The Russian cruiser Marshal Ustinov was refuelled in Spain after operations in Syria, despite fresh sanctions against Russia.

The American government, backed by statements from NATO officials, recently announced additional sanctions against Russia over its ongoing occupation of Crimea and its interference in eastern Ukraine.

Last year, Russia had to withdraw a request for three warships to dock at the Spanish port of Ceuta for refuelling, following concern among NATO allies however that has not happened this time. Spain is frequently under pressure from NATO allies not to allow the refuelling of the Russian warships bound for Syria.

Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas & Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy, said here:

“In October 2016, after mounting international pressure, Spain withdrew its military support for the Russian navy. Between 2011 and 2016, Spain had granted Russian navy vessels—including destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, even an attack submarine—regular use of Spanish ports to resupply and refuel. Now, it has been reported that Spain will once again welcome the Russian navy into its ports.

It is not the time for a NATO member to welcome the Russian navy into port when most NATO members are increasing economic sanctions against Russia, expelling Russian diplomats, and bolstering security in Eastern Europe against the Russian threat of aggression. The U.S. should once again work with like-minded European partners, especially the U.K., and pressure Spain not to restart its military assistance to Russia.”

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Levi Goldsteinberg

Between this, their constant harassment of the Gibraltar territory and any British or American vessel in the area as well as their pitifully small military expenditure as relates to a % of GDP; it must be asked, why are they even in NATO? Who needs enemies when you have ‘allies’ like these


Completely agree. Putin must be laughing his head off knowing he has driven another little wedge in the alliance

Levi Goldsteinberg

Sidenote; hilarious they deployed another ‘combat’ tug


Money, money, money! Using chemical weapons on the home soil of a fellow Nato ally, no problem at all. Come and dock your ships in our sovereign enclave in Morocco. They should be booted out of Nato without due process.


With friends like these who needs enemies,

Although it highlights just how useless the Russian are, they can’t even send a vessel to the Med without NATO filing it up. #somesuperpower

David Steeper

What will happen depends on how important the US regards their bases in Spain. IT’s going to be interesting to see what happens.


Rota is their main naval base in Europe, somehow I don’t see them being willing to sacrifice it given how much they’ve invested.

We could always offer them berths at Devonport and Gibraltar, but it would be far from ideal

Cam hunter

Are they refueling a dam tanker aswel? That don’t make sense! And I though there might be a tug aswell… Russia’s a dam joke and everyone thinks Britains a joke! Well Russia does anyway, but they are the real joke…

P tattersall

Kick them out they don’t contribute …Putin’s got no mates apart from Islamic extremists countries and spain .

Geoffrey Roach

Yet another nail in any pathetic idea of a European defence force. France and Germany are falling out already about the FSCA, Italy is broke, Greece wants out, Turkey doesn’t know what it wants and now this. And they don’t get why we want to leave. Our true allies in Europe, with one or two exceptions like Poland, are in North West Europe. World wide we have our friends across the pond and in the Commonwealth and I suspect a more interested Japan and South Korea amongst others. We develop our weaponry, we develop our trade and we build our… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Hear hear.


I do feel that the liberal axis – EU & US – of the previous 20 years has caused the terrible breakdown in relations between the West and Russia. They should be a natural ally, albeit a spikey one, in central Asia and the fight against Islamic extremism. Today, we lament our colonial past and empire and constantly flagellate ourselves for past misdemeanours but the political and media establishment in the UK and abroad have no qualms about embracing expansionist EU policies and pushing liberal social ideologies. It is so hypocritical, do we live in a post-colonial world or not.… Read more »


Russia has never been a “natural ally” of the west, to believe otherwise is simply ridiculous.

The West can lecture to Russia all day, we haven’t carried out chemical attacks on Russian soil, attempted to interfere with investigations of said attacks, then you have had Russia annexing parts f other countries to allegedly protect ethnic Russians.

Give your daft head a wobble, and save the buzzwords for your hipster mates.

Geoffrey Roach

Russia as a natural ally Nath. Are you sure your not suffering from the after effects of a bad Guy Fawkes dream? How can anybody regard Russia as the natural ally to …….who exactly?


