Spain’s commitment to arming Ukraine drives wedge between Socialist Party and Podemos

SPAIN’S commitment to sending arms to Ukraine to assist the country in its war with Russia is threatening to drive another wedge between the governing Socialist Party and its junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos. 

The leader of leftist Podemos and the human rights minister in the government, Ione Belarra, spoke out against the commitment made this week by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to send more tanks to Ukraine. 

‘First they told us that we weren’t going to send any offensive material,’ Belarra told reporters on Friday. ‘Then they said that we had to send anti-air missiles, then that we were going to send tanks, and now fighter jets. What’s next, sending Spanish soldiers to Ukraine?’ she asked. 

Belarra was referring to statements made by Sanchez on Thursday, when he made a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and met with President Volodymr Zelensky. Not only did the prime minister up his country’s commitment to sending tanks, from six to 10, but also did not rule out sending fighter jets. 

The Podemos leader called instead for the Socialist Party to reflect on sending more weapons, calling any scaling up of the conflict an ‘error’. She suggested instead that the government use its international leadership to move toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict, which was sparked a year ago when Russia invaded Ukraine. 

The war, Belarra continued, would only end in negotiations and a ceasefire, or a military confrontation between nuclear powers. 

‘I’m sorry to say that we are closer to the second scenario than the first,’ she said, in comments reported by Europa Press. 

Podemos leader Ione Belarra speaks to the media about the war in Ukraine.

Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero, who is also the deputy secretary of the PSOE, said on Friday that Belarra’s comments were part of Podemos’s strategy to ‘set itself apart’ from the Socialists ahead of this year’s local and regional elections in May and general election at the end of this year. 

The Socialist Party, Montero added in comments reported by Spanish daily El Pais, ‘has always promoted peace’.

A coalition deal between the Socialist Party and Unidas Podemos (itself a union of Podemos and the United Left party) was reached after the inconclusive general election in late 2019. While there have been tensions between the two groups since a government was formed in early 2020, they have so far kept to their commitment of seeing out the four-year parliamentary term.

The coalition government lacks a working majority in the Congress of Deputies, meaning that it has had to do deals with smaller parties in order to pass legislation.

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