852.75 National Telephone Co./369: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State

232. A recent slowly formed opinion that current events in Europe, more especially German successes, have altered Spain’s attitude toward help from the United States receives confirmation from the somewhat detached and indifferent attitude displayed by the Minister of Gobernación and the Chief of State with both of whom I talked today.

The Minister whom I saw first following his indirectly but strongly conveyed intimation that he was desirous that I talk with him before seeing the Caudillo appears to have yielded to interior elements in the telephone company and stated on the one hand that the document embodying the arrangement he reached with Behn and which was telegraphed to the Department, was a private arrangement between himself and Behn and later in the conversation remembered that the document “did not exist”. When I pointed out this inconsistency and the painful impression which would be created in Washington on reporting his attitude he countered with a harangue concerning Spain’s sovereignty, the unsatisfactory situation for Spain through [Page 888] the control by foreign interests of so vital a thing as its communication system and said the company must trust to his good faith! I could only prevail on him to promise to send for the company’s president and the Ministry delegate on the board and impress on them his declaration that the Government loyally maintain the company in the status quo of 1936.

Although I am discouraged by the present phase of this situation there remains the possibility that the Minister may for time being at least obviate the company’s present difficulties although the Minister’s remark that this corporation was a political Gibraltar in Spain is significant.

In my hour’s talk with the Caudillo in which I set forth the Department’s attitude as outlined in instructions of May 28, 1940,91 and telegram No. 78, June 5, 6 p.m.,92 I made it abundantly clear that any potential assistance to be expected under these instructions were contemplated prior to recent events and prior to Spain’s declaration of “non-belligerency” and stated that a completely different situation now confronted us and that a prime motive in seeing him was to ask for a clarification of his Government’s attitude.

In reply the Caudillo, referring to previous declarations of neutrality, said that the war in Scandinavia, as in Poland, had been remote. Now the war clouds have come much nearer. Italian dead lie in Spanish fields and Spain’s sympathy toward Italy was very great—in a word, the phrase of non-belligerency might be interpreted as descriptive of a state of more definite sympathy toward Italy and a wide awake attitude. I asked bluntly whether Spain would enter the war. He parried this, remarking “The United States is nearer to war than we are.”

Franco declared that England is in for a very bad time. He said the enormous colonies held by that country and France were governed with unenlightened selfishness and that he felt that by dividing them among Germany and other countries (probably thinking of Spain) the general good would be promoted. He believes that Hitler whom he described as “a very human man” would be reasonable in his demands.

Referring to Europe’s food needs I suggested that these would become critical in a few months; with this he expressed entire disagreement. In concluding my visit I said that I would, of course, communicate his declarations concerning his interpretation of non-belligerency to my Government; that it was possible that I would receive further instructions but that meanwhile and since potential action appeared to have been contemplated to take place at Washington he [Page 889] might in all the circumstances and if still interested have his Ambassador sound out the Department. I added that since his Minister of Finance had made a suggestion of exploratory conversations to determine whether there were any bases for a trade agreement it was possible and keeping in mind the limitations arising from our trade agreement principles that my Government would still be interested and that if he desired to pursue the matter further approximate [apparent omission] might be given to his Finance Minister.

  1. Ante, p. 803.
  2. Ante, 804.