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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MADRID612 2009-06-26 12:12 2010-12-08 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid

DE RUEHMD #0612/01 1771212
P 261212Z JUN 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 000612



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2019

C. DAO MADRID IIR 6 889 0175 09
E. 2008 MADRID 1281
F. 2008 MADRID 678

Classified By: Charge D'Affaires Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b) a
nd (d)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: When Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon
arrives in Washington June 30, she will be looking among
other things to restore and consolidate her image as the
rising star and heir-apparent of President Zapatero's
cabinet. Since taking office in April 2008, Chacon has
talked of the importance she places on close ties with her
U.S. counterparts and of her desire to go to Washington. The
first woman to head Spain's Ministry of Defense and the first
Minister to give birth while in office, Chacon met with only
one bilateral ambassador, then-U.S. Ambassador to Spain
Eduardo Aguirre, during her 2008 maternity leave (ref F), as
a demonstration of the significance of the bilateral
relationship. Twice nominated and invited previously to
participate in the 2002 and 2003 U.S. International Visitor
Programs, Chacon had up to that point never traveled to the
United States and has yet to do so in an official capacity.
Although well connected and politically savvy, her relative
inexperience in defense issues, particularly in coordination
among NATO allies, has led to mis-steps and put her on the
defensive against opposition attacks in the lead-up to June 7
European Parliament elections. On the eve of her July 1
meeting with Secretary Gates, Chacon has more to prove
domestically than ever before. While the conservative
opposition has used a series of recent faux pas for political
mudslinging, Chacon's personal standing is undiminished, and
in public opinion polls she is held in higher regard than
Zapatero. USG interlocutors should by no means underestimate
her, or the importance ministry places on a successful visit.
While the focus of Chacon's trip will be bilateral issues --
including the U.S.-Spain Agreement on Defense Cooperation
(ADC) and U.S. plans to re-open the KC-30 tanker competition
-- she will review existing operations including Spanish
participation in Afghanistan and in counter-piracy efforts,
as lead in the EU Atalanta mission. She is also expected to
address GOS interest in closer U.S.-EU ties and
civilian-military coordination during Spain's European Union
(EU) Presidency January-June 2010. While in Washington, she
will also lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery,
decorate former CJCS Peter Pace and former SACEUR NSA James
Jones, and address the Organization of American States. END


2. (SBU) U.S.-Spain relations are strong and based on shared
global interests. Spain is an important friend and ally of
the U.S., and we value its cooperation in the fights against
terrorism and narcotics and on security issues. Spain has
approximately 3000 troops deployed in hot spots such as
Afghanistan (over 800), Lebanon (over 1,100), Bosnia
(approximately 260), Indian Ocean / Somalia (over 300),
Kosovo (nearly 500), and in various UN & EU observer
missions. Spain announced at international conferences in
March and April a temporary increase of 450 troops in
Afghanistan to assist with forthcoming elections. Spain has
long fought a domestic terrorist threat from the Basque
terrorist group ETA and suffered tragically from Islamic
extremist terrorism in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. Since
winning a second term in March 2008, but especially since the
U.S. election in November 2008, President Zapatero has
publicly and privately stressed his desire to further improve
bilateral relations, and a strong atmosphere of goodwill has
emerged in Spain for closer bilateral cooperation. As a
gesture of this goodwill, the GOS presently is considering
accepting up to five of the detainees currently held
Guantanamo. Counter-terrorism and law-enforcement
cooperation is strong, as are commercial and cultural
relations (e.g., tourism). Finally, Spain is a leader in
renewable energy technologies and has important investments
in the U.S. in this field (e.g., wind and solar), as well as
in road construction projects. The relationship will be of

increasing importance when Spain takes over the EU presidency
in January 2010.

3. (SBU) Minister Chacon is visiting Washington on the heels
of a very successful visit to Washington by her chief rival
in the cabinet, Interior Minister Rubalcaba, who met with DHS
and DOJ officials as well as intelligence chiefs June 23-24
(ref B). The two visits are but the latest in a series of
high-level exchanges, including a presidential bilateral on
the margins of the U.S.-EU Summit in Prague in April, a
meeting between NSA Jones and King Juan Carlos I in Florida
in February, and Foreign Minister Moratinos's February
meeting in Washington with Secretary Clinton. At the end of
May, U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood became the first
cabinet-level visitor to Spain on behalf of the Obama
Administration, and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano
will travel to Madrid while Chacon is in Washington.


