852.00/5–147: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

top secret
us urgent

2110. For the Ambassador. Feeling that the British had perhaps drawn wrong impression on nature of our proposed approach on Spanish question (urtel 2547 May 1 and previous) we thought it might be useful to go over whole background with Brit Emb here and accordingly did so May 13.

Brit Emb quoted from FonOff telegram to Bevin in Moscow to effect that FonOff did not agree with our basic premise that longer situation continued more likely was solution to be violent and detrimental to our and Spanish interests. FonOff said to Bevin that any alternative non-communist regime would continue to be attacked by USSR and implied that little would be gained from this point of view by disappearance of Franco.

We said that continuance of Franco means that US and UK cannot give Spain political and economic support which in our opinion is essential to creation healthy political conditions there. We agreed that there had been a temporary alleviation of food and power shortages thus reducing economic pressure for a change. We said we were nevertheless convinced that Franco’s system, both politically and economically, offers no prospect whatever of long range stability. We believed [Page 1079] that political and economic conditions will get steadily worse and final result will be resort to violence by extremist elements both sides, which could have serious consequences for both US and UK.

We said that FonOff apparently thought our approach necessarily involved threats and actual execution of joint US and UK economic sanctions and that this was not what we had in mind. We agreed with British that such action would be contrary to UN Charter and would have grave consequences to UK economy specifically and to overall political and strategic situation in Atlantic. Our approach envisaged more of an objective explanation of our views to Franco, the Generals, the opposition and all interested Spaniards, urging necessity of change. In other words we would show Spaniards the gains accruing from a change in regime rather than emphasize the penalties of failure to make the change. We said our approach would of course include emphasis on fact that nature and timing of changes was entirely up to Spaniards and would avoid giving grounds for Spanish resentment against “foreign intervention”.

We said we would in our approach to Spaniards call attention to trend in UN and increasing demands for further action such as economic sanctions with implication that despite any disagreement by us on desirability such measures we might be forced to follow recommendations of UN. We felt that such a line of action would not preclude our opposing economic sanctions in UN if these should, as we thought likely, be proposed later this year. In this connection we pointed out evidences of interest on the part of other states in reviving Franco issue in UN at an early date.

We mentioned that we did not know how far British had gone in talking to French although we had had reports from Paris that fairly extensive conversations had been conducted. For your confidential information this information was contained in a CIG report from Paris which we asked CIG to have repeated to you and it is contrary to indication contained in urtel 2473 of Apr 29.1 We said that we would of course want at later stage to tell French of our joint position but for obvious reasons believed it better not to associate them in any approach in Spain.

Under circumstances we have outlined in this exchange of messages, we feel that subject has not yet been sufficiently explored and hope that British will agree on value of common positive approach in near future. We would of course consider any alternative proposals they may make. A recent INS press despatch from Paris to effect that US and UK were discussing joint economic sanctions against Spain emphasizes [Page 1080] our request that no publicity be given to our discussions at this stage.

Brit Emb here is reporting conversation to FonOff and we suggest you take early opportunity to develop foregoing with them.

  1. Not printed; it stated that it appeared clear that the official in the British Foreign Office concerned with Spanish affairs “had no knowledge of any approach by British to French concerning solution to Franco problem before UN meeting in autumn”. (852.00/4–2947)