Article written by Alex Calvo – June 20th 2014.
It is only a few days since the CEEC (Center for Strategic Studies of Catalonia) started tweeting in English, launching an account in this language (CEEC_Eng), but its impact is beginning to be felt. As a prospective US ally and NATO member state fully committed to peace and stability in Europe, Catalonia’s national security community has noted with great concern how the Spanish Government, in direct contravention of its duties as a member of the Atlantic Alliance, opened up the harbor of Ceuta (right in front of Gibraltar) to the Russian Navy, which has already made six port calls in the year to date. At a time of heightened tensions with Moscow, this not only sends the wrong signal to Russia and offers an image of division within NATO, but allows the Russian Navy to operate during extended periods of time in the Western Mediterranean and in the Atlantic. In order to highlight the problem, which the media have been slow to report or simply ignored, and contribute to peer pressure by Spain’s partners and allies ideally resulting in Madrid falling in line with NATO policy on relations with Russia, the CEEC tweeted a number of messages and replied to others on the issue. On 2 June, in reply to a Tweet by the US Consulate in Barcelona (@USConsulateBCN) saying that “Un dels temes centrals del viatge #PresObama a Europa serà situació a Ucraïna. Ho explica aquest article @VOA_News http://ow.ly/xvFIy” (One of the central themes in #PresObama’s trip to Europe will be the situation in the Ukraine. This article explains it @VOA_News http://ow.ly/xvFIy), the CEEC added “Meaning it is necessary to tell Spain’s Rajoy to put an end to logistical support for the Russian Navy at #Ceuta””, and the official Twitter account of the Mission of Sweden to NATO in Brussels (@SwedenNato) favored that Tweet.
Since the Baltic has been at the forefront of tensions in recent weeks, and suffered a number of maritime incidents, it is no surprise to see Stockholm concerned about NATO’s inability to offer a united front before Moscow. Both Catalonia and Sweden wish to promote good relations with Russia, support peace and stability in Europe, and look forward to a constructive and deepened engagement with Moscow. However, before the latter can take place, it is necessary to make it clear that there are certain red lines that cannot be crossed, as repeatedly stated since the outset of the Ukrainian crisis by myriad Western leaders including US President Obama and NATO Secretary General AndersFogh Rasmussen. In order to make that clear it is essential for NATO (including current and future member states), the Atlantic Alliance’s partners, and the whole of the maritime democracies, to stand together and coordinate their policies. Offering logistical support to the Russian Navy at such strategic, sensitive location, as Ceuta, is clearly contrary to such need. News of Russian naval activities in Ceuta have reinforced Catalonia’s urge to recover her sovereignty (lost by force of arms in 1714), since it is essential for NATO that key ports like Barcelona and Tarragona are not allowed to be used in direct contravention of Allied policy. Only such resumption of sovereignty can protect NATO’s Southern flank and open the door to a more cohesive policy towards Moscow. This should not be understood as an expression of hostility towards Russia, a nation with which Catalonia and the whole of NATO wish to build a common future based on cooperation, nor should it be seen as a wholesale indictment of Spain, whose military will become a net contributor to the Atlantic Alliance once free from the burden of having to cast a threatening shadow on Catalan civilians (it is no coincidence that the UK, whose armed forces have never sought to influence the debate on Scotland’s future, is one of the main pillars of NATO and a solid US ally).
The CEEC, and other Catalan institutions and think-tanks, will continue to strive to contribute to the debate on foreign and defense policy within NATO and the maritime democracies. As the cradle of parliamentary democracy (first parliament in Europe) and the rule of law at sea (“Book of the Consulate of the Seas”, the foundation of contemporary maritime law), it could not be otherwise. We are particularly happy to see a fellow maritime democracy, noted for her military capabilities, like Sweden share our concerns. We will continue to work towards a more cohesive Atlantic Alliance, direct membership and a role as net security contributor for our country, deepened and friendly relations with Russia based on respect for fundamental principles, and for respect for international law and the rule of law at sea, also in the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region in conjunction with key allies like Japan.