The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
A Period of Turbulent Change: Spanish-US
Relations Since 2002
by Manuel Iglesias-Cavicchioli
he purpose of this essay is to show the dramatic shifts that the Spanish-US
relationship has undergone from 2002 to date, by trying to explain their causes,
implications, and consequences. The following text offers a critical vision of Spanish
foreign policy in the last four years and suggests some possibilities to redefine the
current relationship with the US Government in a more constructive way.
The international landscape between 2002 and 2006 has been particularly
intense and convulsive. According to this unstable and unpredictable scenario,
Spanish foreign policy, and particularly the relationship of Spain with the US, has
undergone a series of dramatic changes.
From 2002 until 2004, the relationship between Spain and the United States was
at its strongest in history; the Atlantic Summit, held in the Portuguese Azores Islands
on March 16, 2003, in the framework of the Iraqi crisis, demonstrated this fact.
dynamics of the relationship began to change drastically when the Socialist Party
(PSOE) won the last general elections on March 14, 2004, from which time no
meetings have taken place between the current Spanish prime minister, José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero, and the US president. This trend seems likely to continue for
the next two years, a contrast to Prime Minister José María Aznar’s last two years in
office, during which several meetings took place with President Bush; as such,
Rodríguez Zapatero might be the first Spanish prime minister who has not had any
summit with an American president in the last thirty years. Obviously, such a radical
shift between two consecutive administrations demands an analysis that attempts to
explain the wide range of factors that have caused this swing.
Before discussing the changes that occurred within the last four years, it is useful
to highlight the most recent history of Spanish foreign policy, namely focusing on
the Spanish-American relationship in the last twenty-five years.
Until the beginning of 2002, it is possible to assert that there was a basic
agreement between the main political parties of Spain, the Popular Party, and the
was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Global and International
The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
(October–December 2006). He holds a Master’s degree in International Studies from the
Diplomatic School of Spain. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in international relations and a
researcher at the Department of Public International Law and International Relations of the
Political Science School, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain