501.BC Spain/3–449

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of European Affairs ( Hickerson ) to the Assistant Secretary of State ( Rusk )1


Attached is a memorandum recommending the position which I believe we should adopt at the forthcoming General Assembly session in the event the Spanish case comes up for discussion. It is my recommendation that this position be adopted as our firm policy.

I am aware, however, of the strong protestations made to Secretary Marshall last fall in Paris by Schuman and Bevin and, therefore, am completely agreeable to having our position placed before the Western European and certain Commonwealth Governments in order to obtain their present reaction to it. A draft telegram in this sense is attached.2

Unless, however, we receive the strongest kind of criticism or objection, I feel we should pursue the policy recommended herein.3

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Suggested United States Position on Spain at April Session of United Nations General Assembly 4

The Department of State reached the conclusion in October, 1947 that the national interest required a modification of US policy toward Spain with a view to early normalization of US-Spanish relations. This decision was confirmed in January 1948 by the National Security Council and approved by the President.

In line with this policy, the US has opposed further international pressure on Spain in the UN. In the 1947 General Assembly, the US voted against reaffirmation of the 1946 GA Resolution on Spain. Prior to the 1948 GA, the US advised the Governments in Western Europe, the British Commonwealth and Latin America that it was inclined to favor modifications of the 1946 Resolution which would (1) permit the return of Ambassadors and Ministers to Madrid and (2) permit Spanish membership in the specialized agencies affiliated with the UN. In view of the many important issues between the Western democracies arid the USSR and its satellites, the US acceded to urgings of the UK and France and joined with them in an effort to forestall discussion of Spain at that time. This question was placed at the end of the agenda and was subsequently held over for the later meeting of the GA in April 1949.

It is recommended that the US, in accordance with established policy, should encourage, though not initiate, action on Spain at the next GA and should indicate to any interested governments that it still favors the amendments to the 1946 Resolution mentioned above.

Normalization of US relations with Spain has been determined to be in the national interest. The return of Ambassadors and Ministers to Madrid is the next step in the gradual normalization of US-Spanish relations. It is becoming steadily more apparent that in the interest of emphasizing US views to the Spanish Government, and in contributing to a solution of increasingly difficult economic problems between the two countries, it is important that this Government be represented in Madrid by an Ambassador. In addition, strong support for an exchange of Ambassadors has been manifested by the National Military Establishment which is anxious to develop and maintain a friendly atmosphere in Spain in the event of international conflict.
The ineffectiveness of the 1946 Resolution arid violations of it are adversely affecting the prestige of the UN. Modifications of the 1946 Resolution should be supported therefore in the interest of strengthening the UN. The US has long questioned the advisability and efficacy [Page 732] of this Resolution and experience has confirmed these doubts. The Resolution has completely failed in achieving its purpose, namely, encouraging a change in the Spanish Government and, if anything, has had a contrary effect. Although the US has continued to comply with the Resolution as a matter of principle, the Secretary of State, in a statement to the press on October 9, 1948, made it clear that the US believes that this Resolution is no longer properly applicable to the situation in Spain. This view is also held by many other members of the UN. That portion of the Resolution relating to the withdrawal of Ambassadors and Ministers has already been violated by nine members of the UN and further violations are expected if it is not soon modified. It would be far better for the UN to recognize this mistaken action now and repeal the provision not engendering respect than to allow it to expire in a lingering fashion through repeated violations, thus further weakening the prestige of the UN and its recommendations.
Periodic discussion of the Spanish question in the UN has distorted the problem out of all proportion to its importance and has prolonged its propaganda value to the Soviets. It is a highly emotional issue in a great many countries and the propaganda use which has been made of discussions of it in the UN has consequently created domestic political embarrassment to many Western European governments and has complicated US policy objectives both in the UN and in Western Europe. The opportunity is now at hand to effectively terminate recurring international discussion of Spain in the GA. Best estimates to date indicate that an amendment to permit Spanish membership in the UN’s technical agencies would receive more than the required two-thirds majority and that an amendment to permit the return of Chief’s of Mission to Madrid would probably receive a bare two-thirds majority. The latter vote would be close, however, and it would be essential that the US Delegation make known the views of the US in informal conversations with other Delegations. This is important so that the repeal will pass and we do not have the issue up again with accompanying propaganda.
It is recognized that the adoption by the US of the position recommended above will provide certain propaganda advantages to the Soviets. However, it is believed these advantages are considerably less valuable now than in past years arid are not sufficiently important to prevent adoption of the US position on Spain recommended above. Public opinion in the US concerning Spain has greatly moderated, with vocal opposition to the regime increasingly confined to Leftwing groups and increasingly vocal demand from Catholic, Republican and generally Rightwing elements for improved relations with Spain. In the Western European countries, public opinion has gradually diminished although feeling still remains relatively strong in some of those countries. At the same time, Soviet propaganda resulting from discussion of this problem will undoubtedly affect the non-Communist trade unions and labor parties in Western Europe, many of whom would view modifications in the 1946 Resolution as a first step towards Spanish participation in the ERP and the North Atlantic Pact. However, it is expected that their reaction will be short-lived and that any important or serious consequences can be avoided by a clear statement of the US position. Opinion on Spain in the non-Communist [Page 733] trade unions and labor parties has moderated in the last two years with the widening of the East-West split to a point where it is anticipated that their reaction to modifications in the 1946 Resolution will not seriously affect the Western European governments nor complicate consideration of the North Atlantic Pact or other important international problems.
There will be strong pressure for a discussion of Spain at the April GA and it is doubtful, as a practical matter, that the proponents of action could be persuaded to desist. It is axiomatic that the Soviet bloc will press for consideration of this item and the Poles who placed it on the agenda, have already indicated their intention to insist on a discussion. For their own reasons, a large majority of the other American Republics—and probably the Arab states—can also be expected to press for a discussion of Spain. It is debatable that the disadvantages mentioned above would seem sufficiently compelling to dissuade the interested Latin American nations from pursuing their intended course. Moreover, it is certain that they would oppose and resent any attempt at further postponement. In view of its own interest in Latin America it would be ill-advised for the US to undertake or to join in any effort to postpone discussion of this item at the forthcoming GA, particularly in the absence of contrary considerations of over-riding importance. In addition, if we do not meet this issue frontally, we may be confronted with oblique attacks on it such as Brazil has proposed which would be less desirable from all angles.

The recommendation has been made, in the light of the foregoing considerations that the US should vote its convictions at the April GA with respect to the 1946 Resolution on Spain. The only official statement to be made by the US Delegation on this question should be brief, and in substance, should contain the following points:

The US position is dictated by its honest conviction that the two operative portions of the Resolution have proved to be ineffective and that experience has confirmed the doubts we expressed in 1946 as to their wisdom or efficacy. The US does not believe that they are applicable to the present situation in Spain. Moreover, the provision relating to the withdrawal of Chiefs of Mission has been repeatedly violated and it would be better for the UN to repeal the provision not engendering respect than to allow it to expire in a lingering fashion through repeated violations. The provision barring Spain from membership in the UN’s technical agencies has left Spain free of many international commitments and responsibilities and in some cases handicapped the technical objectives of many of these agencies. The US Government furthermore believes that the technical agencies should be allowed to determine their own membership as a technical and not as a political matter. The US position does not indicate agreement with the policies or practices of the Spanish Government nor is it intended as a whitewashing of the criticism of Spain’s past record. We continue to believe liberal evolution within Spain is needed both in political and economic fields. We hope removal of this interference [Page 734] from outside will make it possible for Spaniards themselves to take required steps. The US position should not be misconstrued as forecasting an effort to bring Spain into the ERP or the North Atlantic Pact. These are matters for determination by agreement among the participants in each of these activities and not by the US alone.

  1. Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, during the early months of 1949 took on the duties of Deputy Under Secretary of State, a post to which he was formally designated on May 26.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Following this paragraph Hickerson wrote in by hand: “This will have to be discussed with the Secretary, of course. JDH”
  4. The source text was prepared by William B. Dunham of the Division of Western European Affairs and concurred in by the Policy Manning Staff, the Office of European Affairs, and the Office of American Republic Affairs.