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Viewing cable 04MADRID960, DEALING WITH ZAPATERO: AN INEXPERIENCED BUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04MADRID960 2004-03-18 18:06 2010-12-07 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000960 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2014 
TAGS: PGOV PREL SP PSOE
SUBJECT: DEALING WITH ZAPATERO: AN INEXPERIENCED BUT 
PROBABLY MANAGEABLE PARTNER 


Classified By: Ambassador George Argyros for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 

1. (C) Summary: This message provides initial embassy 
thinking on how to deal with President-Elect Zapatero in the 
lead up to his government's formation and the early stages of 
his administration. Zapatero has no experience in 
administration or foreign affairs. He is likely to be a 
difficult but manageable interlocutor and carries with him 
the Spanish Left's skepticism of U.S. motives. Opposition to 
the war in Iraq is central to Zapatero,s appeal to voters. 
Nonetheless a UNSCR that gave the UN a leading role in the 
Iraq mission could allow Zapatero to save face and agree to 
maintain Spanish forces in Iraq. End summary. 

2. (C) Some things to bear in mind 

--It is important to recall that Zapatero, who is 43, has no 
experience whatsoever in government administration. He has 
served as a member of the Parliament since he was 26. 

--The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was shocked that 
they won the elections and Zapatero and his people are 
scrambling to figure out what to do. He also made a number 
of campaign statements that might have come out differently 
had he thought he had a real chance of becoming president of 
the government of Spain. 

--As leader of Spain, Zapatero will be able to draw on some 
experienced PSOE party operatives and experienced diplomats 
and economists such as Miguel Angel Moratinos and Miguel 
Sebastian. But he will also have to make certain he does not 
provoke the image that he is replaying the corrupt government 
of Felipe Gonzalez, the PSOE President of Spain from 
1982-1996. So his team likely will include a mix of 
experienced people and newer and less experienced hands. The 
learning curve will be steep. Zapatero and his team will 
have a certain settling in period once the reality of 
government sets in. 

--We have already seen some 'wiggle room' in public 
statements on certain issues, including possibly on the pull 
out of Spanish troops from Iraq. Zapatero,s possible 
foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos indicated in the 
March 18 Wall Street Journal that a UN resolution prior to 
June 30 could provide the context in which Spanish troops 
could remain. If by May we are beginning to negotiate a 
resolution and if France and Germany are on board, Zapatero 
might agree to leave the troops in Iraq. 

--Zapatero will have to work to dispel the image that he won 
because he will appease terrorists (or that he was elected by 
Al-Qaeda). He will almost certainly hear from his European 
colleagues on this issue. He will have to calibrate his 
decisions to avoid the impression that terrorists can 
influence his foreign policy moves. 

--Though terrorism and foreign policy are now front and 
center for Zapatero, many Spaniards believe his main 
challenge will be handling the increasingly vocal nationalist 
tendencies in Catalonia and the Basque region, which could 
threaten the Spanish constitutional order. Zapatero does not 
have the gravitas nor the credibility to deal with these 
issues effectively, many fear. It is not in the U.S. 
interest to see instability in the Spanish national system. 

--Under Zapatero, Spain will continue to face a terrorist 
threat, both from Al-Qaeda and from ETA. This is our most 
significant common challenge, on which we should seek to 
build a firm relationship. 

--On macro-economic issues, we can expect sound policies. 
The PSOE initiated many of the reforms which laid the basis 
for Spain,s current economic success, and Zapatero himself 
has credited the success of Aznar,s economic policies in the 
past. Zapatero has already endorsed PP Minister of Economy 
Rato to head the IMF. There are continued grounds for 
cooperation in this area. 

--The USG has worked well with previous socialist 
governments. Under Felipe Gonzalez, Spain reaffirmed its 
membership in NATO, despite the Socialists, previous 
opposition to NATO membership. We negotiated a renewal of 
our bilateral defense agreements. There is a positive 
history with PSOE on which to build. 

--We will have to accept that there are some issues on which 
we will disagree with the Zapatero government. Zapatero,s 
political philosophy, and that of his closest associates, is 
grounded in the European Left,s reflexive skepticism about 
U.S. motives at best, and anti-Americanism at worst. 

--We have long-term interests in Spain that transcend 
governments in power. Spain is a NATO ally, a strong and 
growing economic force in the EU with shared common 
historical and linguistic links with the Americas. Knowledge 
of and ties with the U.S., however, remain quite thin. 
Zapatero has little understanding of the U.S. 

--Spanish democracy is still rather immature - less than 30 
years old. The high voter turnout last week was a victory 
for democracy in Spain. We should avoid castigating Spanish 
voters and allow them to come to their own conclusions about 
the government that they have elected, albeit under 
extraordinary circumstances. 

3. (C) Our overall approach 

--We believe it is in U.S. interest, both for relations with 
Spain and more broadly in Europe and in the Iraq Coalition 
that we allow Zapatero some time before we come to 
conclusions about steps he will take, including on Iraq. 

