219. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spanish Base Negotiations


  • Spain
    • His Excellency Fernando Castiella, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain
    • His Excellency the Marquis de Merry del Val, Ambassador of Spain
    • The Honorable Ramon Sedo Gomez, Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Spain
    • The Honorable Nuno Aguirre de Carcer, Director General of American and Far Eastern Affairs, Spanish Foreign Ministry
  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • The Honorable Paul H. Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense
    • Mr. John M. Leddy, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • Mr. George W. Landau, Country Director for Spain and Portugal
    • Mr. Joseph L. Smith, Country Officer for Spain

The Secretary stated that the six-month period of consultation pursuant to Article V of the Agreement started today and that he was anxious to know exactly and accurately what the Spanish requirements were for the continuation of the Agreement, since he would have to report them to the President and also after November 5 to the President-elect. At yesterday’s meeting the Spanish Foreign Minister had indicated that Spain would invoke Article V and he had also tabled a new list of Spanish military equipment requirements. He asked whether that list was the total Spanish request or whether there were other matters. He also stated that the first question which the President and the next President-elect would ask would be whether it was the desire of Spain, as a matter of policy, to agree to a continuation of the Agreement or not.

The Foreign Minister said that he could say emphatically and unmistakably that Spain wants to continue its friendship with the U.S. and that it would be delighted to renew the Agreement on the basis of equality and dignity as well as on the basis of the minimum Spanish proposal tabled on September 25.

The Secretary remarked that it should be on the basis of equality and dignity not only for Spain but also for the U.S.

[Page 441]

The Foreign Minister continued saying that he was authorized to sign the renewal of the Agreement today provided that the September 25 minimum Spanish request were met in total. If this were not possible then Spain would like to know what the position of the U.S. would be since March 26, 1969, was rapidly approaching and Spain would have to start thinking about changes in its policies. In any event, Spain wanted to continue being a good friend of the U.S.

He added that if Spain were to adopt a neutralist policy, Spain would not stop being a friend of the U.S. However, his purpose and the purpose of his Government was to strengthen this friendship and if the renewal was not signed today, he would continue working so that agreement could be reached as soon as possible, always on the basis of the minimum Spanish list.

The Secretary replied that he did not quite understand what the contents of such a neutralist policy included. Some countries in Western Europe believed that they could adopt what they described as a third position as if they were simply innocent spectators watching the big struggle between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in Western Europe. This was not the case, because Western Europe itself was the issue.

The Foreign Minister stated that such a new policy could be similar to that of Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria, i.e. a policy of neutrality and at the same time of sympathy for the U.S. Spain was not part of the Western defense system because it had been excluded due to ideological differences. Now the U.S. was unwilling to give Spain what it needed for its defense and therefore there was no other way out for Spain but to return to her traditional policy of neutrality. If the U.S. could not provide Spain with the necessary arms and a minimum level of military assistance, then Spain, although a poor country, would try to achieve its aims on its own. It should not be too difficult to do so since for example as recently as a few months ago the French Government had offered Spain 50 Mirage aircraft with very generous credit provisions which Spain had not even considered since it was counting on its friendship with the U.S. Spain could on its own acquire a smaller amount of weapons but they would be newer and they would be hers.

The Secretary suggested that this might prove to be very expensive and the Foreign Minister replied that might be so but that Spain would then readjust the structure of its Army and make it smaller so that savings resulting from personnel cuts could be channeled into the purchase of better equipment. Domestic industries could be developed so that military purchases in the U.S., which last year added up to $187 million, would be made in Spain itself.

The Secretary asked whether, if the U.S. were to return to isolationism, this would be in the interest of Europe and whether it would serve Spain’s security.

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The Foreign Minister stated that this would probably not be so but that it might prove General De Gaulle right when he said that Europe could not depend on the U.S. to defend it.

The Secretary stated that it was precisely De Gaulle who had made a massive contribution to an increased isolationist feeling in this country and specifically on the part of many Senators.

The Secretary inquired again whether the Spanish list of military equipment requirements was the only problem standing in the way of agreement.

The Foreign Minister stated that there were certain economic aspects that would also have to be clarified but he noted with satisfaction that the letter on economic problems which had been offered to him and which would be signed by the Secretary of State was a very productive step. He also said that some minor changes were required in the language of the mutual security guarantees. Nevertheless, the key issue was that of military assistance. Yesterday, the Foreign Minister said, he had received strict and clear instructions which authorized him to sign an extension of the Agreement only if the Spanish minimum list were accepted. If this were not possible, he had been instructed to invoke the procedure established in Article V.

