Interview with Pedro Argüelles, president of the Spanish Atlantic Association | Part 1
23/03/2021 | Madrid
Nacho G. Pandavenes
Pedro Arguelles He is one of those people who has done practically everything. To begin with, he is Asturian, but he was born in Madrid. He is also an Industrial Engineer, but he founded a bank, the Alcala. Then he directed Aena and later was vice president of Boeing International. In between he got into several more fuss, like Asturiana de Zinc or the Bench Granada Jerez, and even in politics back in the 80s. He was an MEP and a deputy, with Eduardo Serra He entered the world of defense as director of his cabinet and ended up as Secretary of State with Pedro Morenés. Today, Argüelles, past 70, presides over the Spanish Atlantic Association (AAE).
The former Sedef makes a gap in his agenda to talk about the main mission of the AAE: to explain to civil society what the OTAN and why it is so important that Spain is under its umbrella. We arrived at the headquarters of the Association before time to mount. He does it with British punctuality and his way of dressing underpins the name: gray pants, red tie, navy blue double-breasted jacket and white handkerchief, like the shirt. And all in the purest style Savile Row.
The interview begins with a technical problem due to lighting. The space is a dark wooden room with warm light oculi, all very orange. There are three of us looking everywhere while he proposes to use the lamp in his office as a focus. Once the problem has been solved, Argüelles also distributes the sites: “your best there”, he points to the left, my newly released mask has the Atlantic Association logo on the right. I am more nervous than him, I am a pen and television is not my thing. He smiles under the mask, he has been doing this for years, he knows how to be in front of a camera and he knows the subject very well. I’m sure there are also enough tricks to get away from uncomfortable issues.
Given the length of this interview, the text will be published in two parts, the first of which is reproduced below.
First of all, what is the Spanish Atlantic Association?
It is a non-profit organization without any political color, made up of professionals who have had a history of interest with issues related to security and defense and within that framework in the NATO concept. We are a channel of distribution and education to societies so that they better understand what the Atlantic association is and what it means to be within the NATO security umbrella.
The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, commented last week before Congress the need not to see confrontations between NATO and Europe. Is this feasible or could there be a clash of interests?
No clash of interests. Between NATO and Europe there is a total alignment. There may be differences of opinion but these are not clashes. But it is also true that, in NATO, Europe is more than half of what the Western world is in economic and technological parameters … Therefore it is no longer a baby, it is an adult and an adult also with a high level of well-being and progress that it must protect and defend. Until now Europe has been too long focused on its own protection country by country and when it comes to collective issues turning to the Alliance as an instrument. Now what is coming to light is that we have created a European Union and that European Union has a value that must be protected. It is logical that the European Union begins to talk about building this dimension of security and defense. That is not, as has sometimes been said, that a rivalry is established between the US and Europe, it is simply that Europe says yes, I want that alliance and I am interested in maintaining that multilateralism in the security chapters because state by state I could not give an answer. But the European countries also have some issues that are our own that allow us, in collaboration with the Alliance, to establish specific programs. The clearest example is the one we mentioned before from the Mediterranean Basin, but it is not the only one, there are many others.
During the Trump Administration some of those differences with the US were seen, but everything indicates that now with the arrival of Biden the waters can return to their course.
Without a doubt, the arrival of Biden is a return to normal. What was not normal was what Trump and his Administration assumed. It was more of a speech than a performance, nor can we say that when it comes to the Atlantic Alliance, President Trump was a break. But it was a different speech and it was a slightly worrisome speech. I believe that Biden represents the return to normality, that the agreements will be more stable, where multilateralism is assured, where I believe that Spain and the European Union will feel more comfortable, with an Administration that is no different. of others that have been previously. I would like to emphasize that Trump is an exceptional parenthesis and the US is very clear about the importance of the transatlantic link, which is of mutual interest. It has other levels of concern as we do, but the transatlantic link is from an economic point of view, from a social point of view, from a cultural point of view, from a military point of view it is the most important for the United States and is the most important for Europe.
What are the areas of greatest concern to the Alliance, the Russian border, Afghanistan, Taiwan …?
In this 2030 vision, we call attention to the southern flank, but there are other countries that belong to the Alliance that call attention to other threats. And very especially the Russian threat, which is not only a threat, it is a reality. Russia has carried out acts of aggression against our security environment. But there is also the challenge that China represents and its ability to influence in the Pacific and Asia. Today’s North Atlantic Treaty no longer only sees through the prism of the North Atlantic but is looking further afield, because the instability of others may end up having an impact on our society. Recently there were no risks that today are a great concern such as insecurity in our communications, in our information, in our digitized processes. Today we are experiencing a pandemic that has put the economy in check, no one has escaped having this problem, and there is no doubt that these types of risks can degenerate into situations of insecurity, therefore the Alliance also has to maintain its vision about things that did not concern us before.
Speaking of the pandemic, Robles has also spoken on several occasions about the need for a European health force. Has NATO considered working along the same lines?
The Alliance’s mission is to prevent the pandemic from becoming a risk to the security of its citizens. Unleashing complete instruments of what you are referring to has not been done and I highly doubt that it will be done quickly enough. Obviously, if we do not come out of this pandemic as we all hope, the Alliance will have to include health issues in its catalog of permanent risks, but I do not want to anticipate events, I am hopeful that we can overcome this crisis without imbalances that require actions at the NATO level .
Continue on ‘P. Argüelles (AAE): “The stability of the Sahel is important, not only for Spain but for everyone” (y2) ‘
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