365. Letter From the Deputy Chief of Mission in Spain (McBride) to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler)0

Dear Bill : Many thanks for your letter of August 15.1 I quite understand how you must be swamped these days.

We have given some further thought to the question you raise of a Don Juan visit to the United States—especially balancing as you suggested the problem of Franco’s possible reaction against our possible future interests in Don Juan—and I must say that if we could see how such a visit would in any way advance US interests, we would probably be for it. However, we don’t see that it would lead to any such benefit; and it might damage the interests of both the US and Don Juan with Franco, and possibly with Don Juan’s standing also with some of the Spanish opposition (as we said in our despatch).1

If and when Don Juan raises the matter again—as he may with Burke,2 perhaps—we think he should be told that of course he can go to the US at any time, and that many people in Washington would be interested in seeing him if he goes, though I think we would hope to avoid any commitments from the very top in this connection. We might also suggest that he might also be asked whether he has considered what effect such a trip might have on his standing with Franco and with certain Spanish opposition groups. Of course, if he insists that he wants to go in spite of this, it would be difficult to put him off without risk of offending him.

As for Franco’s possible reaction to such a visit, I suppose that no one can really foretell how Franco would react, not only because he characteristically keeps his thoughts very much to himself, but also because to some extent his reaction might depend on the amount and nature of the publicity attendant upon the visit. It should be borne in mind that, although the new administration has certainly not indicated that there has been any change in US-Spanish policy, no top level US official except for the military has yet officially visited Spain (Secretary of the Navy Connally was here in July and Secretary of the Army Stahr is due in November) while several anti-Franco Spanish personalities (Prieto, [Page 993] Madariaga,3 Tomas) have been received on various levels in Washington, and, hence, the atmosphere here is more sensitive than usual to our activities in regard to Spanish affairs. Therefore, if, in addition, Don Juan, whose position is so sensitive and anomalous, were to go to the United States in the near future, Franco might very well be seriously annoyed, and that could entail some risk for our interests here.

We shall be sending you a despatch, in response to your letter of August 11,4 on the post-Franco outlook which will shed some further light on the factors involved in this question of a Don Juan visit. Please also see our telegram 111, July 28, 1961.5 In view of all these considerations, we would hope on balance that Don Juan’s visit would not take place, at least for some little time yet.

On the whole question of visits by high-level civilians, which is mentioned above, this was raised with me in a letter from Bill Blue on August 8,6 and I agree with what I take it is his view that it may well be difficult to continue to maintain the kind of atmosphere we need to protect our security interests here without some visits of this kind apart from the purely military which, while welcome here, do not have the same connotation. As you know, the Ambassador thought Robert Kennedy’s visit would be useful, and he made an effort to get Senator Fulbright to Madrid, which also fell through. I really think the Department should be making an effort to mount such a visit when possible, but giving us sufficient time to lay it on properly. Yturralde we know has been trying to sell this on his own, and it would, of course, be embarrassing for the Government to raise with us here officially, but they may well be very concerned by the absence of such manifestations. The Ambassador may have further views for you on this subject.

On the further question in your letter about whether, in connection with Angola, we can count on the Spanish to push the Portuguese along or whether they will stiffen the Portuguese against us, I would say that the Spanish are aware that the Portuguese have got to make changes and may even lose out entirely in Angola. But as a Spanish official told us the other day, when their neighbor’s house is on fire they are not going to pile wood on it. And there is the further factor, pointed out by Burke that the Portuguese are particularly sensitive to efforts by us to press the Spanish into trying to influence them to accept our views. I think it is important that we keep the Spanish informed as we go along, [1 line of source text not declassified].

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Finally, I am glad that you enjoyed your talk with Julian Marias. I find him quite stimulating and I think he both talks and writes well. I also find quite restful his balanced but rather sceptical view of both the regime here and the opposition.

Sorry this letter has been so long.

With all best wishes to you and Betsy from us both, I am

As ever,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 752.00/7–161. Secret; Official-Informal. Initialed by Tyler. The source text bears the following notation: “Mr. Blue, What can we do about promoting a high-level visit to Spain? Do you think Secretary Hodges would be willing to stop off there for a couple of days? Bill 9/12/61.”
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. C. Burke Elbrick, U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.
  5. A memorandum of Madariaga’s conversation with L. Dean, Officer in Charge of French-Iberian Affairs, Department of State, on May 25, is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.52/5–2561.
  6. Neither found.
  7. Telegram 111, July 28, reported that the Spanish political scene was marked by political quiet and economic prosperity. (Department of State, Central Files, 752.00/7–2861)
  8. Not found.