The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 18—4:45 a.m.]
561. My 557, October 17, 11 a.m.32 The first reaction in Spanish military and naval circles to the Cabinet changes which were reported in my telegram under [reference?] appears to be one of accepting the situation without undue excitement. These circles maintain that the change had been expected for some time; that the recent visit of Suñer to Rome and Berlin had placed the then Foreign Minister in an impossible position which he could not accept with any dignity. They hope that Franco will actually take into his own hands the Ministry of Gobernación with the result that Spanish foreign policy will continue unchanged and that Franco will become an even greater stabilizing influence in the situation.
In a conversation with a member of the Junta Politica today my informant mentioned the fact that there had of course been bad blood between Suñer33 and Beigbeder for some time and that the present change serves to clear up an unfortunate internal situation. He insisted that the new appointments represent no changes in Spanish foreign policy but that some change of personalities was indicated after Suñer’s recent visits to the Axis capitals. With regard to Himmler’s34 visit which coincides with the sudden change in the Spanish Cabinet he insisted that the visit was in return for Mayalde’s35 to Berlin and that in any case Himmler was now on the down grade in Germany. He continued that the Caudillo could be depended upon to permit no variation in Spanish foreign policy and so far as the suddenness of the move was concerned simply shrugged his shoulders saying that this was a “casa de España”. He spoke of the appointment of Carceller36 to the Commerce Ministry as being of great value since this would give an added and sorely needed confidence in financial and business circles in Spain. He described Carceller as a realist and as one who knows the United States.
As regards opinion generally the man in the street has received the news with some apprehension and disgust since Suñer has not recently improved his highly unpopular position among the people generally. One hears the fear expressed that the move means Germany will take [Page 821]advantage of the new situation rapidly to increase its pressure upon Spain.
In a conversation with the British Ambassador this morning and in subsequent conversations with other members of the British Embassy recently engaged in commercial negotiations with the Spanish authorities I received the following impressions: (1) that the change in government had come as a complete surprise and a great shock to the British; (2) that they were fearful that the reaction in London would be severe and very unfavorable; (3) that the Ambassador while insisting that he did not believe that there was any imminent possibility of German military action in Spain, confessed the fear that the Cabinet reorganization might be the prelude to an increasing infiltration of German agents throughout all of the Spanish Ministries with the result that Spain might become “a second Rumania”, and should this be accomplished, he added, “Germany could then wait until the apple was ripe and it would fall off into their mouths”; (4) as to British action in the face of this situation he felt that negotiations which had been taking place with a view to supplying certain Spanish requirements should not be broken off but should be suspended until such time as satisfactory assurances were received from the new Ministers with regard to the future direction of Spanish foreign policy. I learned this afternoon that the Spanish negotiators have in fact now been informed that the representative of the British Ministry of Economic Warfare who has been conducting the negotiations in Madrid will leave for Portugal probably tomorrow or the next day and remain there until the Embassy receives satisfactory assurances from the two new Ministers with regard to their intentions and plans in connection with Spanish foreign policy; (5) the British appeared to feel that there was at least an even chance that there would be no perceptible immediate change in Spanish foreign policy but that for the moment they would prefer to have the situation develop more clearly before deciding just what attitude they should adopt.
In a conversation with the Portuguese Ambassador he expressed to me the opinion that there was no immediate cause for alarm as regards any change in Spanish foreign policy. He put forward the personal opinion that the change might have some advantages since diplomatists could now deal with a Foreign Minister with authority and whose promises would not be sabotaged in the future by more powerful Ministers behind the scenes.
For my own part, I incline to favorable consideration that it is much wiser not to arrive at any hard and fast conclusions concerning the situation which will result from these Cabinet changes until the various elements are much clearer.
I am also inclined to believe for the time being at least that the reorganization may not be the forerunner of any immediate change in [Page 822]the situation and that there is the possibility that, faced with the tremendous economic and food problems which now confront the Spanish Government, the new Ministers now responsible for meeting this situation may prove to be much more realistic than might have been expected under other circumstances.
It would appear that Suñer now has complete control of both Gobernación and Foreign Affairs in spite of Franco being ostensibly at the head of the Ministry of Gobernación. It is now reported that both the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture will be dismissed within the near future and replaced by supporters of Suñer.
As regards any military reaction to Suñer’s sudden rise to power it may be that they will accept the situation for fear that open opposition might precipitate a crisis which might result in an immediate German invasion to keep the pro-Axis regime in power although the possibility of some sudden move by the generals [Germans?] cannot yet be entirely dismissed.
The new [Minister of?] Navigation and Commerce is well known as an able and astute … financier and businessman. It is possible that he may meet Spain’s financial and economic difficulties in a much more realistic and sensible way than has been possible heretofore. It should be borne in mind however that Carceller accompanied Suñer on his recent visit to Rome and Berlin as “Economic Adviser”.
With regard to my own recent conversations with the Spanish authorities concerning wheat and other Spanish necessities, I would recommend that preparations continue as heretofore to make available Red Cross flour for early shipment to Spain and that the Department continue to study the question of extending credits. For the next few days however I think it desirable that I do not discuss these matters further with the Spanish authorities until such time as they themselves raise the question. I could then talk over these matters as a whole with the Ministers concerned and if it seems desirable with the Caudillo himself. If events should develop in this way I would then be in a position to give the Department a more studied estimate of the probabilities in the Spanish situation which for the moment remain clouded.
- Not printed.↩
- Serrano Suñer succeeded Beigbeder as Spanish Foreign Minister on October 16, 1940.↩
- Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) and Chief of the German Police.↩
- José Finat Escrivá de Romani (Conde de Mayalde), Spanish Director General of Security.↩
- Demetria Carceller Segura.↩