In the bilateral meeting that Joe Biden and Pedro Sánchez will have this afternoon, the central issue, according to the White House, will be joint support for Ukraine and finding ways to penalize Russia for its aggression.
The list of issues to be discussed facilitated by the US presidency is headed by «defense cooperation at the bilateral level and through the Atlantic Alliance», and one of the most common points of negotiation in that section is that of defense spending.
All US administrations, especially those of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have pressured Spain to increase it. According to the White House, Biden will not only discuss common defense with Sánchez, but also about Latin America and North Africa.
The meeting comes after disagreements with Sánchez from the Trump administration over various issues, including defense spending. The former Republican president used to refer to European NATO countries as "delinquent" for not reaching 2% in defense spending.
It was after the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when NATO members agreed to aspire to invest at least 2% of their GDP in defense by 2024, but Spain is, along with Luxembourg, at the bottom, with just 1 .01%. Sánchez is expected to present at the Madrid Summit a credible 'road map' to increase Spanish spending to 2% in ten years, which would mean doubling investment in defense.
According to NATO, 2021 was the seventh consecutive year of increased defense spending by European allies and Canada, with eight allies meeting the 2% spending target. The White House has expressed fear that the effects of the pandemic are holding back defense spending across the alliance.
Among the US interests in Spain, from the commercial defense point of view, is a possible sale of the F-35 combat aircraft for the Navy, since it is the only model that can replace the twelve Harriers still in service and whose life operation ends at the end of the decade. An upgrade to the Patriot air defense system or joint projects on the F-110 frigate and S-80 submarine are also of US interest.
According to the US government, Biden will also address with Sanchez "cooperation on global challenges such as the fight against climate change and the improvement of global health security."
The spokesman for the White House National Security Council, Jon Kirby, also admits that Spain and France have managed to have jihadism and the security threat on the southern flank of the alliance discussed at the NATO summit. “In general, the security situation on NATO's southern flank is almost always on the agenda. And we recognize the challenges and threats that continue to affect the security of our NATO Allies on that southern flank," Kirby said.
“At the moment a lot of attention is being paid to the eastern flank, as it should be. But there is still an ongoing effort to make sure we pay attention to the southern flank as well. So I think, in general, it will come out."
A year and a half after coming to power, Biden will finally have a bilateral with all the conditions with Sánchez, who was looking for a meeting of this type for months, but only managed brief talks on the margins of summits in Brussels.
Among the pending issues for Spain are tariffs that are harmful to the Spanish countryside, such as those for black olives, and for the renewable energy sector, especially those for wind towers. In addition, large Spanish companies such as Repsol or Meliá continue to suffer the bulk of the sanctions inherited from the Trump era against the dictatorial regimes of Venezuela and Cuba.
In past months, Sánchez has moved notably closer to Biden. Both are the only allies within NATO that recognize Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara, something that has opened a serious crisis for Spain with Algeria in which Brussels has had to mediate.
During the Summit of the Americas, Spain offered to admit a quota of Honduran immigrants to alleviate the arrival of undocumented immigrants at the southern border of the United States. That commitment, however, was tarnished on the one hand because in the first year there will only be 250 workers welcomed them, and on the other because the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, canceled his trip to the summit, in Los Angeles, due to Algeria's threats to cut off all economic relations with Spain.
According to a recently released Capitol report on the NATO summit, the US will seek to facilitate and accelerate Finland and Sweden's entry into NATO, despite impediments from the Turkish regime. In addition, the possible implications for common security of China's growing presence in Europe will be discussed. Although NATO has identified China as a systemic challenge, some European allies remain reluctant to antagonize a major economic partner and are concerned about the broader implications of a more confrontational relationship with Beijing. .
The first bilateral meeting between Sánchez and the US president will take place in the early afternoon of today in La Moncloa: approximately four in the afternoon. Outside, therefore, of the space intended for the NATO summit at the Ifema fairgrounds in the Spanish capital. After the meeting, both will make a statement to the press, although without questions. Also today, the Chief Executive receives the Prime Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Prime Minister of Iceland.
It was precisely at last year's Atlantic Alliance summit, which took place in Brussels and even with strong restrictions due to the pandemic, when Biden and Sánchez took a walk together, both wearing masks, for just a minute before entering the plenary. of the assembly. For weeks, the Government had announced it as a meeting between the two leaders that later was not such, and in view of all the cameras, which captured the barely twenty steps and the very brief conversation between the two leaders.
At that time, Arancha González Laya was still Minister of Foreign Affairs, but barely a month later, Sánchez decided to replace her in office -within a major government crisis- by José Manuel Albares, a trusted diplomat whom she had had as an adviser at all. more to reach the Presidency in 2018, before sending him as ambassador to Paris.
One of Albares' assignments was precisely to establish relations with the White House, something that led to the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, after the fall of Kabul. It was then, at the end of August, that Sánchez and Biden had a first telephone conversation to discuss the details of that operation.