--The public line the White House and the Department have 
thus far taken, for example in the White House and Department 
briefings of March 16, is working and we can already see it 
resonating through opinion pieces in Spanish media. This 
will help us avoid an unhelpful U.S.-vs- Zapatero image that 
may be difficult to dispel later on when some rapprochement 
might be possible or needed by us or Spain for other reasons. 

--Rather, we should emphasize our long-term interests in and 
alliance with Spain, our good relations with the previous 
PSOE government, our shared interest combating terrorism, the 
strength of our economic relations and our shared interest in 
repairing strained transatlantic relations (the theme here is 
that Zapatero need not choose between Europe and the United 
States). 

--We should allow other European leaders to express their 
concerns to Zapatero about the appearance of giving in to 
terrorism. The views of France and Germany carry particular 
weight with Zapatero. We should offer our support and advice 
in the effort against terrorism, and should continue to do so 
at the highest levels. 

--We should also emphasize that transatlantic relations and 
close ties with Europe are not either/or propositions. The 
U.S. strongly supports European integration and enlargement. 

4. (C) It will be important that the USG seek to engage 
Zapatero and his new team at senior levels as soon as 
possible, and continue practical areas of U.S. - Spanish 
cooperation that are outside of the difficult issues such as 
Iraq. 

Some suggested practical steps: 

--Secretary Powell connect with probable PSOE Foreign 
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos as soon as possible. 

--Presidential letter to Zapatero as soon as he is invested 
(probably in late April); second congratulatory phone call as 
soon as he is in office. 

--Offer high-level intelligence briefing to Zapatero on 
counter-terrorism and other key world issues. 

--Suggest that Zapatero would be welcome in Washington as 
soon as he is able to visit. 

--Engage at high levels on counter-terrorism cooperation, 
with a visit by Secretary Ridge to meet with his counterpart 
(under new ministry name of Ministry of Security) once the 
new government is invested, and follow up at other levels 
immediately. 

--Suggest regular high-level and working-level consultations 
with new MFA on key issues - Middle East, Latin America, UN 
Security Council issues, human rights, common threats and 
challenges. Public diplomacy outreach the primacy and 
breadth of the U.S. - EU relationship will also be important. 

--Defense issues: Spain reaffirmed its membership in NATO 
under PSOE government. We should continue our good level of 
defense dialogue, contacts, and cooperation, including in the 
Balkans and Afghanistan; dialogue on Iraq if we get a new UN 
resolution. Continue "business as usual" with 
military-military contacts. 

--Terrorism Finance: The events of March 11 represent an 
opportunity to persuade Spain to take a greater leadership 
role on these issues in the EU and elsewhere, particularly in 
terms of assistance. Spain had proposed hosting a terrorism 
finance conference early this year. We should convey our 
willingness to support such a conference should the 
government wish to do so. We should also continue our 
willingness to consider Spain for standing membership in the 
CTAG. 

--Iraq Contracts: The Spanish private sector continues to 
show interest in and frustration with the contracting 
process. We believe Spanish companies have a lot to offer. 
We recommend going ahead with tentative plans to have the 
CPA,s Program Management Office (PMO) brief on 
subcontracting (sponsored by a private sector entity) in late 
April as currently planned. It will demonstrate the possible 
benefits of cooperation. 

--Trade Issues: We recommend signaling to the new trade team 
a willingness to consult on the Doha Round and progress in 
the FTAA - a likely area of continued interest for the new 
government. 

--Housing: Zapatero has already signaled that housing will 
be a key issue for his government and has already said he 
will create a housing ministry. Based on the U.S.-Spain 
Housing forums which took place under former HUD Secretary 
Martinez, leadership with the Ministry of Public Works 
(where housing currently stands) suggest a dialogue with HUD 
as soon as this ministry is established, building on ties 
already created, many of which at the working level will 
remain. 

--R&D/S&T/Productivity: There is a wide scope for increased 
R&D cooperation given that the PSOE platform included a 
pledge to significantly increase the amount of R&D spending. 
Along the same lines, improving worker productivity is 
another key PSOE pledge. As a leader in this area, U.S. may 
be able to share experiences with the new government. 

5. (C) Possible PSOE response 

--Zapatero likely will prove an inexperienced partner. There 
are a number of issues on which he will clearly differ from 
Aznar, but there are areas on which we can build on long-term 
cooperative efforts. 

What will change 


--From the PSOE side, we can expect some initial reservations 
about our engagement overtures. But as the reality of 
government sets in, Zapatero and his team may welcome a 
matter of fact approach from us focused on practical steps in 
areas on which we can agree. 

--Zapatero,s European focus will be a key element of his 
foreign policy. He has made it clear he intends to follow 
the lines of France and Germany on most issues. He has 
already said that he will drop Aznar,s insistence in the EU 
constitution debate on maintaining the Nice treaty voting 
formulas. Again, though, as Zapatero realizes he is 
governing one of Europe,s fastest growing economies, he will 
quickly find that on some issues Spain will want to have a 
voice that is separate from those of France and Germany. But 
as our relationship with France and Germany evolves, we may 
find areas of opportunity with Spain under PSOE as well. 
ARGYROS