The First Secretary of Embassy in Spain
(Anderson) to the Department of
- Ref: Embtel 934, March 4, 19522
- Subject: Brief Comments on Spanish Foreign Minister’s Interview With Assistant Secretary Perkins
Although copies of the memorandum of conversation describing the courtesy call of February 28 which Mr. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs,3 paid on Spanish Foreign Minister Alberto Martin Artajo have already been forwarded to the Department and to our Embassy in Lisbon, there are several aspects of that conversation which are perhaps worthy of brief comment. For ready reference a copy of the memorandum is enclosed with the paragraphs therein numbered.
As a general comment, Artajo’s summation of Spain’s position at the present juncture, with particular reference to her relations with us (paragraph 3), was masterfully done and clearly showed his grasp and logical exposition of a complicated subject. The following additional points, it is believed, are worthy of note:
Lack of Desire to Join NATO
Artajo’s statement that Spaniards have no desire to join NATO now is believed to reflect accurately the Government’s attitude, which has perhaps not been well understood outside of Spain. While there has been a tendency to attribute this attitude to a “sour grapes” position—like that of a man who knows in advance that he will be blackballed by an exclusive club—we believe the Spanish Government sincerely lacks any desire to become involved in NATO. If a member, Spain would undoubtedly have to play second fiddle to such a despised power as France, a role for which she has no stomach. In contrast, Portugal has long and ardently desired Spain’s NATO membership to fill the strategic vacuum between herself and the Pyrenees. We suspect that the Spanish have learned from their Portuguese friends about the complications and headaches involved in NATO membership.[Page 1820]
Change in Public Opinion Toward the United States
It is believed that what Artajo described as a recent change in Spanish “public opinion” toward the United States and “evidence of a growing lack of confidence in us and in our policy”, reflects the feelings of elements within the Spanish Government rather than of public opinion. Artajo quite correctly mentions the consternation caused by the resignation of Ambassador Griffis,4 to whom the regime undoubtedly looked for the rapid and generous implementation of our new policy. The regime, more than the masses, has been dismayed by the delays in undertaking negotiations and by the “offensive statements out of Washington”—obviously a reference to President Truman’s remark of February 7.5
Artajo Playing “The American Card”
The Minister referred to his having “played the American card” and to having been constantly on the defensive before critics of his policy. To us this smacks of some rather stiff criticism in the inner circle of the Government, probably within the Cabinet itself. That Artajo has, in fact, tried to play down the Truman incident, is reflected by statements made during his press conference in London (See Embdes 854, February 216).
Difficulty of Explaining Ambassador Griffis’ Resignation
We believe the Minister was correct in saying that it was difficult to make the people believe Ambassador Griffis had resigned for purely personal reasons (paragraph 5). Although some key officials in the Government undoubtedly knew in advance of the Ambassador’s plan, the resignation came as a shock and surprise to many Spaniards, who believed that a serious hitch had developed in the United States plans for negotiating with the Franco regime and that the Ambassador was being removed by the United States Government for a definite purpose.
Artajo’s Version of Spain’s Urgent Needs
The Minister’s rather modest presentation of Spain’s urgent needs (paragraph 6) was the most interesting aspect of the interview. In view of the exaggerations fostered by the press in both countries during past months, it was heartening to learn of the sweet reasonableness of his statement, which we hope reflects the [Page 1821] Government’s thinking at the present time and which, fortunately, appears to coincide very closely with our own.
- A copy of this message was sent to Lisbon.↩
- Telegram 934 reported that the memorandum of conversation between Perkins and Martín Artajo had been sent by pouch on Mar. 3. (110.15 PE/3–452)↩
- Perkins visited Madrid on Feb. 27 and 28 following the Ninth Session of the North Atlantic Council in Lisbon, Feb. 21–26.↩
- Griffis’ resignation was accepted by President Truman on Jan. 21; the Ambassador relinquished charge of the Embassy on Jan. 28.↩
- See Document 839.↩
- Despatch 854 reported that Martín Artajo, in London for the funeral of King George VI, had described the Truman remark (see ibid.) as having been “overplayed.” (752.00(W)/2–2152)↩
- Presumably drafted by Jones.↩