The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations ( Connolly )

My Dear Senator Connally: In response to your letter of January 162 and following my consultation with the Foreign Relations Committee I am pleased to send you a more detailed statement on United States policy toward Spain, particularly as it affects the problem of sending an Ambassador to Spain. I am sending a similar letter to Senator Vandenberg, Judge Kee and Dr. Eaton.3

The Spanish question has been magnified by controversy to a position among our present day foreign policy problems which is disproportionate to its intrinsic importance. Organized propaganda and pressures have kept this controversy alive both here and abroad and have served to stimulate more emotional feeling than rational thinking. Thus far, we have succeeded in dealing with this question on a broad bi-partisan basis through our distinguished delegations to the United Nations. A clarification of some of the issues might help now to put this question in its proper framework in relation to the broader aspects of our policy.

Since the end of the war there have been a number of international actions with respect to Spain. It was agreed at the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945 and at the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations that same year that Spain could not be a member of the United Nations as long as the present Government remains in power. This position was endorsed by the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in London in February 1946.

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In April 1946, the Security Council discussed fully relations with the Spanish Government, and again in December the matter was debated by the General Assembly at even greater length. The Resolution which finally passed the General Assembly recommended that the Franco Government be barred from membership in specialized agencies of the UN and that all members of the United Nations immediately recall from Madrid their Ambassadors and Ministers Plenipotentiary accredited there.4

This matter was discussed again by the General Assembly in November 1947. In the voting on various resolutions the two-thirds rule resulted in the refusal to reaffirm the 1946 Resolution. However, the Resolution was not repealed.5

In May 1949, the General Assembly undertook a further discussion of the Spanish question, but no change was made in the Resolution.6

The United States has opposed moves in the United Nations to bring about a break in diplomatic relations with or to impose economic sanctions against Spain. This position is based on the Security Council view that the existence of the Franco Regime in Spain is not a threat to peace, and on our view that such outside pressures would either unite the Spanish people against the development of democratic freedoms or would precipitate the Spanish people themselves toward civil war with unknown but inevitably costly consequences.

Entirely aside from its views concerning the present regime in Spain, the United States has long questioned the wisdom and efficacy of the actions recommended in the 1946 Resolution. At the time that Resolution was debated, the United States Delegation, because of its reservations on the sections dealing with Chiefs of Mission and with Security Council action abstained in the vote in the Political Committee. It voted for the Resolution in the plenary session of the General Assembly “in the interests of harmony and of obtaining the closest possible approach to unanimity in the General Assembly on the Spanish problem.”

Experience since that time has served to confirm our doubts about these recommendations. They were intended as a gesture of disapproval and an attempt to bring about a change in the Spanish Government. In retrospect it is now clear, however, that this action has not only failed in its intended purpose but has served to strengthen the position of the present regime. This action of the United Nations [Page 1551] and discussions of the Spanish question in subsequent sessions of the General Assembly have all been represented in Spain as foreign interference in Spanish internal affairs. The Spanish reaction has been no different from that to be expected from any proud people.

Although some members of the United Nations no longer observe the recommendation with respect to Chiefs of Mission and have returned Ambassadors or Ministers to Madrid, the recommendation has not been amended or repealed by the General Assembly. Since the support and strengthening of the United Nations is a fundamental principle of our foreign policy, and since we attach importance as a matter of policy to compliance with United Nations recommendations, Ave are continuing to adhere to the 1946 Resolution so long as it remains in effect.

The question arises, therefore, whether the Resolution itself should be changed. Political considerations which have created general reluctance to accept Spain as a partner in the close cooperation among the Western European nations also apply to this situation. This is a problem which requires consideration by many nations and is not a matter which can be solved by the United States alone.

This is not a problem of recognition, as it has frequently been portrayed. The 1946 Resolution on Spain does not call for a break in diplomatic relations with Spain. The United States formally recognized the present Spanish Government on April 1, 1939, and we have had continuous diplomatic relations ever since. Three American Ambassadors had been accredited to that Government before the 1946 Resolution was passed. When the Resolution came into force, the United States abided by the recommendation that Ambassadors be withdrawn by refraining from appointing another Ambassador to fill a vacancy which existed at that time.

