183. Memorandum From the Ambassador to Spain (Duke) to the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (McKillop)1


  • Some Observations on U.S. Policy Toward Spain


  • Your Memorandum to Mr. Leddy of June 25, 19652
[Page 373]

With a good deal of interest and appreciation, I read your synthesis of our policies here in Spain. There was not one idea expressed which I would modify in any way. I would like to add, however, a few other thoughts that seem worth putting on paper.

While the 1963 Guidelines Paper3 perhaps is acceptable in general terms, the Embassy has always thought it left much to be desired. In fact, very shortly after it was received in Madrid, the Embassy submitted a brief commentary in the form of an Airgram (A-783, April 17, 1963).4 During the past several months the Embassy has developed an alternate version of the 1963 Guidelines Paper which it intends to submit shortly for Department consideration.5

Turning to specific matters, however, it may be that in the future some opportunity may present itself for collaboration with other Western European countries in projects in Spain, and I believe we should be alert to this possibility. I was reminded of this the other day when the French Ambassador suggested to me that American and French policy toward Spain was identical, even though it might be for different reasons. He alleged that France now encourages powerful neighbors in Germany, a self-reliant Spain, and a stable Italy and since he considered that the U.S. wanted an independent and sturdy nation—Spain—on Europe’s south flank, we should be able to collaborate in certain fields. My French colleague was perhaps a little ingenuous in this suggestion since we are quite clearly rivals in Spain from the point of view of investments, the development of atomic energy plants, space operations, military sales, and almost what have you. But nevertheless his comments reminded me of this general proposition of cooperation that might be possible in some cases, if not with France, with others such as Germany.

Parenthetically I might note that the French Ambassador in the same conversation declared that Spaniards in many circles are reluctant to even contemplate integration into Europe because of fear of rejection on the one hand, and of inferior status on the other. He went on to say that we should do everything possible to make them conscious of their opportunities as Europeans. I have no quarrel, of course, with his later statement that we should make them conscious of their opportunities as Europeans. However, I think there is little doubt that knowledgeable Spaniards are quite conscious of the fact that Spain must become a part of an integrated Europe, and certainly most of the [Page 374] opposition wants such integration for political purposes. Officially, of course, Spain has made its bid to become an associate member of the Common Market and while there are many, it is true, who fear the consequences for Spain from an economic point of view if the application were to be accepted today, there is little danger of this and they are counting on perhaps two or three years of further negotiating delay at least in order to put their own economic house in order, the better to compete at some future date. After all, the Economic Development Plan6 has this premise as one of its basic considerations.

One point which we might keep in the back of our minds insofar as Spain’s integration with Europe is concerned, is the possibility of some form of collaboration with NATO on a local regional basis. The prize of Spanish membership in NATO is apparently impossible, but such limited collaboration might not appear to the GOS as simply a back-door association, and it would make sense militarily, especially as Spanish ASW capabilities increase. I am thinking of the possibility of GOS collaboration in the new NATO-Iberian Command to be established in Lisbon;7 the discussions of Maltese association with NATO might perhaps suggest some possibilities in this direction.

I believe it would be well for the U.S. to bear increasingly in mind certain dangers that may develop for Spain, and possibly for our interests here, at the time of transition. The problem as I see it is that it seems almost inevitable that at the point in time when Franco disappears from the scene, European labor organizations and some of the European socialist parties may very probably seek to intervene in some way or another in the Spanish scene. The problem is not only that of outside intervention, to which the Spanish inevitably react strongly, particularly if it is clumsily done, but also that many of those groups will be working from an emotional background of 25 years ago. I think we must give some serious thought to this problem as it could seriously exacerbate the internal problems that might develop within Spain during the sensitive transition period. Greater exchanges of visits between this Embassy and our other missions in Europe certainly will help to educate our own European embassies to the complexities of the Spanish situation, but there may be situations that will arise in which our missions can be helpful in making representations to various European socialist parties and labor groups so that such possible intervention might at least be channeled along intelligent lines.

[Page 375]

The other day we reviewed the situation in Spain with Joe Slater of the Ford Foundation and discussed various ways in which the Foundation might support our efforts here. We all agreed that it would be useful to establish here a forum for the stimulation of interest in international affairs such as a Foreign Affairs Council. Slater subsequently discussed the idea with the Conde de Motrico, former Ambassador to the United States and France, and other Spaniards and got an enthusiastic reaction. Through Slater’s initiative an organizing committee has been set up and visits to countries which have Foreign Affairs Councils will be arranged with financial assistance from the Ford Foundation.

Shifting to the subject of our contacts with the Spanish opposition, I would only suggest that we should bear in mind the necessity of maintaining our flexibility. What I mean by this is that for the present we must be careful in such contacts not to become overly identified with any one group. Some of the older opposition leaders are beginning to fall by the wayside, and inevitably there will be a rise of new leaders in the indeterminate time between now and the date on which the transition or “crisis” period begins. This is particularly true in the labor field where I am convinced that the future labor leaders of Spain are probably young people whom neither we nor Spanish labor itself has as yet identified. Flexibility in most circumstances would seem to be the most desirable posture—at least initially.

Turning to another area entirely, I think we should also consider the necessity of placing some of our operations in Spain on a more formal permanent footing that might provide some assurance of carrying on in the event of a radical shift of government in Spain at some point in the years to come. Actually it appears that the GOS as well would like this formalization of some of our commitments. I might cite as an example our NASA facilities in the Canaries8 which are founded at present solely on an exchange of letters. In this particular instance you will of course be aware that the Spanish Government itself has suggested that the Canary Islands NASA facilities be formally tied in with the Robledo complex outside of Madrid in a new arrangement between our two governments that hopefully we will begin to negotiate next fall.

As a final thought I should like to underline the fact that we must bear in mind that while we do have substantial influence in Spain, and while good Spanish-U.S. relations are a prime keystone of present GOS policy, our influence here is also limited (particularly in political matters) by the fact that although Spain’s world position is assisted by its relations to the U.S., we are the ones normally requesting facilities for [Page 376] projects of one kind or another ranging from the base complex through extensive NASA facilities to special communications stations. This does not, of course, mean that we cannot exercise our influence, even in political matters, from time to time when it seems important for us to do so, but it does mean that we must exercise considerable caution and be particularly adept in doing so.

As to the succession problem, I will have more to say on this after our military establishment committee has had a chance to present some of its preliminary thoughts. It is a subject of course with which you and I will have to keep in continuous touch.9

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 1 SP-US. Secret. Drafted by Robert W. Zimmerman.
  2. Not found.
  3. Apparently a reference to “Report on U.S. Policy Toward Spain,” printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIII, Document 375.
  4. Entitled “Comments on Policy and Guidelines for Spain,” not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL SP-US)
  5. Not found. A note in the margin reads: “Not yet received, July 26, 1966.”
  6. Reference is to Spain’s second Five-Year Economic Development Program, 1963-1967.
  7. NATO’s Iberian Command, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, was transferred to Lisbon in 1967.
  8. An agreement on space research projects was concluded by an exchange of notes in Washington April 14, 1966. For text, see 17 UST 493.
  9. In an August 26 memorandum to Robert Anderson, Deputy Director of the Office of Western European Affairs, George Vest of the Office of Regional Political-Military Affairs, commented: “Frankly, I see no future in the [Duke] idea…. Don’t expect formal military collaboration to precede political acceptability for Spain.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 4 NATO)