The Chargé in Spain ( Culbertson ) to the Secretary of State


No. 519

Sir: I have the honor to submit a few observations on United States policy toward Spain.

It is my understanding that as of October 5 no further items may be placed on the UNGA agenda for consideration by that body during the current meeting. If my understanding is correct and if we continue to adhere to the United Nations Resolution on Spain of 1946, a year and probably more must elapse before any effective steps could be taken looking to the integration of Spain into the Western community of nations unless of course Franco and the present régime, against which the Resolution of 1946 is directed, were to be eliminated or replaced. There is no present serious possibility of this latter event coming to pass, nor do I see the early possibility of a liberal evolution of the Spanish Régime which would in adequate measure meet the views of the socialist governments of Western Europe in such manner as to make Franco acceptable to them.

There is, however in Spain today more uneasiness with regard to and criticism of the existing Régime than there has been in the past two years or more. Furthermore, there is better and broader organization of the internal opposition forces than has existed heretofore. This latter heads up in the Comite Interior de Coordination, activities of which have already been reported on by the Embassy but, I admit, in a rather spotty way. Enclosed with this present despatch is a memorandum1 [Page 760] prepared by a … source which gives a sort of round-up of what we know about the Comite. Also enclosed is a memorandum1 on Monarchy organization which was prepared some time ago by a well placed Monarchist. A further enclosure1 is a copy, in translation, of a letter recently received from the President of the Alianza National de Fuerzas Democráticas. This gentleman, who has over recent years gone by numerous aliases, has been the subject of several despatches in the past.

The importance of the Comite Interior de Coordination should not be overly minimized, nor exaggerated. Its main importance, of course, lies in the fact that it is internal in character and the exiled opposition, except for the connection with Don Juan, has ceased to have any importance—if it really ever had any. It has long been recognized that change or adjustment in Spain would have to come from forces within Spain.

The elements which make up the Comite have only one real interest in common and that is the removal of Franco, and they want that to come about in a peaceful, non-violent fashion. They hope that the economic situation will reach such a serious pass that Franco, as a patriot, will step down of his own volition. They seem to take it for granted that the removal of Franco would be immediately followed by a large measure of economic aid, particularly from the United States, and thus the political and economic wellbeing of the country would be solved. To me they are a bit naive. The new five peseta coins that have just come out carry the face of Franco and the inscription “Francisco Franco Caudillo of Spain by The Grace of God”. If Franco, who is a very devout Catholic, considers that he is the leader of Spain by the grace of God, he is not going to step out of power because the economic situation gets a bit tough for him, especially when the harvest proved much better than expected. And, even if the opposition elements could muster physical force, there would be a very decided difference of opinion among the opposition as to whether such force should be used. Monarchists and rightist elements are not going to risk their fortunes and the welfare of their families to the uncertain outcome of civil violence. In the absence of united Army opposition to Franco and Army support of the C.I.C., I find it difficult to see wherein present opposition elements as now organized can bring about Franco’s downfall.

In the Embassy’s despatch No. 456 of September 1,2 attention was drawn to the effect of Naval visits, Congressional Committee visits [Page 761] and the like as having a deterring effect on the evolution of the present Spanish Régime in the direction of liberalization. The division of opinion in the United States with regard to Spain continues to be more pronounced and, since Franco listens to what he wants to hear and closes his ears to all other, it is not unnatural for him to think things are coming his way without any effort on his part. And, of course, it must be borne in mind that neither he nor his Régime consider that they have ever done anything to warrant the existing world enmity toward Spain. And now comes announcement that the Soviets have discovered the secret of atomic explosion.3 Along with that comes Senator Taft’s reported declaration that we must adjust our relations with Spain because of that discovery. The Régime and many Spaniards not in sympathy with the Régime have long held a rather smug, complacent attitude that Spain is of such strategic importance to us in the event of conflict with Russia that we will eventually be obliged to come to Spain on Spain’s terms. There is nothing that I can see in the present situation which will tend to induce Franco to mend his régime in such fashion as to improve its chances of acceptance by the Western Powers in the light of the present policies of those powers. Our official encouragement to liberalize and change is completely neutralized by the attitude and statements of such people as Senator Taft and Senator McCarran.

If, as I see it, a change of régime or appreciable modification of the present one are not foreseeable in the early future I wonder whether consideration should not appropriately be given to policy modification on our part. The United Nations Resolution of 1946 has gained us nothing, yet its existence (and adherence to it) rather stymies policy modification. Our efforts to encourage Franco to bring his régime into line with Western thought without showing him the concrete benefits of such action on his part have also failed. I think they will continue to fail so long as Franco continues to be the world’s most favorite whipping dog.

I do not profess to be able to judge or estimate the importance of Spain economically, politically and militarily to the Western community of nations. It certainly has some, and I think it is enough to make us question whether it is in our interest to let Spain simmer along for another year or more, during which a lot could develop in present world strained relations, without our taking stock of our own policy and the influence which France and England have on that policy.

I think we have two courses of action open to us. One, get hardboiled and cut our relations to a minimum (which France and England will [Page 762] not do) or come forward with material encouragement (which France and England will do in their own economic interest) but tie strings to it.

Respectfully yours,

Paul T. Culbertson
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed; in it Culbertson expressed his regret about the forthcoming visit of a United States naval squadron and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee since the Spanish would “read into them real political significance”. Such trips in his estimation retarded “any consideration which Franco may have been giving to modification or change in his Regime.” (811.3300/9–149)
  5. Documentation relating to the Soviet atomic explosion in August 1949 is scheduled for publication in volume i.