The agreement between Spain and the United States to expand from four to six the destroyers stationed in Rotaclosed between Pedro Sánchez and Joe Biden on the eve of the NATO summit in Madridsupposes the consolidation of the naval base as the maritime pillar of the NATO anti-missile shield and how he Washington’s main detachment in Spanish territoryalmost 70 years after a landing that completely changed the town of Cadiz and the entire region.
The installation of the naval base in Rota was one of the counterparts of the Madrid Pacts, signed in 1953 between Spain and the United States: Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime obtained economic support and international recognition to emerge from its isolation, while Washington secured another ally against the Soviet Union, taking advantage of its geostrategic position to place four military bases.
Two of them, the Torrejón de Ardoz and Zaragoza air bases reverted to Spanish hands and now only operate for the Air Force; other two, the air of Morón de la Frontera and the naval of Rota, remain as bases of shared use. In any case, none of them reaches the relevance of the Cadiz base, as shown by the interest of the United States in expanding its presence.
The largest American detachment on Spanish soil
The Rota base occupies about 2,500 hectares in the north of the Bay of Cádiz; the soil is Spanish and only the Spanish flag flies, since it is under the command of a Vice Admiral of the Navy. Spain is responsible for external security and the six Santa María class frigates anchor there, which make up the 41st escort squadron of the Navy.
Nevertheless, the use of the facilities -which include 2,400 linear meters of docks and an aerodrome with a 3,700-meter runway- is shared Y more than 80% goes to the American detachment. The Defense Cooperation Agreement between Spain and the United States, signed in 1988, establishes that Washington can deploy up to 4,250 military personnel and a thousand civilians, as well as 31 aircraft. In 2012, moreover, Madrid and Washington agreed to deploy four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
These boats are equipped with AEGIS radar system and defensive missiles -without explosive charge- and are essential for ‘missile shield’ that NATO deployed from 2010. This ballistic missile interception system, which is coordinated from the Ramstein air base in Germany, is based on an early warning radar located in Turkey and two launch bases on land, located in Deveselu (Romania) and Rezikowo ( Poland), as well as the 60th Destroyer Squadron of the US Sixth Fleet, stationed in Rota.
Pending parliamentary process
american ships they patrol from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Sea and complete the defensive capacity of a system that is gaining relevance again in the face of the invasion of Ukraine and the threat of Russia, the old enemy, now recovered, of the Alliance. Hence the Washington’s interest in expanding its presence in Rota with two more destroyers, despite the fact that the request dates back many monthsunder the presidency of Donald Trump.
Now, after the agreement reached between the governments, the agreement must go through the Council of Ministers and, above all, overcome the modification of the defense agreement in Parliament, a procedure for which Pedro Sánchez’s government and investiture partners have already shown their reluctance. The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has dropped this Wednesday, in a huddle with journalists, that this procedure will probably not take place until 2023, since the United States, where the initiative originates from, has to specify the deployment calendar.
At the moment, four destroyers are stationed in Rota (USS Paul Ignatius, USS Ross, USS Porter Y USS Roosevelt) and the personnel deployed by the United States exceed the 3,000 people, between military and civilians. If the arrival of other destroyers is finally approved, another 600 people could join the detachment.
Expectation in Rota
An increase that they practically celebrate in Rota, where 60% of the local economy depends on the naval base. “We have been living together for almost 70 years without any problem,” its mayor, José Javier Ruiz Arana, told Efe on Wednesday, who does not doubt the benefits for the municipality.
“It is an opportunity because, in the end, it is not just the presence of two more ships, it is the economic benefit that it brings in many areas, from house rentals, maintenance contracts, consumption in bars, restaurants and other businesses. local,” he explains.
Rota has 30,000 registered inhabitants and 10% of these residents are military, civilian workers and family members linked to the military installation. Its mayor assures that it is difficult to calculate the economic impact of the base, but the estimate of the city council is around 200 million euros per yeara figure that includes the salaries of the thousand Spaniards who work for Americans in construction, maintenance and other service contracts.