutenant Pablo Bayo, Harrier pilot, explained how the Russian forces are much more aggressive this year, conducting low flights over Allied ships or connecting Spanish aircraft to their radar, a necessary but not sufficient preparatory step, in case you want to break them off.

In a short speech, the King congratulated the crew of the Juan Carlos I for their hard work to raise the flag during a deployment of more than three months, and explained to them the reason why the Spanish army must intervene in defense of the Allies on NATO's eastern flank: so that if one day Spain needs them, they will also do so to protect the southern flank.

With Felipe VI's visit, Spain also wants to emphasize its contribution to NATO on the eve of the Atlantic Alliance summit in Washington in July, where President Pedro Sánchez is expected to be scolded for being the country with the least leads. of GDP goes to military expenditure (1.28%).

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The paradox is that the Baltic republics are among those that spend the most on defense (more than 3% of Estonia and Latvia) and yet they are considered the most vulnerable allies, due to their small size and population and the weakness of their country. Armed forces, fasting from fighter planes or tanks. To reinforce its shortcomings and demonstrate NATO's solidarity, Spain has deployed 840 soldiers in the three countries, currently serving 1,500.

“Our commitment to our allies is strong and determined,” Felipe VI emphasized in Tallinn, before recalling the recent visit to Madrid of Ukrainian President Volidimir Zelensky and reiterating the demand that Russia “be held responsible for all crimes committed in Ukraine to commit. In his speech to the Estonian President, he added: “It is precisely in these moments that we can count on true friends. I can assure you that in Spain you will always find a strong and reliable ally.”

Although the trip focuses on European security, it also has an economic aspect and during his speech in Tallinn, the King did not forget to underline the capacity and experience of Spanish companies in projects such as Rail Baltica, the future railway line to be built. Uniting Finland with Poland, through the three republics.

When the king flew to Tallinn, the Ministry of Defense announced this The owner, Margarita Robles, will join the trip of the Head of State of the Baltic Republics. He will do this on Tuesday, at the last stop of the tour, Latvia, to accompany Felipe VI to the visit to the Adazi base, 120 kilometers from the Russian border, where 650 Spanish soldiers are deployed as part of Operation Presence NATO Fortified outpost. The king traveled this Sunday unaccompanied by any member of the government, a figure known by protocol as a 'minister of the day', which is an unprecedented event.

The Head of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, will take part in a meeting with his European counterparts in Luxembourg on Monday; while the head of Defense, Margarita Robles, apologized weeks ago, although her public agenda this Monday only includes a visit to the Aeroevacuation Unit of the Air Force at the Torrejón de Ardoz base (Madrid). The Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral Teodoro López Calderón, with the rank of Minister of Foreign Affairs, was supposed to accompany the king, but he became unwell at the last minute on Saturday, so he canceled the trip, leaving him as the highest representative. of the Armed Forces at the head of the Operational Command, Lieutenant General Francisco Braco. The absence of members of the government on an international trip by the king constitutes an anomaly, as constitutionally all actions of the head of state must be approved by the government. The late creation of Robles attempts to correct this anomaly.

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