Pedro Sánchez during Nato's summit in Madrid. / AFP

War and Peace

Sánchez promised to double Spain's military spending until 2029, proving the minute influence of Podemos in the coalition government

Mark Nayler
MARK NAYLER

Spain is the country of 'no' to war - so said Podemos member and minister for equality Irene Montero in January, expressing her party's attitude towards military involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Yet there was further proof last week that Podemos has hardly any clout in the Socialist-led coalition, with Pedro Sánchez announcing a hefty increase of Spain's military budget between now and 2029.

At a Nato summit in Madrid at the end of June, Sánchez made a rash promise to double Spain's military spending over the next six years to 2% of GDP, the goal set by the alliance (and currently met by just nine of its thirty members). One assumes this is another decision reached unilaterally by the Socialists, against the wishes of their junior partner Podemos. Podemos has consistently voiced criticism of Sánchez's decision to send weapons and fighter jets to Ukraine and only supports the provision of humanitarian aid.

The leftist party's input in the government's increasingly haphazard foreign policy, though, seems negligible. Podemos also complained of being sidelined in talks over the Western Sahara issue, which culminated in March with one of Sánchez's most baffling announcements to date - that Spain backed Moroccan hegemony over the disputed territory. Podemos, which supports the desert region's claim to independence, said that it hadn't even been consulted on the decision to reverse Spain's decades-old neutrality.

Following the cabinet meeting in which an extra thirteen billion euros for the military was approved, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez trumpeted the coalition's "clear and firm response" to the Ukraine crisis. But the response now favoured - that of closer alignment with Nato's military intervention - is completely disowned by one of the two parties that's running Spain.

The coalition's official line on Ukraine has been so self-contradictory that back in March former opposition leader Pablo Casado asked Sánchez who was really in charge of foreign policy. Podemos' increasingly frequent complaints about being ignored, though, reveal the answer to that question: the Socialists. It's just that their idealistic, whining partners disagree with pretty much everything they say and do, as if Podemos members have somehow got it into their heads that their opinion matters. The impertinence!

Sidelined Podemos has asked for a cabinet meeting to discuss the government's spending priorities, no doubt concerned that public funds will be diverted from welfare projects to satisfy Nato. In the meantime, Spain will presumably maintain its all-purpose stance on Ukraine, as a country that says "'no' to war" while doubling its military spending. There's nothing whatsoever "clear and firm" about that.