US President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met at the White House on Friday to discuss NATO’s war against Russia in Ukraine, the deployment of US warships and soldiers stationed on Spanish territory, and cooperation to escalate attacks on migrants. The meeting took place as Madrid assumes the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union in July.
In the Oval Office, the two leaders promoted the ongoing NATO war against Russia in Ukraine. Biden said, “[T]ogether we’re supporting Ukraine. I can’t thank you enough.”
Sanchez replied by squarely blaming the war on Putin—retailing a false narrative incessantly promoted by NATO media, think tanks, academics and pseudo-left tendencies like the Democratic Socialists of America in the US and Podemos in Spain, Sanchez’s junior partner in government.
“We support Ukraine. Of course, we work for a lasting and just peace that respects fully the international law and also the principles of the UN charter,' Sanchez said. “Make no mistake, in this war there is an aggressor and a victim, and the aggressor is President Putin.”
The statements were made just days after the Washington Post published an interview with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who stated that the war in Ukraine “didn’t start in 2022. The war started in 2014.”
This admission confirmed that the war began with the US-backed regime change operation in Ukraine in 2014, when fascistic, US-sponsored anti-Russian militias overthrew President Victor Yanukovych, who had opposed measures to integrate Ukraine into the EU.
In the following years, Kiev launched assaults on the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine, leading to over 14,000 deaths between 2014 and 2022. In response, Russia annexed Crimea after a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of the population of the enclave supported leaving Ukraine. The 2022 invasion, as the WSWS has insisted, was a desperate response of the Russian oligarchy to the escalating efforts of NATO to bring Ukraine into its orbit.
Spain has played a strategic role in NATO’s war and Washington clearly hopes that it will play a central role in pressing the entire European Union to escalate the war.
The PSOE-Podemos government has spent hundreds of millions in financial support to the Ukrainian state to continue serving as a proxy for imperialist war with Russia and hundreds more in military aid. This includes rifles, grenade launchers, Hawk missile launchers, Aspide anti-aircraft missile systems, howitzers and light vehicles. Many of these have been sent to the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Madrid has also trained over 850 Ukrainian soldiers on Spanish soil.
A few weeks ago, Madrid dispatched six Leopard 2 tanks and 20 armored vehicles to Ukraine.
How deep Spanish involvement is in NATO’s eastern front was revealed in a widely unreported incident over the Black Sea on May 5. A Polish Turbolet L-410 was flying over the Black Sea in what has been ludicrously presented as a routine Frontex patrol mission 1471 kms away from Poland. More reasonably, it was a NATO plane flying to collect intelligence on Russian positions to provide to Ukrainian armed forces.
Russia reacted by sending an Su-35 jet to intercept the spy plane, with NATO ordering Spanish fighter jets in Romania to be on “pre-alert,” marking another dangerous milestone after a Russian fighter forced down a Reaper surveillance drone in March.
The danger posed to humanity by a NATO-Russia war was revealed in another issue in the Biden-Sanchez meeting: the cleanup of Palomares, the area contaminated with plutonium in 1966 when a US B-52 bomber collided in midair with a refueling plane and dropped four hydrogen bombs, 70 times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the Spanish coast of Almería.
On that occasion they did not explode. However, the incident, covered up by Washington and the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco, is yet another warning on the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.
Biden and Sanchez also noted the recent signing of the expanded Agreement on Defense Cooperation, which facilitates the presence of two additional US warships in Spain from four to six and enhances NATO’s anti-missile shield in southern Europe. The growing deployment of troops on the Iberian Peninsula is transforming it into a giant base for US operations in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East.
Spain’s EU presidency, noted Sanchez, would also aim to bolster cooperation with Latin America, an area that was brutally colonized and plundered for gold and silver by Spain for centuries. It was then replaced by Washington, which plunged the region into military coups, police state dictatorships and bloody counterinsurgency in the name of defeating “communism.”
European imperialism fears losing ground to the US, which has long dominated the region, and above all China, South America’s largest trading partner. In the space of barely two decades, total trade between China and the Latin American region as a whole has leapt nearly 20-fold, from $17 billion in 2002 to $315 billion in 2019.
The region is rich in vast resources that imperialist powers across Europe and the US need for their military machines as they seek to re-divide the world. It includes the vast oil reserves of Venezuela and Guyana, copper, silver, gold and other minerals, and lithium, the strategic metal necessary for electric vehicles and utilized in virtually every modern weapons system. China also depends upon Latin America for 36 percent of its food supplies.
In a sign of rising tensions within the EU and between Brussels and Washington, Sanchez also outlined the concept of “open strategic autonomy” as key to Spain’s EU Council presidency.
Madrid’s meeting summary stated that Sanchez would seek “open strategic autonomy, aimed at reducing risks and vulnerabilities in strategic areas such as the digital economy, health, critical raw materials, energy security or food security, also strengthening alliances with other partners, such as the United States.” EU powers are also aiming to boost homegrown industry, particularly the geostrategic microchip sector.
This takes place months after French President Emmanuel Macron defended strategic autonomy from the US during his trip to China, particularly in the defense industry. It was a stark expression of the deepening rivalries between the imperialist powers amid war, a growing economic crisis and the growth of the international class struggle.
Beyond war, Biden thanked Sanchez for signing up to his anti-immigration policy. “We are both facing the challenges of migration in the Western hemisphere,” he said, as Washington sent 4,000 troops to the US-Mexico border and stepped up violence against refugees.
Madrid has signed up to Biden’s plan requiring asylum seekers to file claims in processing centers across Latin American countries where migrants can apply to enter the US, Spain or Canada. Spanish big business is salivating at the prospects of receiving rejected US asylum seekers to work as low-cost agricultural labor.
Both Biden and Sanchez share a brutal track record of reacting to fascistic anti-migrant agitation of Republicans in the US and neo-fascist Vox party in Spain by implementing barbaric assaults on immigrants’ rights. Biden has already carried out more deportations than the Trump administration. Successive PSOE-Podemos governments are responsible for the deaths or disappearances of over 11,200 migrants in the Canary Islands route since 2018 as part of the EU’s fascistic “Fortress Europe” policy.
As the WSWS noted in its Perspective a day after the meeting between Sanchez and Biden, “[A]ttacks on the rights of immigrants and promotion of chauvinistic and racist sentiments have always accompanied the turn by imperialism to war. They have always been part of a broader assault on the democratic and social rights of the working class in every capitalist nation involved in the struggle over markets, natural resources and sources of cheap labor.”