Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn)
The Spanish Ambassador came in by appointment at his request this afternoon at 3:30. I had not seen him for about ten months.
The Ambassador asked whether the question of Spain would be [Page 702]raised in Moscow at the present meeting of the Foreign Ministers there.44 I said that I did not know, but that, as he may have read in the press, the matter of relations with Spain had been brought up by the French Government with the Governments of the United States and Great Britain45 He said that he had seen reports of the French approach on the subject and wished to give me some information on the background of this démarche. He said his information was that the French Government had been under tremendous pressure by some of the extremist groups in France, particularly the Communists, to consider breaking off diplomatic relations with Spain, but that although Mr. Bidault, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had taken this matter up with the British and United States Governments, Mr. Bidault had no intention of actually coming to the point of breaking off diplomatic relations with the Spanish Government. I told the Ambassador that our information with regard to the background of the French approach was entirely contrary to his statement; that, as it had come to us, the three major parties in France were all very strongly opposed to the Franco regime and had taken the position that the time had come to press for rupture of diplomatic relations with the Franco Government.
The Ambassador asked what the attitude of the United States would be with regard to this question. I said that there was a tremendous feeling of resentment in this country over the activities of Franco as disclosed in the correspondence and documentation of Hitler and the Nazi Government, and that this Government would certainly not be disposed to raise any objection to the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Franco Government provided the French and British Governments were inclined to adopt that course. I went on to say that it would be perhaps just as well if I spoke in an entirely frank and straightforward manner to the Ambassador and to tell him just what the attitude of this Government was. I said that it had been made entirely clear by public declarations of this Government at San Francisco during the United Nations Conference there, at Potsdam during the meetings of the three Heads of States there last summer, and by public statements of high officials of this Government that we did not like the Franco regime nor the policies and activities pursued by that regime and the Falange organization with which it was connected. I said there was no use in reviewing all of the various activities of the Franco regime which were inimical to the policies and attitudes of this and the other Allied Governments, as the record was plain for everyone to see in that regard.[Page 703]
The Ambassador then asked whether I thought the Government of the United States would declare a rupture of diplomatic relations with Spain. I replied that as the present official relations between the two Governments were bad, and as they were becoming increasingly worse and were not even remaining in the same state but deteriorating progressively, I saw no other outcome of such a progressive deterioration than the final rupture of diplomatic relations, and I thought it was incumbent upon us to be frank and straightforward with respect to our attitude in this regard.
The Ambassador said that he appreciated this frankness and regretted only that we seemed to be forcing this action in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of finding some solution to the problem of Franco in Spain, as many Spaniards were applying themselves to some solution of the Franco problem, and it looked as if they would not have the time to work out a remedy which would avoid civil war and general devastation in that country. I asked him what prospects there were for substituting for the Franco rule a representative and democratic form of Government. He said that while he was in Spain he learned of a plan which, he had been informed, also was acceptable to Franco himself, for the turning over of the Government by Franco to a form of council which would hold a plebiscite or referendum in the country in order to determine the type of government the Spaniards wanted themselves. He said this plan was to have been put into effect sometime next March or April in conjunction with the holding of municipal and provincial elections and elections for national representation in a constituent assembly. He said it was to be regretted if the plan for putting into effect such a program of transition were to be interfered with by precipitate action on the part of the United States, Great Britain, and France. I asked the Ambassador whether any public announcement had been made of the program he spoke of, and he said that he himself had endeavored to have this program announced before Christmas but had been unable to achieve this purpose while he was in Spain; that he was still hoping that these arrangements would be made public, and that the program would proceed early next spring. I said that, in my opinion, the publication by the Spanish Government of any program which would provide for the removal of Franco and the substitution for him of a representative democratic government would be welcomed by all those who were real friends of the Spanish people.
Upon leaving, the Ambassador said that he would appreciate very much being informed of anything he could do in the situation, and particularly if he could be informed of any important move this Government decided to undertake. I said that, of course, I could not tell where the consultations on this subject might take place, and it might [Page 704]be difficult for me to assume to inform him as the matter developed in consultation with the other Governments. Señor Cárdenas, referring to the retirement of Mr. Norman Armour, the present Ambassador to Madrid,46 asked whether this Government intended to name his replacement soon. I said to the Ambassador that as far as I knew, there was no present intention of naming any replacement for Mr. Armour, and that it did not seem to me to be appropriate to name an ambassador to a country with the Government of which we were in such bad relations at present. I said further that I did not see any prospect of these relations improving as long as General Franco and his regime remained in control of the Spanish Government.