In our view, the withdrawal of Ambassadors from Spain as a means of political pressure was a mistaken departure from established principle. It is traditional practice, once a state has been formally recognized, to exchange Ambassadors or Ministers and is usually without political significance. At the Ninth International Conference of American States in Bogotá, this principal was incorporated in Resolution 35 which states in part that “the establishment or maintenance of diplomatic relations with a government does not imply any judgment upon the domestic policy of that government.”7 However, the withdrawal of Ambassadors from Spain disregarded this principle. By attaching moral significance to the refusal to maintain full diplomatic [Page 1552] relations with Spain, this action has also implied moral significance to the maintenance of full diplomatic relations through the return of Ambassadors. This situation inevitably led to confusion in public opinion both here and abroad. On the one hand, the question of returning Ambassadors to Spain has tended to become identified with the larger issue of whether it is desirable to have closer relations with the present Spanish Government. On the other hand, public bewilderment has been increased over the inconsistency of accrediting Ambassadors to such countries as those in Eastern Europe whose regimes we do not condone while, at the same time, refusing to appoint an Ambassador to Spain.

At the General Assembly last spring a majority of the members who voted on the Latin American resolution relating to Spain expressed a wish to revise the 1946 Resolution in such a way as to permit members to exercise freedom of action in determining whether to return Ambassadors or Ministers to Madrid. It is the opinion of this Government that the anomalous situation with respect to Spain should be resolved. The United States is therefore prepared to vote for a resolution in the General Assembly which will leave members free to send an Ambassador or Minister to Spain if they choose. We would do this for the reasons I have already stated and in the hope that this aspect of the Spanish issue would no longer be available to be used by hostile propaganda to create unnecessary divisions within the United Nations and among our own people. Our vote would in no sense signify approval of the regime in Spain. It would merely indicate our desire, in the interests of orderly international intercourse, to return to normal practice in exchanging diplomatic representation.

We have stated on a number of occasions that we would favor the amendment of the 1946 Resolution of the General Assembly to permit specialized agencies to admit Spain to membership if, in the opinion of the specialized agencies, Spanish membership would contribute to the effective work of these organizations. We believe that membership in these agencies should be determined, to the extent practicable, on the technical and non-political basis. It has already been discovered on a number of occasions that the work of these specialized organizations has been impaired through the inability of Spain to accept the obligations and restraints, as well as the privileges of their activities.

These conclusions by the United States Government do not imply any change in the basic attitude of this Government toward Spain.

The policy of the United States toward Spain is based on the recognition of certain essential facts. First, there is no sign of an alternative to the present Government.

Second, the internal position of the present regime is strong and enjoys the support of many who, although they might prefer another [Page 1553] form of government or chief of state, fear that chaos and civil strife would follow a move to overthrow the Government.

Third, Spain is a part of Western Europe which should not be permanently isolated from normal relations with that area. There are, however, certain obstacles to the achievement of this. Spain, for reasons associated with the nature, origin and history of the present Spanish Government, is still unacceptable to many of the Western European nations as an associate in such cooperative projects as the European Recovery Program and the Council of Europe. We believe that this is a matter in which the Western European nations must have a leading voice. These programs, which require for their success the closest possible cooperation between the participants, are directed to the strengthening and development of the democratic way of life as opposed to the threats to it posed by Communist expansion. This is a policy which we and the Western European nations have agreed upon. It is not merely a negative reaction to Communism. It is, rather, a positive program to support and strengthen democratic freedoms, politically, economically and militarily. In that context the participation of the present Spanish Government, unless and until there has been some indication of evolution toward more democratic government in Spain, would weaken rather than strengthen the collective effort to safeguard and strengthen democracy.

