No. 356

752.00/1–2551: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Bonsal) to the Secretary of State 1


4532. Department pass Ottawa. Deptel 3437. January 18 to London, repeated Paris 3791, Madrid 435.2

1. Popular and hence official attitude on Spanish question raised in reftel must be examined in terms of gradual evolution from strongly anti-Franco position of large majority non-Communist elements here. Sympathies Third Republic largely engaged on side Spanish Republic. Early relations with victorious Franco identified with Petain who was first Ambassador. Nazis, who helped put Franco in power, occupied France for four years. Franco’s frustrated yearning toward French Africa no secret there. France never until this year restored regular diplomatic relations with Spain, fiction of “delegations” being maintained. France, alone among western countries, actually suspended commercial relations with Spain for about a year during postwar period.

2. There does exist in France a slow trend toward acceptance of Spain as a necessary contributor to European defense. This trend is in general more in direction tacit acquiescence than open acknowledgement. There are however, Gaullist elements and certain Rightists who increasingly favor Spain’s accession to full membership in NATO. Recent visit to Spain of 40 French deputies would have been inconceivable 2 years ago or even a year ago. Also, with French rearmament, military sentiment favoring Spanish contribution of troops and bases is becoming increasingly influential.

3. On other hand, most of National Assembly deputies were elected in 1946 on platforms which included strong anti-Franco pronouncements. Franco issue still has electoral appeal since even latter’s friends do not venture to claim any marked evolution in regime. This is important as France is currently entering pre-electoral political atmosphere. Virtually entire industrial labor force of France, whether Communist or not regards Franco as symbol of Fascism and of forces from which France was liberated in 1944. Candidates in labor constituencies who take pro-Franco stand will strengthen Communist voter appeal.

4. As has been reported, recent government decision to send Ambassador to Madrid put severe strain on governing coalition. Only [Page 781] fact other countries doing same within framework modification but not cancellation UN resolution of 1946 condemning Franco regime made Socialists follow decision. They will not go further at this time. Nor would substantial proportion, probably majority of MRP deputies if now forced to take a position vote for formal association with Spain. Bidault, whose prestige extends well beyond his party, recently expressed privately to American Congressman his strong opposition to Spain’s inclusion in NAT. (He did however, indicate that some formula such as “co-belligerent status” might eventually become acceptable.) Large proportion of French writers, artists and intelligentsia would cast their not inconsiderable political influence against association Franco Spain.

5. On balance, however, Embassy believes trend is gradually developing toward acceptance some positive role for Spain in European defense. Raising issue at this time and particularly prior to French elections would, we believe, arrest and probably reverse this trend. Same result similar to but going further than what took place in connection with German rearmament might be expected. Practical value of Spanish contribution could after all not be considered in same class as that of Germany and therefore historic-ideological considerations would be less apt to be sacrificed to defense requirements than in case of Germany. Embassy would advise strongly against any action from outside France which would precipitate renewed debate on Spanish problem at this time.

6. Emphasis by some US elements on Spanish role in defense plans has been interpreted here as evidence French being written off and final defense barrier being created at Pyrenees. Progress of French rearmament and our own massive contribution thereto as well as creation integrated European defense force will increasingly counteract this sort of reaction to US interest in Spain, but situation must still be reckoned with.

7. In conclusion therefore we believe there are serious and perhaps controlling political and public opinion impediments here against proposals: (a) Spanish membership in NAT; (b) Spanish association with NAT on basis similar to Greece and Turkey; or (c) Spanish participation in integrated defense forces. As for possibility of bilateral military cooperation with US and Spain outside NAT, considerations set forth in immediately preceding paragraph also argue against undue speed, especially if such cooperation could result in near future in division of still limited availabilities of military supplies from other NAT powers to Spain. It would result in some press criticism, other than Communist, notably from anti-Communist Left whose support for US policy objectives is most important and least secure, but some Leftwing criticism is of course inevitable in this matter, and under Point IV disagreement should [Page 782] in any event not impair internal French unity, nor should it materially affect French attitudes toward European defense.

  1. Repeated to London, Ottawa for MacArthur, Madrid, Rome, Brussels, The Hague, and Lisbon.
  2. Not printed.