363. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-Spanish Relations


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Mariano de Yturralde y Orbegoso, Spanish Embassy
  • Mr. Robert H. McBride, WE

Ambassador Yturralde said that he was going to Spain on consultation for the primary purpose of giving his views regarding the attitude of the new Administration on the relations between the United States and Spain. The Ambassador said that for the past ten years, approximately, relations had been steadily improving and had become excellent. He said that Spain had been very well satisfied with developments in general over the past years and referred to the economic progress made as a result of the stabilization program in which US and international agencies had all been most helpful. Ambassador Yturralde said that there had been some controversy in Spain since the election and some feeling of uncertainty and insecurity both in business and in the Government as to the attitude which the new Administration might adopt toward Spain.

In response to the Secretary’s query as to why this feeling had developed in Spain, the Ambassador said that Spanish opinion and the press still remembered that President Truman had made remarks which were critical of Franco. He referred to the fact that in 1946 the United States had gone along with the Polish initiative in the United Nations.1 This had been a bad moment for Spain, he continued. He said that the Spanish public had attributed the change in US policy to the advent of the Eisenhower Administration but he said he realized that this was not entirely correct since the base agreements signed in 19532 were the result [Page 989] of negotiations which had been initiated in 1951. He said that while he thought Spanish opinion had its facts somewhat mixed up, the feeling did exist. Ambassador Yturralde then said that Spanish opinion had noted that the new Administration had made appointments of certain individuals who had been adverse to the national regime in Spain. This led the Ambassador to a discussion of what he said was the very widespread support for Franco in Spain. He said that in effect Franco was supported by all those who wanted law and order and that only a small minority of youths who had not lived through the civil war were opponents of the regime.

Ambassador Yturralde then described the evolution of the Franco regime in the social and economic fields. He also said that he himself had reported he did not believe there was justification for the nervousness which was now felt in Madrid with regard to the new Administration. However, he said it would be helpful if he could take back personal reassurances from the Secretary.

The Secretary said he did not think he could attach much importance to the fact that our relations with Spain happen to develop favorably particularly during the Republican Administration. He said that he himself had lived through the earlier period of our relations with Spain and he felt that the difficult relationship which we had had with that country was more a result of strong antipathies among the other Western European countries, with whom we were allied, to Spain than through the existence of the independent US policy. The Secretary said that many people in Western Europe had reacted extremely strongly against the Franco regime. The Secretary felt that as Spain’s relations in Western Europe had improved, relations with the United States had likewise become better. The Spanish Ambassador inquired if the Secretary did not think that perhaps the reverse sequence had been the case. The Secretary thought there might be some truth in this but that our relations could only really have developed favorably with Spain after Spain had passed a certain threshold with the other Western European countries. The Secretary said he thought it was probably not correct to attribute the evolution of US policy to changes of administration here.

The Secretary then said the new Administration was of course interested in the economic and social revolution all over the world. We wanted to improve the standard of living, education facilities, etc., everywhere. This was in the oldest United States tradition and it was essential to meet the Soviets on this battleground. We must put ourselves in touch with the revolutionary tradition which was in our own traditions as well. The Secretary did not believe that this had any direct bearing on our relations with Spain. He said our objective was to assist people in their development everywhere. The Secretary said on this point that he thought our relations with Spain would remain friendly [Page 990] and cooperative at the government level and that the Ambassador should not communicate any note of anxiety to his Government.

Ambassador Yturralde said that he thought the economic and social goals of Spain and the United States were similar and that the present regime in Spain was making a great effort to raise the standard of living, particularly in the lower classes. The Ambassador thought that he should point out that the Spanish were an extremely proud and touchy people and that it was for this reason perhaps that some anxiety had developed. He noted that any attempt to put pressure on Spain had always been counterproductive.

The Secretary then remarked that we did not necessarily intend to issue any public statements on our relations with Spain or a large number of other countries. He thought that perhaps there had been a tendency to issue too wide a variety in the past and that thus far we had attempted to limit our statements to the most obvious crises situations. The Secretary concluded that he did not see any reason to believe that there would be any change in the direction of US policy towards Spain. As an example of our cooperation with Spain he noted that we had assisted in getting the numerous Spanish passengers off the Santa Maria.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.52/2–761. Confidential. Drafted by McBride and approved in S on March 8.
  2. Regarding the Polish initiative in the United Nations in 1946, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. V, pp. 1062 ff.
  3. For text of the Defense Agreement signed at Madrid September 26, 1953, see 4 UST 1895.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 342.