The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 2—5:30 a.m.]
606. Department’s 257, October 18, 3 p.m. I was only able to see the Foreign Minister today. He received me with marked cordiality and began a long statement by way of apology for not having received me before, that he had been surprised at my failure to call on him but that he had since learned that the mistake was entirely in his own Ministry on [one?] which he greatly regretted. I then told him chronologically of my efforts to enter into contact with him which gave the Government of the United States the opportunity to attack the conduct of affairs under his predecessor.
I said that while my visit was one of courtesy and I naturally wished to felicitate him on his appointment of which I had, of course, informed my Government at the same time I would be gratified if he could tell me whether his entry into his high office indicated any change in Spanish foreign policy.
He replied that in substance the change was slight but in method it was plausible that prior to his taking office the Spanish Government was practically speaking no more informed concerning the ideals and intentions of Germany and Italy than I was, that this was a situation that should not continue and for this reason he had even, prior to becoming Foreign Minister, initiated visits to Berlin and Rome where he had talked extensively with the Chiefs of State and their Foreign Ministers. Without defining it he said that he had made clear to two Governments concerned the exact situation in Spain and had equally received from them a full statement of their program and aims that as a result of this he could assure me of the political solidarity of it with Germany and Italy. He said also and I made him repeat it three times that there had been no pressure not even an insinuation on the part of either Hitler or Mussolini that Spain should enter the war! To this he added “and as you see we are completely tranquil”. The Minister reiterated his intention so long as he was Foreign Minister to establish personal contacts with other governments and said that this applied not alone to the two countries mentioned above. He then spoke at length of the natural sympathy of his country for Germany and Italy and a corresponding lack of cordiality toward England and France in view of the aid which the two latter countries had given to the Republic in the civil war. He said that Spain for a long time had occupied a subordinate position in the family of nations in spite of the fact that it was a great country and that it was determined henceforward to have a voice in European affairs. He again referred to the [Page 825]cordiality of relations with the Axis powers and I remarked that his friendship toward those powers and his personal dislike of Russia bore a certain resemblance of our attitude of sympathy toward Spain without special cordiality toward Germany, which he said he entirely understood.
I then told the Minister of the friendly atmosphere which prevailed in Washington toward Spain and reminded him that probably contrary to his preconceived notions our Government throughout the Spanish conflict had maintained a position of the most complete impartiality.
He said dryly that he was of course glad to learn that there was a friendly atmosphere and remarked that the Caudillo had expressed to him extreme surprise that certain shipments of wheat about which I had spoken had never come. I said that there was evidently a complete misunderstanding of the situation; that when I saw his predecessor I left with the understanding that I would submit to my Government a formula for publicity and intended immediately to advise him when a reply was received from Washington; that the day after, his predecessor was out of office; that since then, as he himself admitted, time had been lost through defects in his own office machinery since only today had I been able to see him. He [I?] said further that his personality was well known in the United States, as was his commanding voice in Spanish foreign affairs and that it was the natural desire of my Government to be fully informed of the existing situation and policy of this Government before it [apparent omission] also more deeply into Spanish needs; that the sending of wheat by the Red Cross had been suggested because that could be done at once without the necessity of conversations which would necessarily arise where credits were concerned.
I said that as a matter of fact I had brought with me a memorandum which I placed in his hands and in which I had set forth my Government’s position and that he would perhaps like to consider it and then discuss the matter further with me. He said that he would immediately study this and would invite me to come for a further discussion.
I equally told him that, following this, my Government wished me again to see the Caudillo to receive his personal confirmation concerning the entire situation, to which he seemed to give assent.
While Suñer’s rather general statements may be as much as can be expected from him under present circumstances, I will of course press for an early interview with the Caudillo so as to obtain as complete assurances as possible with regard to the future direction of Spanish foreign policy.[Page 826]
After a comprehensive study of the existing situation in Spain I am daily more convinced that aid to Spain on the part of the United States should be largely based on political rather than upon humanitarian or commercial considerations.
Provided that sufficient publicity can be obtained, aid from the United States at this time may well serve to strengthen Spain to resist German pressure either to enter war or to permit the passage of German troops to the extent that would be impossible in any other way.
I feel further that every month that Spain remains apart from the conflict is of genuine value and may have results unfavorable to the Axis which cannot now be foreseen.
Under these circumstances I would urge that preparations for the shipment of Red Cross wheat or flour to Spain be begun immediately so that its departure from the United States can be announced in the Spanish and American press immediately after my forthcoming conversation with Franco. As regards the question of further supplies, particularly of foodstuffs, we can point out that the actual realization of a program so important to the Spanish mind, particularly to the public, as the beautiful picture that a large program presents [apparent omission] maximum [apparent omission] I would recommend that we be prepared to discuss future supplies to Spain with more abandon than would be possible under normal circumstances with the realization that the greater part of such supplies may never reach this country.
The actual shipments to Spain should be limited to a point where such stocks can be built up leaving the hope always before them however of greater supplies in the future in the event that they remain outside the conflict. All aid could be canceled immediately should a drastic change in the situation occur. The British can be depended on to grant navicerts for only such supplies as are absolutely essential for current Spanish needs.