The decision by Spain's Rajoy administration to facilitate Russian naval operations in the Mediterranean and Atlantic by providing logistical support to the Russian Navy at Ceuta (right in front of Gibraltar) has shocked some, in particular given the mounting crisis between NATO and Russia. Furthermore, coming from a party founded by leading figures of the Franco regime, it may seem even more odd. After all the Spanish Government keeps paying public homage regularly to the Nazi Wermacht, while Russia is extremely sensitive to any attempt to revise her narrative of the Great Patriotic War (Second World War).
However, a look at history shows that it is not so unusual for Fascist, or neo-Fascist, regimes to have strange bed fellows when trying to confront British democracy. In 1982, following the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, the Junta received military aid from the Soviet Union, including satellite intelligence. This was despite Buenos Aires being considered to be a bastion of anti-communism. This was so much the case, that cooperation with Washington in Central America was one of the reasons why the Junta made the mistake of thinking that America would come on her side after the landings. When, despite General Haig's shuttle diplomacy and official neutrality, Washington came squarely in favor of Great Britain, providing key logistical support and some essential equipment like the air-to-air Stinger missile, those fantasies quickly gave way to a desperate attempt to get support from any quarter. Ideology was quickly tossed aside in the name of real politik.
Something similar may be happening in Spain. Rajoy, who like Galtieri and his successors, has never renounced to use force to conquer what he believes is his property, namely Gibraltar, regardless of the wishes of the Rock's inhabitants, and who has the same approach towards Catalonia, was confident to secure American support. However, after US President Obama failed to speak out against Catalan independence at a joint meeting with the media present, and some White House high officials went as far as publicly suggesting that at the end of the day it was up to the Catalans to determine their future status, Rajoy may have concluded, just like Galtieri, that his only hope lied elsewhere. Prime Minister Cameron's public warning not to use force against Catalonia, and the people of Gibraltar's resolve to remain loyal citizens of Her Majesty the Queen, can only have reinforced Rajoy's feeling that the West could not be relied on when it came to crushing a people's will by force.
When we take all this into consideration, what may seem at first surprising, ceases to seem so. There is nothing strange with two semi-democratic regimes cooperating in the naval sphere. What would be strange would be to see a neo-Fascist like Rajoy work side by side with democracies like the US and the UK. Birds of the same feather …
The coming months will be harsh, for both Gibraltar and Catalonia, and we can expect growing tensions and even more incidents. However, there is nothing stronger than a heart where the flame of freedom burns, and it is no coincidence that the English and the Catalan Parliaments were the first in the world. Soviet help did not save Galtieri, and Russian assistance will not save Rajoy. Democracy will win in the Western Mediterranean, just like it triumphed in the South Atlantic.
Alex Calvo is an expert on security and defence in Asia