711.52/334a: Telegram

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

315. Mr. Stettinius was called to the telephone late last night by Cárdenas who inquired whether he might see the Under Secretary in private at an early hour today. The Ambassador was given an appointment, and presented himself at the Under Secretary’s office at 8:50 this morning.

. . . . . . .

Cárdenas remarked that it was strange that in 1940, when Spain was unfriendly to us, we were considerate and kind, whereas at present when Spain is endeavoring to be considerate our attitude is not sympathetic and we are exercising unreasonable pressure. We must understand, he said, that the position of his country is very awkward and it is trying to maintain a balance. Assuming it is accurate that Germany must have wolfram, it may reasonably be supposed that should exports be interrupted Germany would invade Spain to secure it.

Cárdenas expressed his conviction that we and the British were under pressure from Russia. He had been informed that the Blue Division had been liquidated but that 1500 of its members remained in Russia. He said there likewise were many Spanish communists in Russia and that he had reason to believe that in an attempt to excite sympathy among members of the Blue Division some were posing as prisoners of war. It was not within the power of the Spanish Government to recall those members of the Blue Division who had not promptly returned. This method was being employed to attack Franco indirectly by arousing Britain and America.

Cárdenas then requested the Under Secretary to state frankly as a friend why we were so upset. Mr. Stettinius replied mentioning the Italian ships, activity of enemy agents, and wolfram, and stating that for 3 months we had made representations to his Government and were discouraged. Cárdenas admitted no 3-month factor.

He said he was in a very awkward position as these negotiations were being conducted in Madrid and his Government was not keeping him informed. There was an indirect implication that he was [Page 327] unfamiliar with matters in Tangier although he had heard of our concern about German agents in the Peninsula. His first news about the ships arose at the time of the message to Laurel,54 but he had heard that in the past few days several vessels had been released.

The Ambassador said Spain would be our eternal friend if we could only exercise patience and allow her to remain neutral. The Under Secretary expressed his personal feeling that Spain stood to lose nothing and had everything to gain by complying with our requests,-and that it would be better for Spain if, when the war ended with a complete Allied victory, as it would, Spain’s position vis-à-vis the United States were on a friendly basis. Cárdenas replied that the position in which Spain found herself was very awkward and that her salvation depended on preserving a bargaining position.

Cárdenas stated that he had not called under instructions from his Government and that he regarded this as a personal and friendly conversation. He said he would make a telegraphic report of this conversation however, and the Under Secretary asked what precisely he would say. The Ambassador said he would mention the three points as summed up by the Under Secretary.

The attitude of Ambassador Cárdenas was emotional, and the Under Secretary felt that he was concerned for his personal position. The Under Secretary told him that he might call again when he had news from Madrid, as the Ambassador definitely was anxious to harmonize relations between the two countries.

When occasion presents itself you should emphasize to Jordana that this Government has been under no pressure from Russia or any other power and that the action taken in suspending tanker loadings originated solely in our discouragement with the Spanish Government’s dilatory treatment of our requests. You should add that we entertain no thought of provoking a change in Spain’s neutral status, and that the requests we have made and which Spain has dealt with in such a dilatory manner have no relation to the status of Spain as a neutral.

  1. For correspondence relating to concern of the United States over congratulatory telegram sent by the Spanish Government to José P. Laurel, head of the Japanese-controlled Philippine government, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. ii, pp. 722 ff.