MADRID (Reuters) – Spain, as host of an upcoming NATO summit, will push for the inclusion of “hybrid threats” such as irregular migration, food insecurity and terrorism in the new political roadmap for the alliance, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in an interview. .
The June 29-30 summit in Madrid will be one of the most important since NATO was founded in 1949. It will draft the alliance’s “Strategic Concept” for the next decade, outlining its mission in the context of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the admission of new members such as Finland and Sweden.
Spain is campaigning for NATO to pay more attention to non-military threats on its so-called southern flank, made up of Maghreb and Sahel countries under growing Russian influence, Albares told Reuters in the interview, even as he addresses the Ukrainian conflict on its eastern border.
“We want it to be recognized that there are also serious threats coming from the southern flank,” said the head of Spanish diplomacy. “Terrorism, cybersecurity, political use of energy resources and irregular migration all encroach on our sovereignty,” he said.
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NATO insiders have told Reuters in recent weeks that with active conflict on its eastern flank and regions such as the Baltic states clamoring for more resources, any firm commitment to the southern flank is unlikely.
Sources also said the migration issue was too contentious to gain consensus at the summit, even though Spain has campaign support from other southern European countries such as Portugal and Italy. .
Albares said that the mere inclusion of such hybrid threats in NATO’s strategy, as well as the reference to the southern flank as the region to watch, would be enough to generate the “chilling” effect that Spain seeks to protect its borders.
“Nothing new needs to be done, just keep in mind that a number of threats may emanate from the southern flank and at some point require a NATO defensive response in exactly the same way as we do. we find on the eastern flank.”
He said while a direct military threat from the south would have to be met with a NATO military response, “unconventional” resources such as technology could be used to counter threats such as cyber attacks and militarization. of irregular migration.
“Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that such hybrid threats cannot be used to challenge our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.
Spain also highlights Russia’s growing influence in the Sahel region of West Africa. Russian private military contractor Wagner Group is working with Mali’s military to counter the Islamic insurgency in the region, while former colonial power France has withdrawn its troops.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Wagner, who it says works on behalf of the Kremlin. Moscow denies any connection but claims to provide “military assistance” through state channels.
“The presence of Russia [in Mali] doesn’t help in any way, it doesn’t help in any way to advance democracy, to stabilize it,” Albares said.
(Reporting by Belén Carreño; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Alex Richardson)
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