Gibraltar is not alone
The U.S. have increased military presence in southern Spain, only a jot away from Gibraltar, which is a comforting thought.
Crisis-hit Spain understandably wants to bolster its diplomatic ties to the US for a myriad of economic and political goals. But while Europe, and Spain particularly, is becoming irrelevant to Washingtons global broader priorities, it can offer the US easier access to regions where those priorities do lie.
As part of the most recent deal, 500 US marines are in the process of deploying to Morón Air Base in southern Spain as part of rapid reaction force that will act as the vanguard to protect American interests in the increasingly volatile North African region, especially following last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi Libya in which three Americans died.
The Spanish government last month approved the deployment of the combat-ready team, which along with six V-22 Osprey and two C-130 refueling aircraft will be ready to react within hours to evacuate Americans under orders of the US Africa Command.
Spain last year already negotiated a new eight-year extension to the US lease of several military facilities, including the Rota naval base that will be home to four anti-missile Aegis destroyers as of 2014 as part of a missile defense shield in Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Spain’s strategic, US-leased military bases are “a great logistical platform for the Mediterranean,Middle East, and Africa, and that’s the role it’s played in all major recent conflicts,” says José Antonio Olmeda Gómez, a political science professor in Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, and an expert in Spanish defense and security.
“The goal is to watch over the evolution of Al Qaeda in the Magreb, which is also a security threat to Spain.”
In addition to the security boost of being a base of operations for US forces, Spain will benefit through the new assets that come with the US presence.
Closer ties with the US military will give Spanish forces access to top of the line training, technology, and intelligence, says Dr. Olmeda. “It will help Spain keep a technological edge. [Spain’s] armed forces are in very bad shape. There is no money and everything is pretty stalled.”
Increasing international military cooperation is also a cost-effective ways to improve Spain’s forces and to modernize them for new challenges, like peace keeping, natural disasters, and maintaining a real operational force, the Fundación Alternativas study said. “Collaborating, sharing, and integrating military structures” allows Spain to maintain long term costs “that it would not be able to assume otherwise.”
And the cooperation with the US will help Spain’s efforts to improve its reputation among allies after the sudden 2004 withdrawal of troops from Iraq for its political opposition to the war, followed in 2009 by the withdrawal from Kosovo to avoid encouraging its own secessionist movements within Spain.
The withdrawals from Iraq and Kosovo “made us a non-reliable partner,” Olmeda says. “The military agreements seek to mend that [and] are also a balloon of oxygen for Spain amid falling defense spending.”
And so Gibraltar is not alone in holding the security of Europe, the US is right behind us, literally.
Written by Gibraltar Tourism – John Middleton