At 4:12 p.m. the beast turned the corner of the road that leads to the steps of La Moncloa. It is the armored car that transports the president of the United States. Pedro Sánchez waits at the end of them. He waves with his right hand in the distance, because Joe Biden still takes a few seconds to get out of the car. Sánchez, unlike what is usual, goes down the stairs and greets his guest, the US president at the foot of the stairs and not above. Thus began an expected meeting at La Moncloa in which Biden informed Sánchez that the US will increase the number of destroyers it has at the Rota base (Cádiz) from four to six.

The meeting is the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders. Until now there had only been meetings on the margins of summits in Brussels, such as that already famous meeting that led to a half-minute walk. Today it was a face-to-face meeting. Important. Crucial. Many issues on the table, all under the auspices of the NATO summit being held in Madrid. “We are allies, we are strategic partners and friends,” said Sánchez.

The meeting that Pedro Sánchez and Joe Biden have starred in La Moncloa this afternoon has various issues on the table that range from the holding of the NATO summit to cybersecurity. But one of the most outstanding was that the joint declaration signed by both countries includes the purpose of “expanding their cooperation in defense matters through the permanent stationing of additional US warships in Rota.”

This agreement means that the Spanish base at Rota, which is for shared use, will house six American destroyers instead of the four it currently houses. Some ships that defend from the US their mission is to reinforce the military presence of their country and of NATO in the area. Sánchez has defined the “interest” of the US in Rota as an interest to “strengthen the collective security of the Alliance.” Biden, for his part, has expressed his hope that these two new destroyers, up to a total of six, can be in Rota “as soon as possible” and that this agreement “will help the bilateral relationship between Spain and the US.”

Government sources explain that it will be something that occurs in the shortest time possible, since despite the fact that the announcement was made today, both countries have been working on the matter for months, and everything is prepared and agreed to welcome the two new destroyers. These same sources also frame this circumstance in the sensitivity that NATO, and therefore the US, have towards the southern flank. “The Alliance is threatened and we are strengthening ourselves against the threats that come from the East and the South”, stated Bien.

Despite the fact that Sánchez and Biden have reached this agreement to “strengthen cooperation in the field of defense”, it must now go through a process that involves its approval by the Council of Ministers to later be transferred to Congress, so that ratify it. The agreement on this matter that currently governs was approved by the Council of Ministers in October 2012 and stipulates the number of four destroyer ships. That is why it must be modified.

This intention to increase the number of destroyers was also anticipated at the end of March by the main NATO military commander and head of the US European Command (EUCOM), General Tod Wolters, who stated that the base was ready and prepared to accommodate these two new American ships. Rota is part of the anti-aircraft defense system that NATO is developing.

Until now, the Rota base is home to the American destroyers USS Arleigh Burke, USS Ross, USS Porter and USS Roosevelt. The last to arrive was the USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), a guided missile destroyer, which arrived on June 17.

Another crucial issue in a context such as the current energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas supply is an issue that worries and occupies Spain, which is also experiencing a diplomatic crisis with Algeria, one of its main suppliers. Of gas. In recent months, Sánchez has received the highest representatives of Qatar and Nigeria, two of the main suppliers of Spain. Currently, the USA is the first, which supplies us by means of ships. Sánchez wanted to expressly and “very much” thank the US “for that liquefied natural gas that we received.”

In this regard, both countries have agreed to act “jointly to improve Europe’s energy security and reduce Russia’s dependence on fossil fuels.” Thus, it is committed to “increasing the geographical diversification of energy sources, especially natural gas”.

In the Government they emphasize that the Sánchez-Biden meeting is a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit. But one of the issues addressed has been irregular migration. In this regard, the joint statement speaks of “coordinating efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration and working to strengthen legal channels, with special emphasis on the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.” He does add that Spain and the US “recognize the importance of permanent cooperation in response to the challenges of irregular migration in the North African region.” A nod to that look at the southern flank that Spain demands.

In La Moncloa they have attached the utmost importance to this event. Government sources emphasized that “it is not just another meeting.” And that Sánchez has held up to four bilateral meetings this Tuesday (Australia, New Zealand, USA and Iceland). From Sánchez’s team, it is valued that the meeting is key because “it expands, reinforces, updates the strategic relationship between Spain and the US”, which, they remember, is something that has not been done since 2001.

Biden has defined the appointment with Sánchez as “warm and personal” and has shown his interest that in these two days he can hold another meeting with the President of the Government.

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