No. 355

752.00/1–2451: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Secretary of State 1


4094. Conversations within past few days with member British Cabinet, Foreign Office official and Denis Healey, Secretary of International Department of Labor Party gave indication that to date possibility of association of Spain with defense of Western Europe as outlined in four points of Deptel 34372 had been given little if any official consideration. In every case care was exercised not to raise subject directly in order to avoid arousing speculation or concern re US intentions.

On general subject of relations with Spain, Healey stated Labor Party still influenced by “principle”. He indicated widespread opposition within Party to closer association with Franco regime persists. He expressed hope, if subject of Spanish contribution to Western defense were broached, that what he termed “mistakes made in connection with German rearmament” would be avoided. To that end, he said first step should be to ascertain what Spain would be willing to do. It was his opinion that there would be opposition within ranks of Labor Party which could probably be lessened by presentation of idea and would vary in degree depending on form of Spanish contribution.

Foreign Office officials in Western Department if they have given thought to subject, did not reveal that fact in conversation. They stated that in near future, they would be considering instruction to be given British Ambassador before his departure for Madrid, but as he is not expected in London until early February, thinking on this subject in tentative stage. One official expressed concern that new Ambassador would be going to Spain empty handed, worse even, because coal shipments to Spain as to other Continental countries have had to be reduced. British Embassy Washington was stated to be in touch with Department in hope that before departure of Ambassadors, there could be exchange of views on matter of instructions, etc.

Following comments on four possibilities mentioned in Deptel 3437 are Embassy’s deductions based on overall evaluation:

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1. As UK adherence to NAT was submitted to Parliament vote on inclusion of Spain might also be considered desirable. Present Labor Government with majority of only seven would be reluctant to ask House for approval (see Embdes 3324, January 173) as there is good reason to believe considerable number would vote against such a proposal. Government could expect majority only with Conservative support. This would place government in extremely awkward situation which it would undoubtedly seek to avoid.

2. Spanish association with NAT on basis similar to Greece and Turkey would probably not require vote in House but government would want to explore attitude of Labor back-benchers before committing UK in order to preclude precipitating revolt by pursuing policy unacceptable to leftwing.

3. Same observations as given in 2 above apply to Spanish participation in integrated forces.

4. Full bilateral military cooperation between US and Spain outside NAT was suggested by January 20 Economist as possibly best approach to associating Spain with defense of West. (Embdes 3409, January 213) Nevertheless die-hard opponents of Franco in Labor Party would probably regard such a move as indication that US was determined to bring Spain into western organizations whether other countries approved or not in this quarter there would undoubtedly be resentment of “unilateral US action”.

In delicately balanced political situation prevailing in UK since last election, it is the possible division among government supporters on question of associating Spain with defense of West which makes it extremely difficult to estimate how far government would attempt to go. Conservatives have long been advocating closer relations with Spain and government could probably persuade some of its own supporters to accept some carefully prepared and presented measure of association of Spain with western defense. Difficulty lies with those members of Labor Party, considerable number of whom are MP’s who believe Franco Spain is morally, politically and militarily greater liability than asset and who could not be counted on to support government. Also fact should not be overlooked that some Cabinet members themselves including Attlee and Bevin have records, dating back to civil war, of outspoken opposition to Franco which would make it difficult for them to sponsor closer association with his regime.

Special internal political situation described above has not been affected by appreciation urgency increased defense efforts and Eisenhower’s trip.4

  1. Repeated to Madrid, Paris, Rome, Brussels, The Hague, and Lisbon.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. For documentation on General Eisenhower’s January 1951 trip to Europe, see vol. iii, Part 1, pp. 392 ff.