We are therefore continuing our efforts in a frank and friendly manner to persuade the Spanish Government that its own interest in participating in the international community, and particularly in the Western European community, requires steps toward democratic government which offers the best hope for the growth of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in Spain. It requires cooperation on the part of all parties and, as must be evident, it is not fundamentally a matter which can be successfully brought about by American action. The decision as to what steps can and should be taken is obviously one for Spaniards alone. At the same time, it is difficult to envisage Spain as a full member of the free Western community without substantial advances in such directions as increased civil liberties and as religious freedom and the freedom to exercise the elementary rights of organized labor. It is significant that one of the first acts of the new International Confederation of Free Trade Unions was to pass a resolution condemning the present government of Spain, and opposing any assistance to Spain “until such time as democratic and full trade union rights have been restored and the workers are once more able to make their contribution to the country’s recovery.”8

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United States economic policy toward Spain is directed to the development of mutually beneficial economic relations. This policy is based on purely economic, as distinct from political, grounds. We believe that private business and banking arrangements and trade activities with Spain should be conducted on a free and normal basis. The Department interposes no political objections and restrictions on such activities.

So far as economic assistance from this Government is concerned, Spain is free to apply to and consult with the Export-Import Bank for credits for specific projects on the same basis as any other country. While the United States Government definitely does not favor the extension of a general balance of payments loan to the Spanish Government to use as it sees fit, it is quite prepared to acquiesce in the extension of credits to Spain covering specific and economically justifiable projects. It has been made clear to all Spaniards, both private and official, that Spanish applications for such projects will be considered on the same basis as those from any other country and the final decision will be made, in accordance with the Bank’s regular policy, not only on the basis of the need for the credit and the suitability of the particular purpose to be served, but also on whether there is a reasonable prospect of repayment.

The successful development of mutually beneficial economic relations between the U.S. and Spain is entirely dependent upon the equal cooperation of both parties. Unfortunately, however, little progress has been made. The U.S. sincerely desires to facilitate normal business and trade with Spain but ultimate success depends on the cooperation of the Spanish Government in taking constructive steps to promote its trade and to attract foreign investment. In order to assist in the development of these activities, the negotiation of a new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation was offered by the United States. To date, the Spanish Government has indicated no interest in such arrangements. Efforts have also been made to encourage the Spanish Government to simplify its export and import controls and its foreign exchange system, which is based upon a multiplicity of rates, in order to establish an exchange rate which would permit Spanish goods to compete, particularly in the dollar market. Furthermore, efforts have been made to encourage the Spanish Government to lift the restriction of 25% on the participation of foreign investors in any Spanish enterprise and to accord better treatment to existing foreign investments, both of which are today distinct hindrances to the flow of investment to Spain. We have, in connection with these problems, pointed out to interested Spaniards and to the Spanish Government that the present critical situation in the Spanish dollar balance [Page 1555] of payments seems to derive from difficulties many of which, it is believed could be substantially rectified by action of the Spanish Government. To date, however, that Government has taken little action along these lines. In the Department’s opinion the next steps to be taken in furthering mutually beneficial economic relations between Spain and the United States are up to the Spanish Government.9

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson
  1. Not printed; it asked Secretary Acheson to keep the Foreign Relations Committee informed on any new developments with respect to Spain. (611.52/1–1650)
  2. Arthur H. Vandenberg, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee; Judge John Kee, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Charles A. Eaton, ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
  3. For documentation on the Spanish question before the United Nations in 1946, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. v. pp. 1023 ff.
  4. For documentation on the Spanish question before the United Nations in 1947, see ibid., 1947, vol. iii, pp. 1053 ff.
  5. For documentation on the Spanish question before the United Nations in 1949, see ibid., 1949, vol. iv, pp. 721 ff.
  6. For documentation on the Ninth International Conference of American States held at Bogotá, Colombia, during April 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 1 ff.
  7. Documentation on the activities of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is scheduled for publication in volume iv.
  8. The text of this letter had been cleared by the Departments of State and Defense, the National Security Council, and President Truman and was released to the press on January 19 by Senator Connally. An earlier draft of the letter, entitled “Statement by the Secretary of State on Spain,” had been left with President Truman on January 5. Except for several textual changes suggested by the President, it is the same in substance as that transmitted to Senator Connally. (711.52/1–550) Documentation reflecting the reactions to Secretary Acheson’s letter in other countries, within Spain, and among the various Spanish exile groups is in file 611.52.