4. (SBU) In office since 2004, Zapatero won reelection to a
second term in March 2008, but his center-left Spanish
Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) is seven seats shy of a
majority in the 350-seat Congress. More than a year of
worse-than-expected economic news has led to widespread
criticism of Zapatero and his economic policymakers for
having downplayed the economic difficulties. Although
popularity ratings for Zapatero and the Socialists are low,
the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP) has struggled
to capitalize on this, including by attacking Carme Chacon.
The PP has suffered internal divisions and more recently has
been dogged by corruption accusations. Nevertheless,
Zapatero suffered his first serious political reverse since
winning reelection when his party lost power in March 2009
regional elections in Galicia. Zapatero shuffled the cabinet
April 7 as a response to criticism of the GOS' inability to
resolve the economic crisis and with an eye to the June
European Parliament elections. The most prominent change was
the replacement of the Second Vice President and Minister of
Economy/Finance. Even so, the PP secured more seats than the
Socialists in the June 7 European Parliament elections,
dealing a further blow to Zapatero.


5. (SBU) Spain is an excellent defense partner with whom the
United States enjoys robust military-to-military relations
based on cooperation within NATO, the U.S. presence at
Spain's bases (approximately 1335 personnel primarily located
at Naval Station Rota and Moron Air Base), and U.S. Foreign
Military Sales (FMS) to Spain. The southern Spanish bases of
Rota and Moron are strategic hubs, midway between the U.S.
and theaters of operation in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S.
planes and ships account for approximately 6,000 flights and
200 port calls a year in Spain. Spain remains a leading U.S.
FMS client, with USD $3.2 billion worth of open FMS cases.
The Spanish military, especially the Navy (SPN), is familiar
with U.S. equipment and tactics. The SPN employs the AEGIS
system on its frigates, and is interested in the Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF). At the same time, the Spanish defense
industry is a U.S. supplier, as with the United States Coast
Guard (USCG) purchase of eight EADS-CASA CN-235-300M maritime
patrol aircraft (245 million USD total). Overall, the
Spanish military is pro-U.S. and pro-NATO.


6. (SBU) Chacon has been on the defensive against opposition
attacks over her handling of a trifecta of thorny issues in
the past three months. Spain's announced withdrawal of
troops from KFOR in mid-March was widely criticized not for
the substance of the decision so much as for the apparent
lack of coordination -- since refuted by the GOS -- of the
decision internally as well as with NATO Allies (ref C).
Vice President Biden clarified to reporters March 28 in Chile
that the U.S.-Spain bilateral relationship exceeded any
disagreement over Kosovo, and Spanish leaders publicly touted
"absolute (U.S.) understanding of the Spanish decision."
Chacon survived a congressional censure motion brought by
opposition critics over her handling of the withdrawal, which
began the end of April and will be accomplished by the end of
the summer.

7. (SBU) In mid-May, Chacon was again criticized for poor
coordination and inadequate public information regarding an
outbreak of H1N1 flu at a military academy outside Madrid. A
group of school children had been allowed to visit the
installation two days after the first symptoms were reported.
Testifying May 26 in the Spanish Senate and May 27 in the
Congress, Chacon fiercely defended her ministry,s role in
containing the H1N1 outbreak, insisted her ministry had
followed all World Health Organization (WHO) protocols in
coordinating with Spain's Health Ministry, and accused an
opposition questioner of fear-mongering. (NOTE: Spain had
at least 537 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus by mid-June
(up from 167 at the end of May), making it the most affected
European country by virtue of daily flights from Mexico and
various U.S. points of origin. All the victims are reported
to have mild systems and be responding well to treatment.
Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez announced June 12 her
ministry would not continue to report new cases, in order to
avoid the "numbers dance," since the origin of all the cases
was clear. END NOTE.)

8. (SBU) The H1N1 incident is but one anecdote in a recent
series of opposition attacks on perceived blunders by the
Zapatero Administration in the lead up to European Parliament
elections June 7, in which the Socialists fared poorly. On
June 10, Chacon was forced to make statements denying Spanish
involvement in detention of Israeli spies in Lebanon after a
video conference with Spanish military commanders the
previous week was broadcast by media who had been invited to
film the onset of the meeting. The Defense Ministry later
asserted the arrests were carried out by Lebanese Security
Forces in an area of southern Lebanon controlled by Spanish
troops in coordination with UNIFIL. The conservative
opposition Popular Party continues to allege Chacon knows of
Spanish involvement and has demanded she clarify the GOS's
role in the operations. So far, Chacon seems to have
weathered and learned from the criticism and perhaps come out
stronger for having kept her composure under pressure.


