“We’d be extremely concerned that any NATO member should consider assisting a Russian carrier group that might end up bombing Syrian civilians…. On the contrary, NATO should be standing together.” ~Michael Fallon, British defense secretary

A Russian naval flotilla headed to reinforce military efforts in Syria applied to dock and refuel at the Spanish port of Ceuta in North Africa, by the Strait of Gibraltar. Worried that allowing the transaction would show support for Russian operations in Syria, NATO advised Spain to refuse the request. Rather then get tied up in the controversy, the Russian fleet redacted its application.

Will the ships still get fuel? Yes, probably in Morocco or Algeria. Will the convoy still head to Syria? Yes, but on a slightly altered schedule.

Maybe this was a moral stand against military interventions and alleged war crimes. Maybe the Spanish government will feel like they chose the right way. Or maybe this was a breach of protocol between old trade allies. Ceuta’s port had long been the site for naval refueling, but that relationship with Russia just took a hit.

We say that business is business, but where is the line? When does international trade become a political statement to condone or condemn state actions?