The Secretary stated that he had had a chance to speak with the President and leaders of the Congress and that he could say that the U.S. could not accept the Spanish list. Therefore, the procedures provided for in Article V would come into play and both countries would keep in touch about future steps. He then gave a draft joint press statement to the Foreign Minister for his consideration and approval.2

The Foreign Minister asked if the Secretary had talked to Congressional leaders about the possibility of improving the mutual security guarantees to Spain.

The Secretary stated that the security problem was not something which the Congress could take up as a procedural question but rather that it was a matter of substance. The present Congress was to adjourn in about ten days and it was not possible now to foresee what the composition of the next Congress would be. Therefore, it was not practical to take up the security matter within the time limitations that were now being faced.

The Foreign Minister said that many of the Senators in the present Congress would continue in office and that preparations should be made to keep them informed and that the problem should be discussed with them. He said that his only complaint was that he had warned [Page 443] the Secretary back in October and November of 19673 that all these problems would be coming up and that at the time he had urged that in 1968 there should not be a repetition of the anguished race against time that had occurred in 1963. He repeated that it was not Spain’s fault that the conversations had been delayed for so long but that he deplored it nevertheless.

The Secretary replied that he was well aware that the Foreign Minister had raised these questions a long time ago and that there had been many contacts with Congressional leaders over the last months. The conclusions which he had given the Foreign Minister were the final positions arrived at after lengthy discussions with many leaders and he therefore could not accept the suggestion that the U.S. had in any way been negligent in its duties. Some Congressmen may have stated their own personal views in the course of the last months but it is really the leadership of the Congress and the corporate views of that body which should be considered. He said some foreign embassies have at times been confused by statements of individual Congressmen but it so happened that at the present time it was not possible to foresee what the corporate attitude of the next Congress or of the next President might be. All the Secretary could do was to describe the situation as he saw it today and as the present Congress also saw it today.

Mr. Nitze stated that all of the Senators and Congressmen with whom the Department of Defense had dealt on these matters felt that the position of the U.S. was correct and fair and that it was consistent with what they believed were the Spanish needs at the present time.

The Secretary then said that the U.S. would now proceed on the basis that it would like the Agreements extended which was also the feeling of Spain. He added that both sides should concentrate on solving their mutual problems during the next six months and that the U.S. would continue to act with good faith and with a spirit of cooperation and he expressed the hope that this would lead to satisfactory results.

Mr. Nitze stated that the Senators and Congressmen concerned with Defense were fully cognizant of the contribution of Spain and that they were very appreciative of them.

The Foreign Minister replied that if this were true, and he had no reason to doubt it, then the situation was very disappointing indeed and it did not offer much promise for the next six months of consultations.

Mr. Nitze stated that the main point which the American legislators kept in mind was that the present Agreements were mutually beneficial. They felt that it was not right to attach a monetary value to the [Page 444] contributions which either the U.S. or Spain made and that they considered the American proposal as right and proper because allies should help each other and should do whatever possible to be of assistance to one another. They were sure that the American offer was commensurate with the needs of the Spanish armed forces especially in the light of demands placed on the U.S. elsewhere and of the existing limitations in funds.

The Foreign Minister stated that if the U.S. was not capable of giving any more help than it now offered, it would be impossible to go any further and therefore maybe the GOS was right in denouncing the Agreement.

The Secretary stated that nothing profitable could be gained by discussing further the existing gap and that it would be better to see where both countries were at the present time and to lay the foundations for further constructive action. He asked the Foreign Minister whether the draft press statement was acceptable.

The Foreign Minister replied that in principle the draft was acceptable but that he would like to study it and give a firm reply by 5:00 p.m. today.

Mr. Leddy suggested that if there were any contacts with the press, both sides should say that talks were continuing. The Foreign Minister indicated that he wasn’t interested in seeing the press for the time being. He also stated that he regretted that there had been no response to his latest proposal contained in the minimum list which he had tabled yesterday.

The Secretary replied that he had already indicated that he was not in a position today to say that the Spanish list was acceptable.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 15-4 SP-US. Secret. Drafted by Landau and approved in S on September 30. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. For agreed text of the communiqué, see Department of State Bulletin, October 14, 1968, p. 382.
  3. See Document 206.