9. (C) Post expects Minister Chacon will use her time with
Secretary Gates to review current Spanish operations and to
place a marker on future discussions of the Agreement on
Defense Cooperation (ADC). She may also raise the long-term
resolution -- important to Spain for supplying its troops in
Afghanistan -- of the Manas Transit Base. Any discussion of
industrial participation or pending defense contracts should
be considered in the context of Spain's budget woes and
severe recession. The latest OECD prediction is that the
Spanish economy will shrink by 4.2 per cent this year and
unemployment is expected to reach 20 per cent by 2010. The
economic slump has the potential to affect political-military
relations inasmuch as the GOS is feeling pressure to prevent
further job losses, including potential cuts in DOD


10. (C) MOD staff do not expect Chacon to discuss the future
of the ADC. If raised, we believe the Defense Minister could
lay out a broad way ahead on this issue, and we understand
her staff has advised her that only minor changes or
technical adjustments are necessary. The current ADC is in
effect until February 2011 and three potential directions
exist: complete re-negotiation, minor improvements, or
continue as is with automatic extension. Secretary General
for Defense Policy (SEGENPOL) Luis Cuesta indicated June 18
to OSD staff Spain's overall satisfaction with the ADC (ref
A). Spanish interlocutors have further advised us even
"improvements" are off the table until the middle of 2010,
once Spain's EU presidency is completed. In fall 2008,
however, Chacon had raised the idea of elevating the status
of the document from an international agreement to treaty
(refs D and E). We believe U.S. efforts and those of her own
staff have dissuaded her of that notion.


11. (C) Minister Chacon's visit presents an opportunity to
reiterate how much we value the use of Rota and Moron.

Access to both bases is an excellent example of a balanced
and mature defense relationship that brings great security
benefits to both our countries and serves as a cornerstone of
the larger bilateral relationship. Nonetheless, the U.S. Air
Force in Europe (USAFE) has been deliberating since 2006 and
is in the final stages of a pre-decisional draft plan to cut
costs at Moron by eliminating several hundred Spanish jobs.
Assuming USAFE pursues the matter, the plan will be
considered by the highest levels of the GOS and could end up
costing a lot more financially and politically than the Air
Force is likely to save annually. Relatively minor labor
issues involving Spanish employees at those bases go straight
to the Presidency. The potential for massive personnel cuts
resulting from cost reductions at Moron and simultaneous
budget cuts at Rota would rise to Zapatero's level. Coupled
with unemployment at 18 per cent and rising -- the highest in
the European Union -- and a severe recession, such changes
could cause a number of problems, the least of which might be
a complete re-look at the ADC. Strikes and lawsuits are
possible. Other possible ramifications of large manpower
cuts include strained relations, anti-American sentiment,
impact on the ease of operations on these bases including
complications for aircraft clearances (currently 6,000/year),
and attempts to mitigate financial losses in the form of
additional taxes and landing fees. DOD should also consider
the potential impact on current military operations of, in
one worst-case scenario, the forced removal by GOS of all
U.S. forces from Moron. The autonomous community where the
bases are located is a key stronghold of the President's
party (indeed, the "governor" of that region was elevated in
April to the President's cabinet). Any attempt in tough
economic times to cut several hundred Spanish contract jobs
at the bases would be controversial and would at a minimum
diminish GOS interest in allowing us continued access. While
we have no indications that Minister Chacon is aware of the
Moron possibility at this time, the Embassy is discussing
scenarios with USAFE and so many people know about the issue
that we should be prepared for the possibility the Spanish
might have gotten wind of it. If and when they do, we should
expect significant political blowback that could bleed over
into other areas of the mil-mil relationship (indeed, into
the entire bilateral relationship).


12. (C) One issue Chacon might possibly raise is GOS interest
in USG participation in a final cleanup of the Palomares
radiation site that was contaminated in 1966 when three
hydrogen bombs fell near the town of Palomares after a
collision of a USAF B-52 and a USAF refueling tanker
aircraft. The site was cleaned according to standards of the
time, and radioactive soil and vegetation was shipped to the
United States. The Department of Energy has helped fund
health and environmental monitoring for decades, along with a
recently completed GOS study that outlined the considerable
amount of remaining contamination. The Spanish Embassy sent
a diplomatic note in March asking for USG participants in a
working group to define collaboration responsibilities for a
final cleanup. The USG has not responded, and post
understands that DOD is seeking to determine its position.
In reftel G, Post recommended an interagency meeting to
determine a USG response. Minister Chacon has not been
closely involved in the issue in the past, but the Foreign
Ministry's Director General for North American Affairs raised
the issue with EUR A/S Gordon in a recent meeting, and GOS
frustration over the lack of a response to the diplomatic
note may lead Chacon to do so as well.


