370. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • H.E. Antonio Garrigues, Spanish Ambassador
  • Mr. George C. McGhee

The Spanish Ambassador lunched with me at my request on January 30. The purpose of the luncheon was to make a response to the suggestions he had made in his call on me on December 28, which is described in a memorandum of conversation.1

[Page 1003]

I started by explaining to the Ambassador that we had not taken his suggestions lightly; that our delay in responding had resulted from our desire to canvass our various embassies in the countries concerned to get their best estimate of the position in these countries with respect to Spain’s entry into NATO and the Common Market.2 We had not, in our queries, made any reference to the Ambassador’s intervention. We wanted to be as helpful as we could to the Ambassador and the Spanish Government in this matter. We consider one of the obligations of a friend is to be willing to furnish objective advice on request.

I continued that there were two aspects of the problem. One was our direct relations with Spain, which fortunately had been increasingly close in recent years and which had resulted in numerous visits and contacts at various levels in our Governments and numerous cooperative endeavors apart from our use of Spanish bases.

The other aspect was Spain’s relationships with Europe and European institutions. Although not ourselves a European nation, we have strong ties with Europe and have been pleased with Spain’s interest in a closer association with Europe and its institutions. We are pleased with Spain’s membership in OECD and impending entry into GATT. These represented important steps forward.

We are pleased to hear, if it is true, the statement attributed to a high Spanish official that Spain would not welcome an invitation on the part of France to enter into a treaty comparable to that entered into between France and Germany. I pointed out that this would be contrary to the trend in Europe and would be harmful to Spain’s ultimate prospects for integration with Europe. France is not in a position to offer Spain NATO or EEC membership. Under such circumstances, a treaty with Spain comparable to that with Germany would be difficult to carry out. Spain would not be operating within the same political framework as France and Germany.

I continued that our ability to assist Spain in its relations with the European countries and institutions was necessarily limited. We have, of course, publicly declared ourselves as being in favor of Spain’s entry into NATO; however, there is a limit as to how far we could push Spanish candidacy. It would not be to the advantage of Spain for us to do so in the absence of any hopes for Spain’s entry.

With respect to the EEC, there was quite a different situation. Not being a member, we could not openly advocate other countries for membership. Indeed, an open position on our part would probably be [Page 1004] counterproductive. Although we had attempted to be discreet with respect to the British candidacy, the fact that we supported England probably contributed to her rejection by France.

I then went over with the Ambassador in general terms, country by country, the evaluations which had been received from our various posts as summarized by the EUR Bureau. I indicated that the net of it seemed to be that the present was not a propitious time for Spain’s entry either into NATO or the EEC. I pointed out that Spain should not be impatient; that great progress had been made in recent years and that as Spain continued to evolve toward more liberal policies and institutions, as it is currently, the matter of Spain’s relationship to Europe and European institutions would take care of itself.

There were many influential countries which were for Spain’s entry into both organizations—although they did not appear to believe the present to be propitious, Spain’s position in Europe had changed drastically for the better in the last few years. Since the opposition to Spain came principally from the Socialist parties, centering in the low countries and Scandinavia, change in their position would probably be related to the development of the Spanish labor movement.

The Ambassador responded with considerable feeling along lines which indicated great personal and national frustration and resentment of the indignity of Spain’s not being considered suitable for closer political association by the Western Nations. He frequently used the words “it is finished” to indicate that the situation had become intolerable. He resented the fact that small Scandinavian nations could block Spain’s entry into NATO and that they should be in a position to pass judgment with respect to Spain’s internal policies. I pointed out that since NATO and EEC operate on unanimity rule, the decision was, in the final analysis, up to the countries concerned.

He repeated the arguments given to me in previous conversations that Franco was a man of 70 and that Spain should be considered as a country of thirty million people who had much to offer Europe. In his more extreme statements, he indicated that due to liberal pressures in this country we ourselves were aloof from Spain—that we consider her only a useful bit of geography. I attempted to controvert this by disclaiming that our relations toward Spain, which had become increasingly close, were controlled by any such pressure. He deplored the fact that Europeans, although dependent on Spanish bases and defense capability for their security, were not willing to offer Spain any political association.

He had looked to such an association as furthering the evolution which was going on in Spain. Why could they not see this? I pointed out that the governments concerned were probably waiting for this evolution [Page 1005] to progress further, before taking the politically difficult step of supporting Spain publicly.

Why should Spain continue the bases? If we could not offer any political help to Spain along the lines of his suggestion in our previous discussion, and could not because of our balance of payments problem offer anything sizable by way of economic help, there was no advantage to Spain for the continuation of the bases.

I pointed out that the bases are of benefit to Spain as well as to us, and should be so considered by the Spanish. Their continued use should not necessarily require an additional consideration as such. Our utilization of the bases had not only contributed to Spanish security but together with our other types of assistance had made an important contribution to the Spanish economy. There had not only resulted improved relations with us but a contribution to the improved attitude toward Spain on the part of many European countries. Any change in the status of the bases would serve to undo the progress made. Spain should continue to be patient and to build on this progress.

The conversation ended in a note of frustration on the part of the Ambassador. He said we must see his and Spain’s problem and give him something that he can present to the Spanish Government and people as a justification for our continued use of the bases.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375.1–3063. Confidential. Drafted by McGhee.
  2. Not found.
  3. On January 5 the Department of State had transmitted circular telegram 1174 to European missions requesting their view of the attitude of their host countries toward Spanish membership in NATO and the Common Market. (Department of State, Central Files, 375/1–563) The responses summarized here by McGhee are ibid.