Less than two months before the NATO Summit in Madrid (June 28-30), the mere possibility of a dismissal or replacement at the top of the Ministry of Defense due to the ‘Pegasus’ espionage crisis “It would have been a setback for the external image and the very stability of the Government: an undesirable factor in the face of the allies and the morale of the Armed Forces and members of the CNI».
This is reflected by military sources to ABC who acknowledge that the appearance of Minister Margarita Robles on Wednesday before the Defense Commission of the Congress of Deputies “has been liked” by the “strong defense” that he made of the National Intelligence Center (CNI) -dependent on the Ministry of Defense- and the legality of its actions, even “at the risk of marking great differences with other members of the Government.”
Of course, the Robles-Bolaños pulse may not be over yet. And the dismissal of the director of the CNI, Paz Esteban, “is still possible.” If the Government offered the independence movement the ‘head’ of this expert Spanish Intelligence official -40 years of service endorse her in ‘the House’- it would also leave in the wrong place the government’s bet because a woman finally held that position.
Defense of the CNI
“I will not tolerate that they make accusations against those who cannot defend themselves”, “You just have to look at the rules and everything is perfectly included in the rules,” Robles told the deputies in a Defense Committee that, in theory, was to report on the new EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defense and on Spanish deployments abroad. In addition, he showed “pride in him” for the 3,000 workers of the CNI.
at the Ministry of Defense This legality was always defended in the actions of the CNI. Since the case began to appear in the international press -via the American magazine ‘The New Yorker’- and during the subsequent echo in the Catalan independence movement, with Carles Puigdemont at the helm, it was officially defended that the CNI “had acted at all times, in accordance with the legal system and overcome the obstacles of secrecy, transparency and confidentiality of its actions, which are imposed by law, specifically its Regulatory Law 11/2002.
Obviously, the defense that Robles has made of the director of the CNI and the pulse maintained with Bolaños reinforce him in an internal ministerial key -something that was missed when the vaccine crisis that forced the resignation of former Jemad Miguel Ángel Villarroya- but also in a governmental key. It seems that a very critical week in the Government has been survived: an cessation of Paz Esteban less than two months before the NATO Summit would possibly have unleashed a greater crisis. “He has thrown eggs at him,” summarizes a second military source in more prosaic but perhaps more effective language.
Minister Robles is often said to be the minister with the most ascendancy among PP and Vox voters. She is considered the minister with the most sense of state within a PSOE-Podemos government. This aura, which on the other hand does not bother the PSOE or Podemos, since it leaves room for it to stand out from its electorate, is forged not only for his legal training but also for the continuity he has given to the policies of defense after the motion of censure and, later, after the formation of the coalition government in January 2020.
“Obviously there are personal keys, typical of the minister, and more recognizable projects or policies with the PSOE in their way of perceiving defense and management, but in the big issues there has been continuity,” explains a third military source who works in the Ministry defense.
That “continuity” makes this department the closest thing to a ‘Ministry with State policy’ and arouses a certain consensus, “sought or not”, which revolves around three main pillars. The first, who maintained the military leadership during his first year and a half, thus respecting the times for subsequent relays of the armies (the head of the Air Force is still that of Cospedal and the current Jemad was head of the Navy in the previous Government).
The second, which gave continuity to all missions abroad, especially those initiated with the PP on the eastern flank of NATO (Latvia and missions with combat aircraft in the Baltic) and which could be the subject of controversy by the then Vice President Pablo Iglesias. Besides, has not given up on increasing the military presence in them or having a solid role in the war in Ukraine with the shipment of grenade launchers, ammunition, assault rifles… A fact that has surprised some Western embassies, who perhaps did not expect such a clear response from the Spanish.
And thirdly, there is the investment in large weapons programs (new F-110 frigates, 8×8 armored vehicle, S-80 submarine), which has continued and there have been new announcements (future European combat aircraft, Eurodrone…) what raise investment to more than 15,000 million, for the next few years, being the largest expense in a legislature.
Finally, the role of the Armed Forces during these last two years (Covid, vaccination, Filomena, La Palma volcano, Ceuta or Kabul crisis) has been decisive. All this makes Robles looks strong also within the Government. A kind of ‘Madame Estado’ who does not hesitate to defend the CNI in the midst of the maelstrom caused by Moncloa itself.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism