Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs ( Thompson ) to the Secretary of State


Subject: US position on Spanish participation in the NAT and military cooperation with Spain outside the NAT.


Attached is a briefing paper on this subject, prepared for your guidance in the event this matter arises during the NAT Council meetings. Mr. Halaby1 of the Department of Defense has indicated that from [Page 1558] the purely military point of view, his Department believes that in any discussion of Spain which may occur in London, the US should be prepared to go further in proposing steps for insuring Spanish military cooperation than is provided in the attached paper. In view of the Defense Department’s interest in Spain, it is possible that Secretary Johnson may raise the question of this position paper when he meets with you on April 24.

A review of our Spanish policy is currently being prepared, having in mind such factors as the military importance of Spain, in order to devise more effective means for its implementation. Any substantial changes, such as the action desired by the Department of Defense, would, however, require the President’s approval, particularly in view of his strong feelings on the subject. Once the US position has been established and approved, we propose to undertake working-level conversations with the British and French to establish, insofar as possible, agreed objectives and methods of implementation. We believe the problem of Spain is a matter which must be worked out in close cooperation with the British and French and that it is preferable to explore it with them in this manner rather than to discuss it formally with the British and French Foreign Ministers. Raising simply the issue of military cooperation with Mr. Bevin at this time would, in our opinion, only serve to crystallize British opposition, to the detriment of a more thorough review of the Spanish problem as a whole.


If Secretary Johnson raises this question with you, it is recommended that you inform him in the above sense.2


Memorandum by the Country Specialist in the Office of Western European Affairs (Dunham)




U.S. position on Spanish participation in the NAT and military cooperation with Spain outside the NAT.


The Portuguese have frequently advocated Spanish participation in Western European defense planning and in the NAT, most recently [Page 1559] in a letter to Secretary Johnson from the Portuguese War Minister.3 Press speculation on this problem again developed during the recent NAT meetings at The Hague. In response to inquiries, U.S. officials indicated that the Chiefs of Staff of most NAT countries agree on the necessity of establishing bases in Spain but realize it is primarily a political problem. Press reports, based on this, speculated that a proposal was being considered under which the U.S. would lease and develop Spanish airfields and that the approval of the British and French Governments would be sought at the forthcoming Foreign Ministers’ conference.


The Portuguese will probably raise this subject during the NAT Council meetings. In our opinion, the problem is primarily political, not military, and as such must be dealt with in political terms. This is equally true of indirect as well as direct Spanish participation in the NAT. It is a matter that we believe must be decided in cooperation with our Western European allies. Their strategic interest in Spain is equal to ours but their political interest is greater and we feel they must have a leading voice in the decision. The U.S. and most of these governments favor the earliest practicable integration of Spain into the Western European strategic pattern, but they still consider, as we do, public acceptance of Spain in these programs to be politically impracticable at this time. As long as our joint policy is based on the positive concept of strengthening and safeguarding Western democracy, and not merely on a negative reaction to Communism, it is difficult to envisage Spain as a partner in this collective effort unless and until there is some indication of evolution toward democratic government in Spain.

Unilateral action by the U.S. to establish U.S.-Spanish military cooperation outside the framework of the NAT, as a means of circumventing Western European political objections, would be contrary to our established policy toward Spain and, in addition, would be inconsistent with and prejudicial to U.S. commitments under the NAT and our other joint projects with Western Europe. Until the Western Europeans are prepared to accept some Spanish participation in defense plans for Western Europe, such action would also arouse existing fears, particularly in France, that we intend to establish the real line of defense on the Pyrenees, an impression which could have serious consequences for our national interests.


The U.S. should not press for direct or indirect Spanish participation in the NAT, until the other members are prepared to support [Page 1560] such action, and in particular, should not advocate measures contemplating bilateral military cooperation with Spain outside the NAT.4

  1. Najeeb Halaby, Director of the Office of Foreign Military Affairs.
  2. No record of Secretary Acheson’s conversation with Secretary Johnson has been found in Department of State files.
  3. Not found in Department of State files.
  4. Dunham’s memorandum was incorporated in the series of papers prepared for the Foreign Ministers meetings in London, May 11–13, given the series indicator FM D B–7/1, and dated April 24. An earlier draft in this series, FM D B–7, dated April 12, not printed, dealt with the Spanish question at the United Nations. For copies of this earner draft, see the CFM Files: Dot M–88: Box 149, May FM Meeting B Series. Lot M–88 is a consolidated master collection of the records of conferences of Heads of State and Foreign Ministers meetings for the years 1943–1955 prepared by the Department of State Records Service Center.