OVIEDO, Spain 

The Spanish defense minister insisted on Monday that Spain has “never considered” sending troops to Ukraine amid growing tensions with Russia.

Although Spain has recently deployed warships to NATO missions in the Black Sea and offered to send fighter jets to Bulgaria, Margarita Robles told Spanish broadcaster Onda Cero that the country has no plans for Spanish soldiers to fight on Ukrainian soil.

“Article 5 of NATO says that when there is an aggression against an allied country, all the rest have to respond. But Ukraine does not belong to the alliance,” she said, echoing what NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC on Sunday.

Robles emphasized that Spain is only involved in permanent NATO missions that are “non-offensive” and “focused on dissuasion and preserving peace.”

Spain has been part of NATO for 40 years, and the organization’s next summit will take place in Madrid in June.

While she argued that “Russia has no right to tell Ukraine what to do,” she highlighted the 34 ongoing wars worldwide and said there are similarly complex situations in countries such as Mali.

“When it comes to generic discourses like ‘say no to war’ we naturally all agree, but later you have to deal with the harsh reality of war and what you have to do is work for peace,” she added.

Spain’s recent moves to accelerate deployments to NATO missions around Ukraine have caused tensions in the country’s progressive coalition government.

Members of the junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos have publicly criticized Spain’s accelerated participation in NATO missions and increased bellicosity against Russia.

The far-left party has resurrected the same anti-war slogan used when Spain became one of just a handful of countries to send troops to support the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Russia in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, prompting fears that it could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. It has also issued a list of security demands, including that Ukraine does not join NATO.

In a written response to those demands, Washington said it is committed to uphold NATO’s “open door policy.” NATO also conveyed the alliance’s own reply “in parallel with the United States.”

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