Nice try nath could you be getting paid for this nonsense comment?.Russia has been given more than enough chances to become a modern democracy and has decided break a lot of international laws, so yes we in the west get to lecture Russia when they use chemical weapons and invades a european nation and tries to influence the world in its twisted ideals.


Of course. The Russians have been trying to be European for centuries, Princess Alexandra lived in London and half their royal family were related to Queen Victoria but they’ve always been autocratic which has made it so difficult to get on with. But since the fall of Constantinople, the Orthodox stronghold, to the Ottoman, Islamic Caliphate, Russia has seen itself as the guardian of the Orthodox church. She remembers the loss of the Eastern half of the Roman empire to Islamic conquest. They identify with traditional European values, the problem is Putin and his post-communist delusions. I strongly subscribe to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I actually agree with Nath guys. Sorry.

Steve Taylor

If you look at the two states the EU always try to demonise and then look at history and look at which states often stopping France and Germany being naughty you will notice something………… We treated Russia abysmally in the 90s instead of welcoming them into the Christian fold. We have to ask what drove the situation in Russia we find today? Some of the posts here are childish and are frankly embarrassing. There is little perspective. No appreciation of history. No understanding of realpolitik. And little to no acknowledgement of our own faults Its the reason why nobody takes… Read more »


I would also agree with Nath, for the most part. As for alleged assassination attempts in the UK and others Western countries for which no evidence has been presented in a court of law. Even in the all to likely case of Russia being in the end responsible one does not harbor traitors and fugitives in public and not expect them to seek redress themselves. Further the harboring of traitors is itself a act of war. What do you think happens in countries that don’t hand over people the US want on terrorism charges or would happen if they were… Read more »

David Steeper

Alleged ? Thanks Elliot and co you’ve given me pause for thought.

Russia cannot be UK, Spain or America. We must let Russia be Russia. Unlike many European countries that are no longer European as it were. Russia remains Russia. We must respect all different cultures.. British, Americans, Russian, African, Arabian, etc… otherwise it would be a boring world.


I have no time for Russia apologists. Russia is not your friend and never will be. It is a mess of a country and always has been. This is not to say that there are not many nice, civilised Russian people. There are. But as a state I would not trust it in any way whatsoever. Russia is a place with a huge inferiority complex, and it can’t bring itself out of the Dark Ages and despises everybody else for it. And for those who say there is not evidence of the poisoning in the UK, how much evidence do… Read more »


Well said antidote ,spot on


How much evidence do I require? Evidence admitable in a court of law sufficient to gain a conviction. That or a confession. As neither are in the offing and I only have statements from political appointees I reserve judgment. As for Russia not being a friend? No country ever should base foreign policy on the basis of something so transitory as fondness. Many people were fond of their ex before they became their ex. Foreign policy should always be determined by mutual need nothing else. Mutual need is the strongest bond on Earth, by an order of magnitude stronger than… Read more »


just cracks me up that they have to take a tug with them in case one of them breaks down – unless it was already deployed to cover the carrier when it was there and broke down itself and they are only now getting it back home.

maybe we should just offer to escort them with a couple of salvage tugs and a Severn class lifeboat through the channel – just in case….

captain P Wash.

Oh Yes, CEUTA, This Is Spain’s Moroccan Outpost on the Opposite side of GIBRALTA. Always makes me laugh when they bang on about our Claim to Their Territory. Just thought that CEUTA should be Highlighted in Capitol Letters so as not to be missed.

Steve Taylor

My fave is the Argentinians who were still slaughtering indigenous South Americans 30 years after our colony was established in the Falklands…….


Why does Spain have to stab it’s allies in the back when one of the N African nations may have obliged the Russians? Where are the Russian auxilliary tankers?

