201. Memorandum of Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 20, 19561


  • International Problems of Mutual Interest to Spain and the United States


  • The Acting Secretary
  • Senor Don Alberto Martin Artajo, Spanish Foreign Minister
  • Senor Don José M. de Areilza, Spanish Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Senor Don Pedro Cortina, Spanish Consul General at Paris
  • Mr. John Wesley Jones,WE
  • Mr. Barnes, Interpreter

The Spanish Foreign Minister called on the Acting Secretary this afternoon to discuss general problems of mutual interest to Spain and the United States. The Minister is in the United States in connection with the opening of the Eleventh General Assembly of the United Nations and made a one-day visit to Washington to confer with high officials of this Government. Senor Artajo opened his visit with an expression of best wishes for the recovery of the Secretary. He went on to congratulate Mr. Hoover on his recent speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations and expressed his complete agreement with the Acting Secretary’s comments therein on the Middle East. He recalled that four years ago he had made a tour of all of the Arab countries and had the following observations to make with respect to their position:

The Arab nations look to Spain as their best hope for support in Europe. They mistrust France and Great Britain because of their past colonial policies. There is a vacuum in the Middle East which the Soviet Union is trying to fill. (The Minister injected here the remark that he was glad to hear Mr. Hoover say in his U.N. speech that the U.S. would try to fill that vacuum.) The Arab nations are looking to the Soviet Union not because of any liking for Communism, but because of their resentment at the alleged ill-treatment they have suffered at the hands of the Western countries. Spain is trying to keep the Arab nations on the Western side, and has taken a concrete step in this regard through its generous policy toward Morocco. The Middle East is still not lost to the West.

[Page 578]

At the London Conference on the Suez Canal Spain initially adopted a somewhat different position than the majority. This was intended to maintain the confidence of the Arab nations and to prevent them from looking toward the Soviet Union, Senor Martin Artajo continued. After the mistake committed by France and Great Britain through their intervention in Egypt, Spain, while thoroughly disapproving, has held her counsel in order not to cause any greater rift in Western unity. The Minister felt that the U.S. and Spain had gone to the London Conference in good faith, to seek a solution to the Suez problem but Great Britain and France had as their primary objective the elimination of Nasser. France believed that this would solve her problems in Algeria. Great Britain had more complicated reasons. Eden was worried that the Labor Party’s opposition might be aggravated by Conservative criticism of his earlier action in withdrawing British troops from the Canal.

The Foreign Minister said that the Middle East situation breaks down into two problems: first there is an emergency problem, and secondly there is a substantive and long range one. In approving the U.N. action in bringing about a cease-fire he expressed the belief that the U.N. would solve the emergency problem. A solution for the long range problem of the Canal could be the one proposed by Spain in London: namely, participation of the Users of the Canal with Egypt in its operation. The Foreign Minister did not believe that it was too late to have negotiations between Egypt and the Users based on a proposal similar to the Spanish one. These negotiations could be held either in or outside the U.N.

Senor Martin Artajo turned to Western Europe and to NATO. He expressed the view that the recent action of the British and French had not only damaged their relations with the United States but had also damaged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Although Spain was outside NATO, its contribution to the defense of Western Europe was provided for under its agreements with Portugal and with the United States. Now there seemed to be less reason than ever to keep Spain out of NATO, given the independent and damaging course recently followed by the British and French in the Middle East. Should the United States feel that NATO had been damaged beyond repair the Foreign Minister suggested that we give consideration to the establishment of a Mediterranean Pact which would include the countries on the shores of the Southern Mediterranean as well as on the North. Such a pact should stress economic development rather than military establishments since what was needed to prevent Communist infiltration and influence was a serious effort to raise the very low standard of living in the Arab countries.

