The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 3—11:35 p.m.]
528. Department’s 229, September 19, 7 p.m., and 235, September 26, 4 p.m. I today called by appointment on the Minister for Foreign Affairs accompanied by Messrs. Bucknell23 and Ackerman.24 With him were the Ministers of Finance and of Industry and Commerce, and the Counselor of the Foreign Office. I discussed in some detail the considerations set forth in the Department’s telegrams referred to placing special emphasis on the fact that any aid from the United States must of necessity be conditioned upon Spain remaining outside of the present world conflict. I also pointed out that the extension of such aid must likewise be conditioned upon the existence of a cooperative attitude as regards such problems as we might care to lay before the Spanish Government.
The Foreign Minister speaking for his colleagues stated that while it was impossible for political reasons for his Government to make a public declaration or to sign a protocol to define in advance the attitude of the Spanish Government, he could assure me officially in the name of his Government that Spain would remain out of the European conflict unless and until she was attacked. He pointed out that the situation had been extremely difficult; that Spain previously had Italy on one side and now Germany on her frontier. As an indication of the future direction of Spanish policy for 13 months Spain had been able to preserve her position of non-belligerency which he described as a peculiarity of Spanish attitude in international relations. He stated that he must admit that one particularly dangerous spot existed for Spain and that this was French Morocco, attempts against which by the De Gaulle Government25 or Great Britain or Germany or Italy would be treated as a hostile act.
In speaking of the recent visit to Berlin of Suñer26 the Minister stated that the visit had been one of courtesy and stressed that Spain [Page 811] was not a signatory of the Tripartite Pact27 which created a “new order” in the world the implication being that Spain had remained out of this in accordance with its policy of “Spanish prudence”.
In speaking of the minimum and the most urgent needs of Spain the Minister of Industry stated that 800,000 tons of cereals were required before the next crop next June. Of this amount approximately 600,000 tons of wheat would be necessary and 200,000 tons of corn. He stressed the urgency of beginning shipments from the United States at the earliest possible moment in view of present difficulties in transporting wheat from Spanish wheat producing centers to consuming centers. He said that there was sufficient Spanish tonnage to transport approximately 100,000 tons of wheat per month. The Foreign Minister here interrupted him to point out what he declared would be of great political importance of namely to have a large American ship bring the first load. The Minister for Industry then added that the present situation in Spain was such that the bread ration would have to be reduced to at least one-third by next week.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as the other Ministers emphasized the belief that aid to Spain at this time on the part of the United States would serve to strengthen the Government in its present intention of remaining apart from the European conflict also that a renewed interchange of goods with the United States could only have a most calming and beneficial effect.
I desire to present the following comments concerning the foregoing for the Department’s consideration:
- There can be no doubt of the gravity with which these Ministers view the present food and general economic situation in Spain;
- I consider that the assurances given me today represent the utmost that can be expected from the Spanish Government under existing circumstances;
- Any aid from the United States effectively to strengthen Spanish determination to remain apart from the conflict must be prompt;
- I am more and more convinced that it is the intense desire of these three Ministers and of the majority of the Cabinet as well as the overwhelming majority of the Spanish people to maintain their present position of at least non-belligerency.
- I believe that aid at this time from the United States in the way of foodstuffs, at least at the beginning, which could be limited as to quantity and which could be limited [apparent omission], might well serve the purpose of so strengthening the present Spanish Government that they will continue to resist German or Italian pressure.
I therefore urgently recommend that the Department give immediate consideration to the possibility of supplying up to 600,000 tons of wheat and 200,000 tons of corn upon as generous credits terms as may [Page 812] be possible. The opportunity to put forward our own problems at this time should also be taken advantage of.
I agree with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his observation that the first shipments arriving in a Spanish port on an American vessel would have a beneficial effect on Spanish public opinion.
If, as I earnestly hope may be the case, the Department adopts the foregoing recommendations Spain’s further needs in the way of cotton, other raw materials and equipment could be subsequently considered.
The Department’s urgent telegraphic instructions are requested.
- Howard Bucknell Jr., Counselor of Embassy.↩
- Ralph H. Ackerman, Commercial Attaché↩
- Gen. Charles de Gaulle, head of the Free French Forces.↩
- Ramon Serrano Suñer, President of the Spanish Junta Politica.↩
- German-Italian-Japanese Tripartite Pact, signed at Berlin, September 27, 1940; for text, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 165.↩