372. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-Spanish Relations


  • The President
  • The Spanish Ambassador, Antonio Garrigues
  • Mr. William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

The Ambassador opened the conversation with a long statement on Spain’s anti-Communism, dedication to close relations with the United States, and unhappiness at not enjoying the international status to which it felt it was entitled, both by virtue of its history and civilization, and of its contribution to Western defense. The Ambassador said that the defense agreement which was about to be renegotiated, provided a good opportunity for the United States to help Spain to meet its desires for more widely accepted international roles in the councils of the West, both politically and militarily. He said Spain was not asking the United States for money but for its support and assistance in the above mentioned respects. He said that Spain had been courageously accepting the risk involved in having US bases on its soil, and felt it was entitled to quid pro quo of strong US efforts in meeting its aspirations.

The President spoke frankly and forcefully to the Ambassador on the nature of the problem we face in relation to our defense commitments, and in the light of our adverse balance of payments problem. He said that the risk to Spain of which the Ambassador has spoken was matched by the risk to the United States and to other Western countries created by the Soviet threat. The President said we could not go on forever pouring out vast sums contributing to the security of other countries, and which have the effect of draining our reserves. Other countries must do more and face up to their responsibilities. We wanted to go on doing what we could, and were prepared to carry a heavy burden in the cause of Western security, but we could not continue forever as we had been doing in the past, incurring heavy adverse balance of payments. The President said if he had to face continuing on this basis or withdrawing US forces from Europe, he would be forced to choose the latter.

[Page 1010]

The Ambassador said that what was most needed was some evidence to his Government that US feelings towards Spain were as friendly and forthcoming as he, the Ambassador, felt that Spain had shown hers to be towards the United States. He said that it was very desirable that there be high-level visits to Spain as evidence of this attitude. The President reminded the Ambassador that President Eisenhower had been to Spain in 1960, and that Secretary of State Rusk had visited Spain as well as Ambassador Stevenson. The President disputed the idea that this Administration was cool or distant in its attitude toward Spain. He reminded the Ambassador of his own efforts in Congress in years gone by in support of the defense agreement with the United States, and of his frequently demonstrated friendly feelings toward the Ambassador’s country and people.

The President said he felt sure if there was mutual good will and confidence, a basis would be found for renewing the agreement. The President added that he was personally interested in following developments with regard to the negotiations. He asked the Ambassador to convey his best wishes to the Chief of State, and to tell him of his and the Ambassador’s conversation, emphasizing the interest of the United States in maintaining and promoting close, friendly and cooperative relations with Spain.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, Pol Sp-US. Confidential. Drafted and initialed by Tyler and approved by the White House on May 10. The meeting was held at the White House. On May 2 Ball had sent a memorandum to the President suggesting that he see the Spanish Ambassador for 15 minutes and convey to him an oral message for Franco. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Spain)