The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 20—5 a.m.]
661. Department’s 295, November 8, 6 p.m. This morning and at their request I had an interview with the Minister of Industry and Commerce and Gamero del Castillo, Minister without Portfolio.
The former Minister who was the principal speaker seemed to be informed of the essentials of my remarks to Suñer as reported in my No. 636 of November 12, 4 p.m., and our conversation followed its general lines. The Minister said that it was an error to suppose that Spain saw eye to eye with the Axis Powers in all respects, that some of its ambitions were contrary to theirs, pointing out that his own appointment was a proof of Spain’s independence of action since his economic views were generally known not to be rigidly totalitarian. Moreover in the case of Gibraltar Spain would not under any circumstances permit it to fall into the hands of either Italy or Germany. He also cited the recent occupation of Tangier as further illustrative of this attitude.
With regard to Spain’s food and credit needs both Ministers were explicit in their declarations that with Germany at the frontier crouched ready to spring the requirement of a public declaration of Spain’s intention not to render aid to the Axis Powers could not possibly be accepted.
After briefly restating our point of view I reemphasized that unlike Spain the American Government had a public opinion to consider, that under my instructions I must limit my statements to a petition, the stipulations of which they were aware and that in the circumstances I could only await my anticipated interview with the Chief of State and receive from his lips a declaration of his Government’s views and policies. In reply to a query Castillo said the Caudillo was informed of my Government’s views as set forth to Suñer and was not “contento”.
Neither Minister could be drawn concerning Suñer’s present visit to France and Germany.
Reviewing this whole question in the light of the foregoing and of previous facts made known to the Department my consideration of the subject of relief to Spain boils down to the following:
- Spain’s interior condition from every standpoint, grows daily worse, and a crisis cannot long be postponed unless relief is promptly promised and at least partly realized.
- Should the anticipated crisis arise the present Government would be hard put to it to maintain itself and in event of failure or danger of collapse German troops could be expected to come to “rescue” the country.
- Spain on the other hand dares not make a public declaration of policy along the lines demanded by us for to do so would be equivalent to inviting German intervention. I believe that it might still be possible to secure personal and private assurances by the Caudillo along the lines of the public declaration demanded plus an official undertaking by the Spanish Government to fulfill the three conditions laid down in the Department’s 243, October 4, 6 p.m.
- [sic] Might not American public opinion be satisfied if publicity were given this latter undertaking supplemented by a statement from the Department indicating that British attitude and the steps to be taken to prevent supplies from reaching the Axis Powers? Emphasis could be laid on the humanitarian aspect of the matter and the fact that the shipments could be terminated at any time.
- Failing relief along the lines suggested I anticipate a situation approaching chaos; a situation which Britain is bending every effort to prevent. Withholding relief therefore might easily defeat our Government’s avowed purpose of extending all possible aid to Great Britain.
- I venture again to emphasize the necessity of prompt action in the matter. Suñer is expected here at the end of this week and my interview with the Caudillo can scarcely be delayed much thereafter.