[Page 579]

The Acting Secretary said that he was unable to agree with the Foreign Minister’s estimate of the present status of NATO. He felt that recent events in Hungary had unquestionably strengthened NATO and had proved conclusively to the Europeans the essential value of a strong defensive military force west of the Iron Curtain. As the Minister knew the United States had for some time favored the entry of Spain into NATO and made no secret of its position. It recognized, however, that a problem existed with some of the other NATO members and that much depended upon an improvement of relations between Spain and those NATO countries. The Acting Secretary asked what progress the Spanish Government might have made in this regard recently. Senor Martin Artajo replied that in fact France and Great Britain no longer opposed Spanish membership in NATO. The serious opposition rather comes from some of the smaller European states having Socialist Governments such as Norway and Belgium. The Minister went on to say that during his recent visit to Ankara, the Turkish Government had suggested proposing Spanish membership at the next NATO Ministerial meeting. The Greeks and the Italians have also expressed themselves in favor of Spanish membership. The Spanish Government has asked that no formal step be taken by any of its friends until the appropriate soundings have been taken in advance to ascertain that Spain would not be “blackballed” in a plenary session.

The Foreign Minister replied that it was now essential that Germany rearm in order to contribute her share to the defense of Western Europe. If Germany were already strong and rearmed the Hungarian question would not have the same perils for Western Europe. He foresaw a similar uprising in Eastern Germany in which case, he said, West Germany must be given a free hand to intervene. While agreeing that a strong Germany was important the Acting Secretary expressed the view that the seeds of disintegration were beginning to sprout in Central Europe; that the U.S.S.R. could not continue to occupy Hungary militarily and that there were other pressures against Russia in the other satellites. Mr. Hoover recalled that some 60 Soviet divisions are presently tied down in the various satellite states. The most serious danger at the moment appears to be the irresponsibility of some of the Kremlin leaders. We are inclined to doubt that there is a permanent split or a rigid lineup of Stalinists versus anti-Stalinists in the Kremlin. Rather, we believe that there are serious differences of views on various subjects and that violent arguments occur on each of them before decisions are taken. There would appear to be no other way to explain the unpredictability of the decisions and the apparent lack of continuity of policy reflected in them. However, we continue to believe that, with a calm attitude on our part and with a continuance of present pressures, the disintegration of the Soviet Empire will continue [Page 580] to its inevitable conclusion. The Foreign Minister agreed and recalled General FRANCO’s view that the principal weakness of the U.S.S.R. is in her present over-extension.

The conversation turned again to the Middle East and the Acting Secretary expressed his confidence in the Secretary General of the United Nations who he felt could do, through that organization, what no one country could hope to achieve individually. Mr. Hammerskjold will prove most useful in solving the problem of the Suez Canal since he will be able to deal with Nasser on the one hand and with the Canal Users on the other. However, the first step is to have foreign troops withdrawn from Egypt and the Canal cleared. At this point the Foreign Minister drew from his pocket a telegram which he had received from Madrid reporting that, according to information of the Spanish Government from its Embassy in Cairo, Nasser is in a precarious position since he is surrounded by radicals and extreme nationalists which make him look like a moderate in comparison. Senor Martin Artajo said that contrary to the British and French belief, it now appeared that, should Nasser be overthrown, he would be succeeded not by elements more friendly to the West but rather by extremists with whom it would be impossible to deal. The Acting Secretary reverted to the Foreign Minister’s suggestion of a Mediterranean Pact (with particular emphasis on economic aid) and said that while we had given no thought to a Pact of this nature, he did not believe that a Marshall Plan for the Middle East could succeed in any effective degree. The Marshall Plan in Europe for example had found a highly advanced civilization with a relatively high standard of living and a skilled labor force whose industrial plant had been impaired and whose capacity to produce had been temporarily suspended by a war. Consequently the Marshall Plan had had a relatively quick success in Europe but the elements for a similar performance in the Arab States did not exist. Senor Martin Artajo replied that perhaps capital investment such as projects like the Aswan Dam, for example, might prove to be the best means of helping in the Middle East. Mr. Hoover replied that this also had its dangers since the Egyptians had considered the Aswan Dam more in the nature of a monument to the present regime than as an economic benefit to Egypt. The U.S. Government has since learned that just as effective but cheaper and smaller dams might have been built along the upper Nile to achieve the same purposes, but they would have been outside of Egyptian territory.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Jones.