The Spanish government is steamrolling opposition in the Cortes in a bid to accelerate Spain's entry into NATO. A recent procedural victory by the government means that a bill on NATO entry could be passed by the lower house by mid-October, with the possibility of Senate ratification by the end of the month.
The Spanish government's moves to join NATO signal a clear departure in Spanish foreign policy, which for centuries has remained neutralist and isolationist.
Madrid's determination to join NATO is underscored by its participation in NATO's current naval exercise, called Ocean Venture. It is largest since World War II, with 120,000 men and women, 250 ships, and 1,000 aircraft from 14 nations taking part.
Prime Minister Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo's procedural victory Sept. 15 was on the question of a referendum for Spanish entry into NATO rather than a simple parliamentary vote. The Communists and Socialists, who oppose Spanish entry into NATO, want a referendum.
But the government does not, and its motion was carried by 180 to 126 votes.
The Communists and the Socialists are both engaged in nationwide campaigns against Spain's becoming the 16th member of the Atlantic alliance.
But Felipe Gonzalez's Socialists and the Communist Party led by Santiago Carrillo differ sharply in their anti-NATO tactics.
The Socialists argue that a constitutional commission should first examine whether the Treaty of Washington of 1949 infringes upon the Spanish constitution in matters of national sovereignty.
The Communists, on the other hand, argue that no vote in the Cortes should take place until Spain is formally invited by NATO to join the alliance.
The questions will be studied by the foreign affairs committee of the Cortes. One member of the government has predicted that as a result of the Sept. 15 vote , a bill on NATO entry could be passed by the lower house by mid-October with the Senate ratifying it by the end of the month.
Negotiations over a new treaty of friendship and cooperation between Spain and the US were extended recently and the current treaty is to remain in effect a further eight months. This is to allow the Madrid government to bring Spain into NATO before embarking on a new treaty.
The Madrid government expects that Spain's entry into the alliance will improve its position for a new treaty with the US.
The Us now has one naval base and three Air Force bases in Spain, although their use in possible crises in Which Spain is not directly involved is subject to toplevel Spanish approval. Future use of the bases is clearly a key negotiating weapon.
The Spanish tendency toward neutralism in the past has been dictated as much by internal weaknesses as by any other factor.
The revival of the democratic process, though still conditional, includes the prospect of a break with isolationism that would allow Spain to assume a more influential role among Western nations.
Those Spaniards who back NATO entry see it as a necessary paying of dues to the defense of Western democracy and a means by which Spain could achieve a more equal relationship with the US.