Spanish – Russo relations go back nearly 500 years when in 1520 King Charles V of Spain and the Grand Duchy of Moscow first exchanged envoys, with on again off again relations since regular embassies were established in 1722. During the Soviet period, Russian strengthened diplomatic relations with the second Spanish Republic which was the democratic republic that existed from 1931 – 1939. In fact, the Soviet Union actively supported the Republicans through the course of the Civil War with military advisers, volunteers and weapons supplied in exchange for Bank of Spain gold reserves later known as Moscow gold.
However, when the Republic fell in 1939, Russia cut ties with the new leader Dictator General Franco, some described the period between 1939 to 1975 when Franco’s reign ended as the worst period of Spanish-Russo relation. As retaliation for a speech Nikita Khrushchev gave at the United Nation General Assembly against Franco’s regime, Franco in turn banned the Spain vs. USSR game of the 1960 European Nations’ Cup scheduled earlier in the same year.
Modern times similar distrust
There has been a latent distrust of the Russians by the Spanish in modern times, Spain accuses Russia of intentionally and actively seeking to disable the country via media campaigns to rally Catalonian identity. There has been a detailed analysis of pro-Russian media shows by Spanish authorities which has found that this output systematically portrays the Spanish government and justice system as guilty of violent repression.
These tactics of subterfuge and hybrid warfare have been used not only in Spain but in wider Europe according to observers.
“What Russia fundamentally seeks is to create division, to slowly undermine Europe’s democracy and institutions” says analysis Bret Schaffer from the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Spain has retaliated to these actions by extraditing to the United States Pyotr Levashov, a Russian citizen who is accused by U.S. authorities of initiating major cybercrime campaigns, including the use of, scam e-mail distributions, fraudulent stock promotions, and ransomware earlier this year.
EU Trade & Energy Business
Despite socio-political tensions the EU and Russia still remain important trading partners. Since 1997 the EU’s political and economic relations with Russia have been based on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). The Agreement aims to promote trade and investment and develop harmonious economic relations between the EU and Russia.
Since Russia joined the World Trade Organisation in 2012, EU-Russia trade relations have also been framed by WTO rules. As it currently stands, Russia is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner and the EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner. Moreover, EU-Russia trade has continuously decreased since 2012, dropping by 44% between 2012 and 2016 from €339 billion in 2012 to €191 billion in 2016. This in part has been due to stringent sanctions against Russia.
Main EU exports to Russia include; machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, medicines, and manufactured products.
Main EU imports from Russia include; raw materials, especially – oil (crude and refined), and gas
Economic integration between the two nations haven’t been that deep. In terms of specific trade and business development agreements between Spain and Russia one would point to their renewable energy agreement signed nine years ago. The then Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced an agreement with Russia for more cooperation between both countries in projects of renewable energy, investigation, exploitation and the transport of combustible fuels.