The less trustworthy our allies become, the more crucial it is to have a sound, fully capable, self sufficient military.

james harrington

Thats it with Spain and all thing Spanish for me. I only hated Sergio Ramos until “this”, and I am not even a Liverpool fan, but”this” is something that cannot be ignored. I suggest we start with the number of Spanish fishing vessels in UK waters that equal the same tonnage as the Russian vessels being fed and fueled by Spain. In out global world there is much connectivity, and if you want to host the Russians do so at your own risk of consequence and economic retaliation. This really made me angry. Come on Mrs. May, take a stand… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

The Russians identify with European values you say Nath. If that’s the case who was responsible for over 3 million murders in the 1930’s under Stalin or the 8 million who died of starvation or the 6 million plus in the prorams before and after the war. Add in the deal with Nazi Germany to divide Poland and the deliberate holding back when the brave Poles rose up in Warsaw or there are the tanks rolling through Hungary or the suppression of the Czechs and of course the “innocent” Berlin wall. This doesn’t of course include the “cleansing” of the… Read more »


You really don’t want to go down the rabbit hole there with history. Stalin and the communists whose rise to power was only made possible by the complete implosion of the Russian State due to the stress of World War I. Russia lost more men than any of the other allied powers and as it’s reward saw itself stripped of territory and the White non-communist forces left to die in a civil war and purges that followed. Russia making a deal with Germany? You mean like Chamberlain and Daladier who were perfectly willing to sell entire countries. As for how… Read more »


But in fact France did Attack from the west, however noone thought the Poles would be so overwhelmed in just four days. If Britain and France had known just how ineffective the poles would be they work probably have never gone to war for Poland and would have signed an alliance with Stalin instead. By the time Britain got any forces into the field Poland was gone. It’s worth noting that Poland was the first country to invade another European country attacking Czechoslovakia before germany and lost most of its army because it cared more about territorial expansion than defeating… Read more »


Martin The only attack from the west in September 1939 was th Saar Offensive which engaged in almost no significant combat before withdrawing. Despite not having encountered any significant resistance. During the withdrawal Gamelin lied to the Polish Military and said he was still attacking despite already having ordered his men back to the Maginot Line so the Poles would die a few more days before surrendering. By the admission of almost every member of the German general staff had that offensive been carried out they could not have held more than 2 weeks in the west at that point… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Historical parts first Elliott. No argument with your comment as to how Stalin came to power but I was responding to Nath’s view that the Russians are natural Europeans. Everything i said about Stalin’s treatment of his people is factually correct. Chamberlain’s discussions with Hitler were not “happy” affairs I’m sure but modern historical thinking gives at least some credence to the idea that he was trying to buy time for Britain to rearm. I f the war had started a year earlier there would hardly have been a Spitfire to take part in any air battle and precious few… Read more »


The hypocritical Spanish and their Argentinean cousins are always a source of high amusement.They really are beyond parody. If we are going to sanction Russia then NATO must act as one. A propaganda victory for Putin if one country bresks ranks.

Mr Bell

Reading in the broadsheets this morning it seems more and more likely despite all efforts that we will get a “No deal BREXIT” from our friends and so called allies in the EU. This is all about punishment and the only way a deal is possible with the theologically stubborn and inflexible EU is if we sign all our sovereignty away to a foreign power and agree to allow fishing in UK territory, free travel, free access to schools, NHS etc and probably ongoing multi billion £ contributions to the EU In summary status quo maintained but without any voice… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I’d agree with much of that, mostly on the EU side. This country has lost faith in itself. Most of our trade is by WTO terms anyway. That part that is not will face tariffs, and guess who will be getting hammered the most there. Not us. French farmers, German car makers and all the rest will soon create such a stink they will want a deal. We are one of their biggest markets. They sell far more to us than to them. I would still remain in NATO while bilaterally renewing old links with the Anglosphere myself as I… Read more »


The Russians will act in their own self interest just like anyone else. The difference in my opinion is that they are utterly ruthless and don’t even pretend to care. I agree with some of the comments which are of the view that we probably tweaked their tail too much eg. With the eastern expansion of NATO – and that they are the lesser of two evils when compared to what feels like a deeper religious fault line but we are where we are. In the present circumstances, I believe their interest is best served by a multipolar world which… Read more »


Ceuta and Melilla are not OTAN territories.


Ceuta and Melilla are not OTAN territories.

captain P Wash.

On a different note, Where’s my old shipmate Chris ( Chris H ) gone ?

Daniele Mandelli

Announced his retirement from the site to my sorrow.

I found his posts thoroughly entertaining and on the political side invaluable, as I very much agreed with them and his knowledge is far greater than mine.

A loss and if he’s lurking, greetings.


Spain. With friends like them who needs enemies?

[…] Recently, the UK Defence Journal reported that Spain had refuelled the cruiser, despite fresh sanctions against Russia. […]