Setting aside financial rewards, some sources are worried that this surprising cooperation between a NATO member state and Moscow at this particularly sensitive juncture may also be part of Madrid's increasingly vocal campaign against Gibraltar. While there is no evidence in open sources that Spain and Russia may have decided to cooperate in harassing the Rock, the Royal Navy has been quick to reinforce Gibraltar, partly as a response to the threat of increased intelligence-gathering activities from the sea.
Spain's accession to NATO was welcomed by many, both in Spain and abroad, as a mark of the country's normalization, military modernization, and break away from her Fascist past. Unfortunately, one generation later, Madrid is employing her military to harass Gibraltar on a daily basis, threaten Catalonia with the same frequency, and, to add insult to injury, is now turning Ceuta into a major lever for Moscow to project naval power in the Western Mediterranean and Atlantic. The only possible conclusion is that NATO has failed to transform Spain. Instead, the Atlantic Alliance has a problem. An internal problem, and one that is hurting her at the worst of times. It is not hard to imagine many wondering whether basing NATO's missile defence naval component in Spain's Rota was really a good idea.
The time has thus come for Washington and Brussels, and the rest of NATO capitals, to send a clear, unequivocal message to Madrid: “fall into line, support our jointly-agreed policies, and devote your military to reinforcing Alliance capabilities”. This is no time for free riders or Trojan horses. This is no time to harass Gibraltar, threaten Catalan civilians, or provide logistical support to the Russian Navy. This is the time for all NATO members to pull in a single direction, reinforce collective security, work for peace and stability in Europe and the world, and prove that the Atlantic Alliance is as relevant and necessary as ever.
Alex Calvo is an expert in Asian security and defence