Brújula Estratégica: Los progresos que la aguja de España marca en el último año

Brújula Estratégica: Spain's needle marks progress over the last year


10 | 05 | 2024


From the organization of the MILEX23 military exercises to the commitments of expense in Defense despite the budget extension

In the picture

Training of Ukrainian military personnel at the Toledo Training Coordination Center, as part of the mission statement of attendance EU Military to Ukraine or EUMAM [Defense].

The outbreak of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has marked a significant turning point in the European Union's foreign policy and common security and defense policy. This drastic change in the continent's unstable geopolitical balance has marked a turning point in the partnership between member states at subject defense.

This process has contributed to the consolidation of a European strategic compass, which emerged in 2014 after the Russian invasion of Crimea. This has as goal addressing conflicts and crises, safeguarding the interests of the European Union and its citizens, strengthening peace and security at the international level and, as an ultimate goal, achieving strategic autonomy.

Approved in 2022, the Strategic Compass is an action plan developed by the European Union to guide and strengthen its security and defense. Through a shared assessment of the strategic environment and an analysis of the threats and challenges facing the EU, it seeks to develop greater coherence and cohesion in the actions of member states in the field of security.

This project is based on the definition of four very concrete areas: action, which involves the development of a rapid and decisive response to crises and threats, using military and civilian means in all operational areas; the stimulation of investment and innovation with the goal to reduce strategic dependencies and improve the military mobility ; the guarantee of security in the face of dynamic and changing threats; and cooperation with various strategic partners.

At final, the Strategic Compass serves as guide for the development of the EU's security and defense diary for the next ten years, with a view to making it a stronger and more capable global security provider while reducing its dependence on other actors.

Under this umbrella, between March and April 2023, the first step towards strengthening defense was taken with the approval by the European Parliament of the creation of an exclusive European Union Rapid Action Force (EU RDC). This instrument, core topic to strengthen the EU's strategic autonomy, should be capable of agile and effective deployment of up to 5,000 troops by land, sea and air, to respond to imminent threats, both in entrance and sortie phases. In principle, the full operational capability of the EU DRC should be achieved by 2025, having completed a series of military exercises to serve as a basis for action in order to mobilize the capabilities of the Member States in a coordinated manner.

Thus, on September 18, 2023, the director general of the European Union Military Staff (DG EUMS), Lieutenant General Michiel van der Laan, opened the management Military Crisis Exercise (MILEX23) at the MPCC's Operational Headquarters (OHQ) in Brussels. 

MILEX23 marks a milestone in the EU security and defense field as, during the exercise, consisting of a Command Post Phase (CPX) followed by a Force Phase (LIVEX), the concept reached Initial Operating Capability (IOC). For the first time, a simulation of a crisis operation was conducted in all its phases by 2,800 troops, 31 units, 25 aircraft and 6 vessels from 19 member states. For the execution phase of the exercise, the Rota naval base in Cadiz, Spain, was chosen.

The exercise scenario envisaged a stabilization mission statement in a fictitious country called 'Seglia', in which an amphibious assault had been carried out in order to, after securing a port of disembarkation (SPOD), proceed to insert land forces into the territory; the three phases of the exercise were successfully carried out in Spanish territory.

Spain's leadership in the organization of such a crucial and important exercise is of great significance for its Armed Forces. Both the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, agreed in highlighting the strategicimportance of this event.

Borrell underlined the importance of this exercise taking place during the Spanish presidency of the EU committee , a fact that reflects the confidence placed in Spain to lead an initiative of such great magnitude, especially in a context where other issues of the European diary could have less impact for the country. The fact of being host demonstrates the capacity and level of excellence that Spain possesses in the military field, becoming a leading figure at European level.

The trust placed in Spain to organize and lead this exercise not only highlights the quality of its Armed Forces, but also positions the country as an actor core topic in the implementation of the objectives of the Strategic Compass. This achievement contributes to consolidate Spain's reputation as a reliable, competent partner , and as a reference in cooperation on defense and security issues in the EU.

Spain and security and defense in the European framework

Delving deeper into the role that Spain plays in European security and defense, we can see that the country is emerging as a leading player, firmly committed to promoting stability and protecting common interests.

As previously mentioned, Spain plays a crucial role in strengthening and consolidating the collective defense of the continent, not only because of the capacity and quality of its Armed Forces, but also because of their involvement in the European and international panorama.

Spanish participation in European military missions is B and constant. With a presence of 3,036 military and civil guards deployed in 17 international missions, the Spanish Armed Forces currently occupy the fourth place among the best positioned European armies, according to the Global Firepower ranking. Since 1989, Spain has been involved in more than fifty operations in various regions of the world, with the participation of more than 137,000 members.

Some outstanding current examples of this participation include the presence in operations such as Operation Atalanta, aimed at combating piracy in the Horn of Africa, in which 351 military personnel are participating; the mission statement EUFOR Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has as goal to advise and support the Armed Forces of that country with the goal to improve their training and military doctrine; or even the mission statement EUMAM Ukraine, in which Spain actively collaborates in the training of the Ukrainian armed forces in view of the Russian aggression against the Eastern European country, and which has already exceeded 3,000 military personnel.3,000 military personnel.

In addition, Spanish contributions in Africa play an important role in shaping the European presence in the continent. The growing political and social instability in Africa, which has been reflected in the successive coups d'état that have affected countries such as Mali, Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gabon, or Niger since 2020, added to the upsurge of terrorism and the influence of external actors such as Russia, have contributed to hinder the work that the European Union carries out on the African continent with the goal of promote stability. Now, after the complete withdrawal of French troops from the Sahel, Spain is taking on a greater role in missions such as EUTM Mali, a front which, despite its complicated and harsh atmosphere, is crucial for the EU.

Spain's deployment of resources and capabilities to address these emerging challenges is a fundamental pillar to counteract the worrying trends affecting the region. In a context where international cooperation is essential, Spain is positioned as a strategic ally in the search for effective solutions to ensure a certain level of balance and progress in Africa.

On the other hand, it should be noted that Spain is also making various efforts to modernize and strengthen its own military capabilities, as well as to meet and support the EU's defense investment and innovation targets. In pursuit of that goal, member states have gradually increasedtheir defense investments; from €240 billion in 2022, to the €350 billion expected to be reached this year. In the case of Spain, which is currently the third country in the EU in absolute defense investment behind France and Italy, Minister Robles expressed the need to increase the defense budget with the goal to reach 1.3% of GDP in 2024, and to expand the Spanish defense industry. Although the government of Pedro Sánchez has decided to definitivelyextend the general state budgets for 2024, Defense assures that it will try to go ahead with the investment plans.

Finally, in the field of European regional cooperation, Spain has established a close and significant partnership with other member states in subject security and defense. This cooperation is manifested through bilateral and multilateral partnerships covering a wide range of areas, including the development of military capabilities, intelligence exchange and joint training. An example of this is the military cooperation and partnership relations with France and Italy on development projects and the acquisition of military equipment, such as corvettes, combat aircraft, armored vehicles and communications systems. These partnerships allow the sharing of costs, knowledge and technologies, thus strengthening the military capabilities of both parties.

By way of conclusion, it could be said that Spain is at the forefront of promoting stronger European security and defense at a time when geopolitical challenges are constantly evolving. By always demonstrating significant leadership, whether in exercises such as MILEX23, in international missions, or in regional cooperation, and its commitment to meeting the objectives of the new European defense roadmap, Spain emerges as a key player in addressing the various contests within and outside Europe, and in ensuring a secure and prosperous future for all citizens of the European Union.