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An overview of the role of Spain in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Spain-NATO relations

April 2020

While the North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrated its 70th anniversary last 2019, Spain has only been member to the Alliance for 38 of those years. Despite a seemingly shorter trajectory if we compare it to other older Allies, Spain has always demonstrated its commitment and solidarity towards the Organization and its peer members. The country became NATO’s 16th member in 1982, and in 1986 held a referendum on its permanence in the Organization that resulted in a positive response from the Spanish population. Spain then began to participate in NATO committees and working groups, although it did not join the Integrated Military Structure until 1999, while the Spanish Javier Solana was Secretary General to the Alliance.

Spanish foreign policy highly relies on the collective security umbrella of NATO. However, the country has been called out for being far from meeting the famous “NATO 2% guideline” with only 0.9% of its GDP designated to Defence expenditures. In relative terms, Spain devoted $13 million to NATO’s defence expenditures and 121,000 military personnel as of 2019, which actually translates into being the 8th and 7th largest contributor respectively in each category. Spain also provides NATO with permanent access to the General Headquarters of the Counter-Improvised Explosives Device Centre of Excellence (Madrid) and the Rapid Deployable Corps (Valencia); and one of the two Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) of the New Command Structure is located in the Torrejón military base of Madrid.

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