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Cablegate: Request for Instructions Regarding Spanish Defense

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #1281/01 3400656
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050656Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5726
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 001281

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR PDAS RIES, ALSO FOR PM/SNA AND L/T
OSD FOR DASD WARLICK AND COL MCCLELLAND

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR SP
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING SPANISH DEFENSE
MINISTER'S SUGGESTION AGREEMENT ON DEFENSE COOPERATION BE
RAISED TO TREATY STATUS

REF: A. MADRID 1131
B. MADRID 751

Classified By: DCM Arnold A. Chacon, for reasons 1.4(B) and (d).

1. (C) This is an action request. See paragraph 5.

2. (C) Summary: MOD Carme Chacon continues to voice,
publicly and privately, her desire to see the U.S. elevate
the Agreement on Defense Cooperation (ADC) to treaty status.
Chacon describes this in terms of legal parity and
equilibrium in the bilateral relationship and has hinted the
current arrangement suggests the U.S. does not value the
agreement as Spain does. Although the agreement runs through
February 2011 (and is automatically renewed in one-year
increments thereafter), given the strategic importance of our
use of the Spanish bases at Rota and Moron, it is vital that
we address the MOD's concerns quickly and try to get this
issue off the media radar. This is particularly urgent given
that the ADC is also regularly in the news because of
continual reporting of alleged detainee flights to Guantanamo
via the bases (septel). End Summary.

2. (SBU) Spain and the U.S. entered into the current ADC in
1988, with additional protocols dating from 2002. Unless one
of the parties backs out earlier, the ADC is in effect until
February 2011 and is automatically renewed thereafter in
one-year increments. On various occasions Spanish officials
(e.g., MOD Secretary General for Policy Luis Cuesta) have
told us Spain is very satisfied with the ADC, but will seek
various "improvements" in the context of renegotiating a long
term extension of the agreement when the time comes. They
invariably describe these improvements as minor and reiterate
their overall satisfaction with the ADC.

3. (C) To our surprise -- and, from what we have been able to
gather, also to her subordinates' surprise -- Chacon in
October mentioned to SECDEF that she wanted the U.S. to
elevate the ADC to treaty status. This happened when the met
very briefly on the margins of the NATO ministerial. Chacon
was convinced SECDEF responded favorably and so advised the
media. Thereafter, Cuesta suggested to us that Chacon
believed an agreement ratified by the U.S. Senate would
underscore the importance of the ADC and the bilateral
relationship. Sources from the Spanish Section of the joint
Permanent Committee which manages implementation of the ADC
have told us they did not know Chacon was going to push the
idea of a treaty (and they seemed to have reservations about
the idea). The MOD Director General for Policy has told this
was something on which Spain would not insist, and we
understand the Spanish DATT in Washington has made similar
statements to OSD contacts.

4. (C) However, whatever hope we may have harbored that the
MOD would soon back away from this idea has been shattered by
subsequent conversations with the MOD and by her public
statements. The Ambassador has raised the matter with her
twice in recent weeks, and it was clear that she remained
interested in pursuing a treaty. During a November 25
appearance in congress, Chacon again announced that Spain
wanted to renew the ADC and said that, while the agreement
was being implemented "satisfactorily" in both countries,
Spain would propose that the USG raise it to the level of a
treaty. In answering hostile questions about whether the
Zapatero administration would continue to allow the U.S.
access to Rota and Moron, Chacon defended the ADC.
Nonetheless, she said the MOD and MFA would in 2009
thoroughly examine the implementation of the ADC in hopes of
engaging the new U.S. administration on suggested
improvements. She referenced her October encounter with
SECDEF and described the ADC's renewal as "pending." She said
SECDEF viewed positively her "formal petition that the weight
of the agreement be exactly the same for both countries" and
assured Spanish legislators that the MOD would work the issue
with the new U.S. administration.

5. (C) Chacon is young and came to her position earlier this
year with little experience in defense matters, but it would
be a serious mistake to underestimate her or fail to respond
substantively to her interest in this issue. She is a savvy
politician and close to President Zapatero. It is rumored
that Zapatero plans not to run again in 2012 and that he
wants Chacon to be his successor. Whether or not that is
true, Chacon is a power player here, and we can be sure that
her interest in seeing the U.S. make the ADC a treaty is more


than a whim. The news that Secretary Gates will stay on at
DOD under the new U.S. Administration will only strengthen
her determination to continue on the course she has set. We
suspect she has calculated that a treaty enhances Spain's
status (and hers) and also quiets the left in her party who
are less than enthusiastic about the U.S. military presence
in Spain, but who will be flattered by this evidence that the
U.S. "takes Spain seriously." Whatever the case, we need to
give Chacon a serious response and the sooner the better. We
have of course pointed out that, as the Spanish say, the ADC
has functioned very well for both countries. To the extent
that the Spanish want to seek improvements to the existing
arrangement, we have made clear we are standing by to hear
their suggestions (so far, the only concrete example they
have given us is that because the agreement lacks treaty
status in the U.S., their personnel sometimes have problems
with taxes, driver's licenses, etc.). We have also explained
that treaty ratification in the U.S. is far more complex than
in Spain, where the President of Government has much greater
control over the legislative branch. In their most recent
conversation, the Ambassador persuaded Chacon that it was
time to push this issue back down below the ministerial level
for further discussion, but in order to have that discussion,
we need instructions we can use in explaining the position
(at least initially) of the USG regarding treaty status for
the ADC. The longer we wait, the more often Chacon is likely
to raise the issue publicly, creating a situation in which it
may become very difficult for the Zapatero government to back
down (if indeed we do not intend to pursue treaty status).
We of course defer to the experts in the Departments of State
and Defense, but we strongly recommend that in addition to
providing at least a tentative reaction on the treaty issue,
we also convey every disposition to look at possible
improvements to the ADC and specifically address ways in
which we might alleviate the concerns the Spanish have
expressed regarding the treatment of their personnel in the
U.S.
AGUIRRE

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