The Ambassador in Spain (Armour) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 2—3:43 p.m.]
913. There is increasing evidence that the Spanish Government is greatly concerned over the situation that will confront Spain on the German surrender and in particular that the Soviet Government may shortly thereafter seek to induce the American and British Governments to bring pressure to bear on it in one form or another. From questions put to me recently by various high Spanish officials it is clear that the Spanish Government would like to secure assurances from us in advance that if such changes in the government structure now contemplated are put into effect Spain may be able to count on the American Government at any rate to pursue its own independent policy vis-à-vis Spain. They profess to believe that the steps this Government is planning to take in its evolution will at least temporarily weaken the central authority and be seized upon by the opposition elements in the country, already encouraged by dissident Spanish groups across the border in France, to attempt a test of strength. If at this juncture, they say, we and the British were to accede to Soviet pressure and take a position openly opposed to the present Spanish Government the consequences might well be another civil war.
This was the line of reasoning the War Minister General Asensio used with me in a recent talk I had with him and Lequerica. He stated that he felt sure that the Russians in their plan to dominate Europe would attempt to make use of the not inconsiderable elements in Spain favorable to them in order to bring about a violent upheaval. He then asked me what I thought would be our Government’s position and that of the British in the event that the Russians either at San Francisco16 or later should insist upon a break in relations by [Page 677]our Government with Spain. I told him that I could not answer a hypothetical question of this sort. So far as I knew political questions of any such nature were not on the agenda of the San Francisco Conference. I must frankly inform him, however, that Russia was not alone in its feeling about the character of the present regime in Spain and, while it was not our policy to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and while the reorganization of the government structure was a matter for Spain and the Spanish people, he must understand that until they had taken steps to effect these changes and make it abundantly clear that a real evolution was under way they could expect little sympathy or support from us or, I believed, from any of the democratic nations.
Our position as it had been clearly set forth to the Foreign Minister and to General Franco himself was that while we maintained formal diplomatic relations with the Spanish Government, these relations would have to remain on a purely formal basis so long as the present structure with the Falange constituting a government within a government remained unchanged. On the other hand, the United States Government, of course, had no wish to see a renewal of civil war in Spain. I suggested that instead of speculating on what would be our Government’s position in the event certain steps were taken it would be better for Spain to proceed to take requisite steps without further delay. I pointed out that valuable time had already been lost and they now found themselves on the eve of Germany’s collapse with virtually nothing to point to in changes effected to bring their regime into line with new conditions in the world.
General Asensio said that he did not question the high desirability or necessity of evolutionary change in the character of the Spanish regime; on the other hand, it must be recognized by us that it was not easy to take such steps and at the same time avoid civil strife in a country whose people were by nature violent and who had but a few years ago engaged in the bloodiest of civil wars. He said the problem in his mind which he wanted to make clear was that if in undertaking the necessarily painful steps of discard and change in the character of the regime whereby at least temporarily the executive power of the government was weakened at a critical and dramatic moment in European affairs and if at the same time the Soviet Government pressed for action on the part of the United States in pursuance and furtherance of the Soviet policy of European domination, the United States Government must not regard Spain as a minor issue, such as that of the presidency of the San Francisco Conference, but as an issue as important as Spain’s key strategic geographical position justified and, therefore, should be prepared to resist extreme Soviet demands as in the case of Poland.[Page 678]
In order to exploit to the full Spanish preoccupation and fears, I have merely met this query by pointing out its hypothetical nature and emphasizing our firm desire that rapid evolution and not civil strife take place in Spain. I shall continue to press for beneficial and peaceful change in the character of the regime, towards which some beginning has been made. In the meantime, I should appreciate any information which may have reached the Department arising out of formal or informal conversations at the San Francisco Conference relating to the above.