Memorandum of Conversation by the
Counselor of Embassy in Spain
- Excmo. Sr. D. Manuel Arburua de La Miyar, Minister of Commerce;
- John Wesley Jones, Counselor of Embassy
I had a long conversation with the Minister of Commerce last night after dinner at the French Embassy, principally about our military and economic negotiations. In response to the Minister’s question, I said that I thought the negotiations in both fields were proceeding normally and thus far, without hitch. He said he understood that economic assistance depended upon the successful conclusion of the base agreement, to which I replied that the two agreements were interdependent. He then said some way must be found to give the Spanish military what they needed in the way of equipment. He said that he had not talked to General Franco yet about the negotiations but that he had talked to General Vigon, and while he could not speak officially, his personal view was that it was essential for us to make some concessions to the Spanish military’s urgent need of equipment. He did not go into detail and reiterated on several occasions that he was speaking from personal impressions which he had acquired from his several conversations with General Vigon and other Spanish Army officers. During the course of the conversation, however, he did mention anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and equipment for “no more” than 20 divisions.
I attempted to review our basic policy of the defense of Western Europe as a whole as reflected in NATO of which we were the architects and to which we were fully committed. I said it followed naturally that we should put our primary effort into the strengthening, militarily, of those countries which were on the eastern periphery of free Europe and which would constitute the first line of defense in the event of war; that there was just not enough armament being produced to extend on the same scale to those countries which were, fortunately, more removed from the zone of possible immediate activity. I also tried to point out that it was not just a question of money for military end items but rather one of production and availability this year and next.
Arburua presented all the usual arguments in support of the Spanish military: that the French and Italians had no will to fight; that those countries had great communist minorities which presented a constant danger to us in terms of dependable allies; that the Spaniards had a fighting and reliable army which would prove itself a worthy ally against the Russians if armed; and that it would be impossible for us to reconquer Europe unless we could keep Spain as a foothold on the Continent. He continued that there was a psychological factor involved in equipping the Spanish Army; that Spaniards would not feel happy about fortifying air and naval bases in rear areas such as Cadiz if Barcelona and the eastern frontier [Page 1852] along the Pyrenees were left indefensible; that the Spanish Army required some assurances of effectiveness if they were to cooperate wholeheartedly with us and that they could not be expected to march without weapons.
I was impressed that the Minister of Commerce should make such a strong plea in behalf of the military. He did not dwell on the economic negotiations nor indicate that there was anything inadequate in the economic aid which has been proposed. Rather, his insistent theme was that a base agreement would not be enough to satisfy the Spanish armed forces and that we must consider giving them some equipment to maintain their morale and self-respect as a fighting force.