852.00/4–747: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

top secret

1531. For the Ambassador. From point of view of US and UK, it must now be clear that as long as Franco remains in power, the Spanish situation is dangerous. In substance Franco’s latest decree providing for succession does not improve situation since it seems intended merely to consolidate the regime regardless of person of Chief of State.

As long as Franco, or a successor appointed in accordance with new decree, continues in power there can be no real improvement of economic stagnation in Spain. We will continue to be blocked from providing the effective assistance which would make possible the economic reconstruction of that country and thereby build an effective barrier to civil strife and communist domination.

It further becomes increasingly clear that Moscow not only is interested in keeping Franco in power until political and economic distress in Spain reaches the point of revolution, but also derives considerable propaganda advantage from the present situation by placing the Western powers on the defensive as defenders of fascism and of reaction. Franco’s new decree is apparently motivated by a necessity for meeting a growing desire in Spain for some change, need for which is emphasized by inability of present regime to solve Spain’s economic problems.

Further, there is already evidence that movement in direction of action by UN against Spain will not be altered by new decree. It may be expected to grow and to lead to increasingly serious action. If more forceful measures against Spain are recommended or called for by the UN, US and UK might be obliged to join in such measures in spite of doubts which we might have as to their wisdom.

Our reports both from inside and outside Spain indicate increased political activity by non-communist anti-Franco groups looking toward some governmental organizational change in the country. While there are, to be sure, many fears and other factors tending to maintain the status quo (fear of communism, fear of renewed civil war, disillusionment, weariness and apathy), nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that some other form of change might be brought about.

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The attitude which the US and Grt Brt should assume has therefore become urgent and must be defined. It is clear that Franco and any regime perpetuating the principles of his control must go. Although action involves certain risks, nevertheless it appears to us that the time has come when the US and UK should agree upon a positive policy which would act as an inducement to Span elements to bring about another form of change themselves and thereby render possible extension of our assistance in creating healthy economic and political conditions in the country. Such action by the US and UK would not be contrary to but would aid in bringing about the objectives sought by the UN.

If at this particular juncture the US and Grt Brt could make this policy known in Spain this would, in our opinion, materially assist the efforts of the non-communist elements to compose their differences and to agree upon some interim regime which could maintain order and enjoy the acquiescence of the people and which would not merely continue the objectionable characteristics of the present form of government. In order to receive our support such regime should assume a public obligation to preserve freedom of speech, of press, of religion and of public assembly and to hold free elections, and should provide amnesty for political prisoners and allow the return of political exiles. A precise indication of the nature and degree of support which a regime accepting the foregoing obligations could expect from the US and UK would, we believe, go far in giving confidence to those who desire a change, particularly in the Army, but who have so far been restrained by doubts as to our intentions.

There might be two stages in our relations with any new regime of this character. The first stage concerns the interim period which must of necessity last for sufficient time to prepare for the elections, during which we would enter into more friendly political relations and eliminate without delay the unilateral economic restrictions now imposed on Span trade and commerce by the US and Grt Brt. We would expect that our action in this respect would be followed by other members of the UN.

As soon as elections had been held and a government formed in Spain with the consent of the governed, the second phase could begin and fuller measures of economic and political support could immediately be contemplated. These would include our backing for Spain’s admission to the UN and a greater degree of positive aid for economic development and industrial modernization.

We would hope that conditions during the first stage would make possible economic assistance going further than the mere elimination of existing restrictions but this would of course be influenced by the [Page 1068] character of the provisional regime and by the degree of support which it secures from the Span people. In our opinion such additional aid in the first stage would be difficult if Franco’s departure immediately led to the restoration of the Monarchy. We do not wish to impose any form of govt upon the Span people, which should of course be made clear, and would be willing to accept their choice when freely expressed. Immediate restoration of the Monarchy, although possibly gaining greater immediate allegiance and better able to maintain order, would, however, in our opinion, have too great an influence upon the results of the elections and it would be difficult for public opinion in this country and for this Govt to give it the necessary support during the interim regime. The Monarchy could only look for active economic and political aid from the US if as a result of the elections it is the clearly expressed choice of the people of Spain.

Should this policy be agreed we feel it should immediately be made known secretly to Army chiefs since Army support is essential to peaceful change, to opposition leaders and to Franco himself. We feel that the approach to Franco should be an important element in the settlement. Our resolve that we can no longer deal with him and our conviction that his proposed plan for succession is unsatisfactory should be made clear and an opportunity afforded him to depart in safety.

You are requested to seek an early opportunity to bring this matter to the attention of the FonOff and to state that, as part of our over-all security arrangements, we attach importance to the Span phase of the problem and we hope it will be possible for the Brit Govt to concert with us in achieving our common end, namely the restoration of a democratic Spain. The latest developments in Spain point to the necessity of adopting some positive policy lest events in the country itself get out of hand and we be faced with the appearance of a change which does not alter the inherent difficulties in the present situation.

We should be glad to receive UK Govt views at an early date. We are prepared to discuss this matter in detail either in London or Washington and would of course wish to avoid publicity at this stage.