13. (C) Spain has invested about 300 million Euros in
Afghanistan, including development assistance pledged since
2006 and more recent monetary support pledged since March to
the Election Trust Fund and the ANA Trust Fund. Spanish
officials have also indicated Spain will contribute more
money for infrastructure (road from North-South of RC-W) in
excess of Spain's London Conference pledge (ref A).
Militarily speaking, Spain has deployed more than 800 troops
under ISAF. Spain shares responsibility with the Italians
for a Forward Support Base in Herat, where it has two OMLTs,
and is running a provincial reconstruction team in Qal-e-Now,
in Badghis province. The Spanish have begun construction on

a base for the ANA battalion Spain is sponsoring and,
adjacent to that facility, a new facility for the PRT. In
Post's assessment, Spain is doing what it does well, but
could do even more.

14. (C) Minister Chacon testified before the Spanish
Congressional Defense Committee and secured parliamentary
authorization and funding June 17 for Spanish contributions
to the Elections Security Forces (ESF), scheduled to deploy
temporarily in support of Afghan elections for three to four
months. In addition to the 450 temporary troops for the
Afghan elections (to be deployed in mid-July), the Committee
authorized longer-term deployments of 70 guards for Kabul
International Airport and 12 instructors to train the Afghan
National Army. The authorization also included 33 armored
vehicles to increase the total number of Spanish armored
vehicles in Afghanistan to 93. Chacon requested and received
funding for the 450-troop battalion to stay one month beyond
the elections, to allow for a second round of voting, if
necessary. COMMENT: It is possible a company (out of a
battalion to be dedicated to the ESF) may remain in
Afghanistan after the 3-4 month timeframe is completed,
pending the security situation following the elections, when
Spain would determine whether it should or could leave some
of its ESF battalion behind. END COMMENT. Regardless of
what happens with the ESF, Spain will take the lead for
security operations at Kabul International Airport (KAIA)
from the Polish contingent from October 2009 through April
2010, and Spain will provide 40 Civil Guard personnel to
either NTM-A or European Gendarmerie Force (EGF) (ref A).

15. (C) Spanish Chief of Defense GEN Rodriguez met in Kabul
the week of June 22 with COMISAF General McChrystal. Spanish
Joint Staff said the encounter could not have been better,
describing it as "exceptional" and oriented to the future.
Following on what the Spanish perceived to be a fruitful and
positive visit both with COMISAF and with Commander of the
Combined Security and Transition Command - Afghanistan
(CSTC-A), General Formica, this July 1 meeting would be a key
opportunity to ask directly at the highest level to
underscore any stated COMISAF needs and expectations in the
Spanish sector, reinforce military requirements which Spain
could provide, and request Spain demonstrate leadership in
other key areas. Possible opportunities that Spain could
seize, if asked, include: extending promised Spanish
election support in place beyond August 20; lengthening time
between rotations to improve continuity in the regional
command; expansion to the north; not moving Spanish
helicopters from the PRT back to Herat; and following through
on Spain's formalized sponsorship of Colombian troops to
serve alongside Spanish forces in Badghis. If there is no
possibility that the United States will fund airlift for
Colombian troops going to serve with Spain's contingent in
Afghanistan, we should be clear about our expectations and
limitations, in order to avoid any hard feelings over the
potentially earlier arrival of any U.S.-sponsored Colombian
Special Forces.

16. (C) COMMENT: In the lead up to the strategic review of
U.S.-Afghanistan policy, Spanish leadership here in Madrid
stressed that Spain needed to be asked directly and at the
highest level for more support in Afghanistan. Absent a very
direct request to fulfill requirements in RC-West or
elsewhere, Spanish officials can claim to be off the hook.
Even with a high-level political intervention, the Spanish
may resist additional contributions or plead a lack of
Spanish public support for the mission. That being said,
without a high-level discussion, we are nearly certain that
none of the election support forces will stay in ISAF after
the Afghan election. This is our opportunity to tell
Minister Chacon exactly what else Spain could do, at a time
when she needs to maintain the upward trend in her political
standing. After receiving negative press over the Kosovo
withdrawal, Chacon appears to be working consciously on
improving her image and her media posture, and her Washington
schedule positions her for critically important photo
opportunities. We hope she has also learned something about
proper consultation among Allies. Any number of the hot
issues raised here, improperly handled in the current
economic climate, could severely undermine Chacon, erode
expressions of goodwill, and threaten our future operational