The Zapatero government (I’ll assume its members act in unison) has decided unilaterally to pull Spanish troops, operating under NATO mandate, out of Kosovo. The Spanish press has played up the fact that the Obama administration has voiced its dismay with the abrupt move, especially considering that ZP was looking forward to a new air of Spanish American relations after the tense Bush years.
But the Spanish press has gotten it all wrong. This has nothing to do with the U.S. at all, but with ZP’s total disregard for NATO and its allies. ZP’s justification for pulling out (in true Catholic style, your Papacy, it’s another ZP marcha atrás) was that Kosovo no longer needed the services of the Spanish peacekeepers. That assessment is, of course, directly opposed to NATO’s own present viewpoint. NATO has taken not such stance and continues to have troops stationed in Kosovo. Furthermore, the Spanish government never consulted with or sought approval from NATO prior to making the decision. Even Secretary General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana – curiously also a former NATO Secretary General and a Foreign Minister of ZP’s own party (and former NATO opponent) – has expressed his frustration with the move.
Ironically back when ZP was running for president and opposing then president Aznar’s support for the War in Iraq, the bulk of ZP’s argument was based on the War’s unilateralism. ZP claimed Aznar was distancing Spain from Europe and the international community, and that any military action should be strictly limited to the confines of NATO and/or the United Nations. Yet here he seems to completely disregard NATO altogether. The message is clear, ZP knows better than NATO what is good for NATO in Kosovo, and if he says the mission is over, then it is over. Logically, then, the other NATO member states with soldiers there should follow suit, upon ZP’s order.
Apart from just another example of blundering diplomacy, the Zapatero government is trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation where, for domestic political reasons, it needs to rectify what it sees as two conflicting realities: it cannot recognize Kosovo as an independent and be engaged in a NATO peacekeeping mission there at the same time. Maybe ZP’s Alliance of Civilizations would solve Spain and the rest of the world’s petty nationalisms.