367. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)0


  • The Iberian Bases

We are approaching the time when the Spanish and Portuguese bases will have to be renegotiated.

At the moment, the prevalent view seems to be that we must do almost anything necessary to retain the good will of the Franco and Salazar regimes in order not to endanger the base renegotiations.

This view has obviously altered our policy in certain respects from what it would otherwise be, not only in the Iberian peninsula, but in other parts of the world (e.g., the Secretary’s Madrid statement suggesting that we are counting on Franco’s Spain to play a role in connection with our Latin American policy; our agreement with Salazar not to bring up the colonial context in the UN debate over Goa). It has also hurt the public image of the State Department (cf. recent editorials in such staid journals as The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor) and made it look to many, at home and abroad, as if the State Department were still dedicated to diplomacy a la Dulles rather than to the diplomacy of the New Frontier.

It may well be that we have no choice but to sacrifice everything else to the renegotiation of the bases. But we certainly should not accept this conclusion without a careful and critical reappraisal of the base problem. Would it not be a good idea to have a reexamination of the Iberian bases, with particular attention to the following questions:

Will impending changes in weaponry and strategy affect the role and value of the Iberian bases?
What benefits do these bases bring to Spain and Portugal? We assume that they are doing us a favor for which we must pay through the nose. Is our bargaining position really this desperate? Would not the liquidation of the bases raise economic and other problems for the host countries?
If the USSR were to overrun Europe, it is absurd to suppose that Spain and Portugal would be spared. They cannot hope to purchase immunity through neutrality. The bases are as much for their defense as [Page 998] for ours; and the argument that they are doing us a favor by permitting us to contribute to their own defense is not an impressive one. Yet we seem to be accepting this argument at face value
What alternatives are conceivable to the Iberian bases? We saw recently in the case of South Africa that certain military privileges granted to us by the Republic of South Africa were not essential, as we had assumed, but only convenient. Is this the case with Spain and Portugal? If the military were set the problem of carrying on without these bases, would they not be able to solve it?
How serious a price do we pay in adopting a posture of cordial association with the Iberian dictatorships? What does this cost us with the anti-Franco opposition? Does it incline them to the Communists? Does it seriously compromise our policy in other parts of the world, especially Asia, Africa and Latin America? Or are objections to these dictatorships now purely sentimental and ritualistic on the part of people whose opinions don’t matter much anyway? Do most people accept pro-Franco and pro-Salazar postures as a military necessity, as they accepted aid to Yugoslavia or our wartime alliance with the USSR?
If the conclusion is reached that there is no alternative to the Iberian bases, can we not use our relationships with the Iberian dictatorships more purposefully to ease a transition to more liberal regimes? Can we not help bring about a larger measure of economic and social reform? And would it not be possible to do more to cushion the adverse impacts of present policies on liberal, labor, anti-colonial and other forms of disapproving opinion in other parts of the world? Cannot our relations with Franco and Salazar be, for example, correct rather than effusive?

Arthur Schlesinger, jr. 1
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Staff Memoranda. Secret. A copy was sent to Bundy.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.