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POLITICS

Spain set to send troops and warships to aid NATO in Ukraine-Russia conflict

Spain’s Defence Ministry has announced it will deploy two frigates and troops to the Black Sea to assist NATO amid rising tensions and concerns that Russia will invade Ukraine. 

NATO frigate Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain docked in Istanbul in 2015.
NATO frigate Sps Blas De Lezo of Spain docked in Istanbul in 2015. The warship will be sent to the Black Sea in "three or four days". (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles on Thursday confirmed that in “three or four days” Spain will send its Blas de Lezo military ship to the Black Sea in Bulgarian waters, to join the already dispatched Acción Marítima (BAM) Meteoro frigate which is docked there.

Robles added that Spanish authorities are also offering to send fighter planes to the region to assist NATO in protecting Ukraine from a potential invasion by Russia.

How many more Spanish military troops would be deployed along with Blas de Lezo’s 250 marines is yet to be confirmed, but Spain already has 360 NATO-aligned soldiers in Lithuania and six Eurofigher jets in Romania surveilling the Black Sea.

“Spain has participated in all NATO deployments as a serious ally for a number of years, and in this specific case the deployment of the frigate has been brought forward within the framework of this agreement,” the Spanish Defence Minister said.

“Russia cannot tell any country what it can do, and NATO will defend any country that Russia wants to enter”.

The deployment of Spanish military troops to the region is causing further divisions in Spain’s coalition government, with members of far-left party Unidas Podemos criticising Spain’s involvement in the growing conflict and calling it a “grave error” and “strategically clumsy” as it will “increase the price of gas, fuel and cause inflation to rise”. 

Former Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias warned Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists that “pro-US furore cost (ex-PP Spanish Prime Minister) Aznar his job”, in reference to Spain’s involvement in the Iraq War, and “it would be very clumsy for the socialist part of the Spanish government to go against its partners and form the ‘war party with the PP”. 

Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats meet on Friday in Geneva in a last-ditch bid for a solution over Ukraine, with the United States increasingly fearing that Russia will invade despite warnings of severe reprisals.

President Joe Biden bluntly assessed on Wednesday that his counterpart Vladimir Putin is likely to “move in” on Ukraine and warned of a “disaster for Russia”.

The United States and its allies have warned of severe economic sanctions for an invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that Biden’s remarks were destabilising and could “inspire some hotheads in Ukraine with false hopes”.

Russia, which already fuels a deadly insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014, has demanded guarantees that NATO never accept the former Soviet republic or expand otherwise in Moscow’s old sphere.

The United States has declared the idea a “non-starter” and accused Russia of undermining Europe’s post-Cold War order by bullying another country into submission.

Even while rejecting the core Russian demands, the Biden administration has said it is willing to speak to Moscow about its security concerns.

One proposal by the United States is to revive restrictions on missiles in Europe that had been set by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War deal trashed by former president Donald Trump’s administration as it accused Moscow of violations.

The Biden administration has also offered more transparency on military exercises. Russia has not rejected the proposals but says that its core concern is Ukraine and on Thursday, announced massive naval drills in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Mediterranean as a show of force.

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POLITICS

Spain falls further in international corruption league tables

Spain has fallen in the international corruption index for a second consecutive year, coming in 35th place in the world, behind countries such as Botswana and Cape Verde. 

Spain falls further in international corruption league tables

Spain has fallen for a second consecutive year in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by NGO Transparency International, a global ranking of countries based on their perceived corruption.

The CPI uses a 0-100 rating system, with 100 being ‘very clean’ and 0 being ‘highly corrupt’.

Spain dropped one point in 2022, from 61 to 60, and it now sits in 35th place in the world, behind countries such as Botswana and Cape Verde. 

Spain’s score represents a three-point decrease from its 2020 score. 

Within the EU, Spain sits in the middle of the pack in 14th position out of the 27 member states, two points below both Portugal and Lithuania (62/100) and only one point above Latvia (59/100).

Leading Europe (and the world) were Denmark (90/100), who took the top spot in the global ranking, followed by Finland (87/100), New Zealand (87/100), (Norway (84/100), Iceland (74/100) and Sweden (83/100).

The European countries with the lowest scores were Romania (46/100), Bulgaria (43/100) and Hungary (42/100).

Comparing Spain to its neighbours, France received a score of 72/100, Portugal 62/100, and Italy 56/100. Morocco scored 38/100.

READ ALSO: Is Spain as corrupt as it was a decade ago?

Ten countries recorded the lowest score in their history, including the United Kingdom (73/100), which has fallen five points since last year.

Downward trend

According to the CPI report, a one-point decrease in a year is not necessarily statistically significant nor indicative of major institutional corruption, but consecutive annual falls, such as in Spain, are a “clear sign of risk and danger of continuing decline” in the following years.

Spain has been affected, the report states because it received worse scores due to irregular public service payments, exports and imports, and judicial decisions in cases of corruption. Broadly speaking, Spanish politics has been riddled with ongoing corruption scandals for some time, ranging from the national level down to small-town ayuntamientos (town halls).

READ ALSO: Spain to publish names of politicians who refuse to declare their assets

In 2022 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended two former Presidents of Andalusia for their alleged corruption in the ERE scandal, and the ongoing environmental scandal at Murcia’s Mar Menor has also been stained by corruption allegations.

Police forces across Spain are no better. The Catalan Generalitat has investigated several cases of corrupt Mossos in its police force in recent years, and port authorities and Guardia Civil agents across Spain, including Catalonia and Algeciras in Andalusia, have been arrested for taking bribes to turn blind eyes to drug trafficking. 

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, local mayors across Spain were caught out using their position and influence to queue jump and get vaccinations before vulnerable groups.

Juan Carlos I, the now exiled former King of Spain, has also had his fair share of alleged corruption scandals, including but not limited to the Saudi rail payoff scandal; money hidden in Swiss bank accounts; the mystery credit cards paid off by Mexican businessmen; the €10 million found in a Jersey bank account; and, finally, his goat hunting trip with the President of Kazakhstan in which Juan Carlos left with armfuls of briefcases containing over €5 million in cash.

Despite all that, however, in March 2022 Spanish prosecutors dropped all investigations into his finances.

Worldwide slowdown

The CPI report in general highlighted the fact that the fight against corruption in the world has stagnated, due in part due to the lingering effects of the pandemic at a legal and administrative level, something many governments around the world were able to capitalise on and reduce transparency.

According to the Index, 131 countries have not registered any significant progress in the last decade, and 27 received their lowest-ever scores in 2022.

The countries with the lowest scores in the ranking were Somalia (12/100), Syria (13/100), and South Sudan (13/100).

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