611.52/3–1252: Despatch

No. 845
The First Secretary of Embassy in Spain (Anderson) to the Department of State1

No. 933
  • 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.

For the Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.:
Daniel V. Anderson



Memorandum of Conversation7


  • Excmo. Sr. D. Alberto Martin Artajo, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • Mr. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs;
  • Mr. John Wesley Jones, Chargé d’Affaires, a. i.;
  • Excmo. Sr. D. Pedro de Prat y Soutzo, Marqués de Prat, Director of the American Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Perkins made a courtesy call on the Spanish Foreign Minister at 7:30 last evening. Mr. Jones accompanied him to the Foreign Ministry and was present during the interview. The Marqués de Prat acted as interpreter.
The Minister opened the conversation by stating that he was at Mr. Perkins’ disposition for any questions the latter might have on Spain or Spanish policy, particularly with respect to the defense of Europe. Mr. Perkins replied that he had not come to Spain with any mission or with any message; that he had wanted to call on the Foreign Minister to pay his respects and to have the pleasure of meeting and of knowing him. The Minister said that nevertheless if Mr. Perkins would permit, he would like to outline briefly for him the Spanish position. Mr. Perkins replied that this would be very helpful and that he would of course be interested in whatever the Minister would have to say.
The Minister’s summation was more or less as follows:

Spain is an anti-communist country; the temper of the Spanish people is anti-communist. A war has been fought on this question within Spain and the anti-communist forces were victorious. There can hence be no question as to where Spain stands in the present international struggle. Spain will not shirk her duty in the anti-communist struggle since the present situation is entirely too grave to be concerned with other less important considerations. Spain has a strategic position at the mouth of the Mediterranean which is [Page 1822] just as important to the defense of Europe as Greece and Turkey at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea Spanish soldiers are brave, hardy and dependable but they lack equipment. When Admiral Sherman was in Madrid last summer, the Caudillo had readily given an affirmative reply to send (1) a military survey team; and (2) subsequently a negotiating team to develop certain military facilities in Spain for the defense of Europe. The Generalissimo had, however, pointed out the need for economic assistance to and strengthening of Spain in connection with any responsibilities of a belligerent nature which she might have to assume. There were two things that Spain needed to contribute effectively to Europe’s defense: (a) a strengthening of the Spanish economic position to permit Spain to support a prospective war-time economy; (b) arms and ammunition for her fighting army. Both American survey teams, military and economic, had received the greatest cooperation and help from Spanish officials and they had gone away with very complete information on Spain in both fields. While Spaniards had never asked to join NATO nor did they have any desire to join it now, they did feel that they could make an effective contribution to the defense of Europe by direct agreement with the U.S.A. Recently, however, Spanish public opinion toward the U.S. had changed and there had been evidence of a growing lack of confidence in us and in our policy. The reasons, he thought, for this were: (a) the resignation of Ambassador Griffis before his job was completed; (b) the inexplicable delays in undertaking negotiations for military and economic agreements; and (c) recent offensive statements out of Washington by highly placed personalities.

The Minister added that he was an optimist; that he had based his foreign policy on rapprochement and close relations with the U.S.A., that he had “played the American card”, that in these last few weeks he had been constantly on the defensive before critics of his policy which he referred to as “public opinion” but which undoubtedly meant elements within the Spanish Government opposed to close relations with the U.S.A.
Mr. Perkins asked if he could comment on one or two of the points in the Minister’s review. The Assistant Secretary said that Ambassador Griffis had resigned purely for personal reasons, ill health and private business interests which were incompatible with his continuing to hold public office. The Minister admitted that he knew this to be the fact but said that it was difficult to make the public believe it. Mr. Perkins reminded the Foreign Minister that this would be an unusual year in the U.S., that it was an election year and that local political problems would loom large and sometimes be overwhelming in relation to foreign policy problems. He said that because of the rearmament program in Britain and France, those two countries were in desperate economic straits and we were seeking ways and means to help them economically again this year. He referred to the costly war in French Indo-China and [Page 1823] the need for greater American help there. He explained the original fear of the NATO countries, when an integrated European army was first discussed, that the British would abandon Europe and withdraw to the British Isles to defend themselves and that U.S. forces would withdraw behind the Pyrenees. The NATO countries now have greater confidence in themselves and their organization but are still concerned that any priority interest in Spain would mean a denial of the real meaning of NATO to defend Europe at the point of attack rather than to liberate it subsequently.
The Minister said that Spain was in no great hurry for great quantities of arms and armaments; that the most urgent needs were (1) economic assistance which could be granted in fields that would assist both military plans and civilian economy, such as railroads, highways, airports, and (2) a limited amount of training equipment for the Spanish Army. The Minister asked if the new teams that were being formed in the U.S. to come to Spain with Ambassador MacVeagh would have definite instructions to negotiate or if their terms of reference were such that they would have to waste time in further investigation and study. Mr. Perkins replied that he believed both to be the case; that the negotiating teams would have specific instructions to negotiate and that those were presently being drawn up in Washington but that there might be various alternative considerations which would require further on-the-spot study. He said that he was unable to predict how soon agreement would be reached in Washington on the various terms of reference and that in any event, he did not wish to make any statement which might prejudice Ambassador MacVeagh’s forthcoming mission; that we would have to wait and see what instructions Mr. MacVeagh brought with him when he arrived in the latter part of March.
The forty-minute interview ended in the usual exchange of pleasantries and best wishes.
  1. A copy of this message was sent to Lisbon.
  2. 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)
  3. Perkins visited Madrid on Feb. 27 and 28 following the Ninth Session of the North Atlantic Council in Lisbon, Feb. 21–26.
  4. Griffis’ resignation was accepted by President Truman on Jan. 21; the Ambassador relinquished charge of the Embassy on Jan. 28.
  5. See Document 839.
  6. 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)
  7. Presumably drafted by Jones.