281. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to President Nixon 1


  • Spanish Base Negotiations

Since my memorandum of March 142 and your talk with Castiella,3 the atmosphere surrounding the Spanish base negotiations has worsened and pressures against renewal of the Agreement are building on both sides—for quite different reasons.

In the United States

As you are aware, there is strong opposition among a number of influential members of Congress to extension of the Defense Agreement. The opposition combines a number of elements: dislike of Franco, opposition to what are interpreted as implied security commitments, questions as to the continuing need for the bases, and opposition to an increased payment. While these opinions center in the For[Page 868]eign Relations Committee (Senators Fulbright, Church,4 and Symington), it is fair to say that others, including the minority members, have shown no great enthusiasm for the Agreement. There are obvious exceptions (Senator Sparkman)5 but support unfortunately is not as vocal as it should be. When the issue goes to the whole Congress, however, I am sure that we can get good backing from both Armed Services Committees and the House leadership.

Moreover, the U.S. press, notably the Washington Post and the New York Times, have agitated against our defense relationship with Spain for essentially the same mixture of reasons as outlined above and the hostile views expressed by members of the Foreign Relations Committee have received wide press coverage.

In a letter to Secretary Rogers, Senator Fulbright expressed his apprehension about renewing the Agreement and suggested that the Foreign Relations Committee be given the opportunity for full exploration of the proposed Agreement either by submission to the Senate of the renewal as a treaty, or, at a minimum, as a separate item in the Foreign Assistance Act authorization legislation.6 (We have committed ourselves to showing to the Committee the package that we work out with Spain before signature and they have already been briefed on the outline of the elements in the package.)

Congressional consultations as to the source of funds for grant assistance in connection with the Spanish base renewal have shown strong opposition by the Chairmen and most members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to use of DOD funds. In the face of this opposition, to press our preferred course of service funding could put in jeopardy our other military assistance and sales budgets which must go before these Committees for authorization, as well as running the risk of heightening Congressional suspicion of the political aspects of the Spanish arrangement. Although Chairman Fulbright has frankly said that he would vote against the authorization for Spain in the AID/MAP bill, we have replied to him that our funding request in connection with the Spanish base renewal will be included in the foreign assistance authorization legislation. Should Senator Fulbright muster enough votes in the Foreign Relations Committee to strike the Spanish item out of the bill, we hope to have the Spanish item reinstated on the floor. We can expect a close fight in the full Senate and good support in the House. Chairman [Page 869] Fulbright and other Committee members would be less annoyed to lose in this manner than by an attempt to evade the Committee.

While the Department of Defense feels that service funding offers certain advantages, Secretary Laird has deferred to the judgment of the Department of State on this matter.

In Spain

The Foreign Office. The Foreign Minister returned to Spain highly disappointed over his failure to obtain any political concessions from the U.S. The Foreign Office wants an agreement that will give Spain a security guarantee or a treaty, or, as a minimum, will reconfirm, clarify and hopefully strengthen the 1963 Joint Declaration. Given the U.S. Congressional climate, any meaningful security guarantee seems to be out of the question. The Foreign Office has shown great interest in Senator Fulbright’s suggestion that the renewal be submitted to the Senate as a treaty as this coincides with Spanish wishes. It is hard to believe that the Foreign Office is so naive as to suppose that Senator Fulbright wants a treaty in order to approve it. We consider the chances of approval of a treaty commitment virtually nil in the Senate. Moreover, we believe the Administration should not, on policy grounds, seek a bilateral treaty commitment with Spain.

The Spanish Military. The Spanish military are apparently having difficulty agreeing on the distribution of the U.S. offer of $175 million in military assistance. At a Spanish National Defense Council meeting, the Air Force apparently was given first priority, and General Navarro, the Air Force Chief of Staff, came to Washington on April 16 for further discussions with Generals Wheeler and McConnell. He insisted that the USG supply two squadrons of F–104Gs as a part of the military package and made it absolutely clear that there would be no deal unless the F–104Gs or, as a less desirable alternative, F–4 aircraft, were made available. Our counter-offer for an earlier model of the F–104 was flatly rejected. Before General Navarro left, U.S. Air Force officials agreed with him that other possibilities would be explored which included third-country procurement of F–104Gs from Germany or Holland or the supplying of F–4 aircraft.

DOD is presently seeking information from the Germans and the Dutch, who have F–104Gs, but at best it will take several weeks before we can provide definitive answers, although the initial German response has not been as negative as we had anticipated. Our Embassy in Bonn has expressed concern that any deal involving Spain will put stress on the coalition government in Germany. DOD has given the Spanish Air Force prices and availability data on the F–4. The Spanish appear to be interested in this aircraft and on May 5 asked for additional detailed information, which will be supplied May 9.

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Meanwhile, the Spanish Government is increasingly angry about continuing unfavorable press treatment in the U.S. of the Spanish base question, and the GOS, in turn, has manufactured in its controlled press a mounting attack on the negotiations and on US-Spanish relations in general.

Next Steps

Since March 26, we have entered the one-year period during which we must evacuate the bases unless a new agreement is signed. Although the Spanish have told us orally not to worry about the time limit, they have refused to give us any written assurances that they would stop the clock while we talk. We have asked DOD to send a military liquidation team to Spain next week to prepare preliminary analyses of the problems involved in withdrawing from Spain. At the same time, their presence should remind the Spanish that we are prepared to move out if necessary.

The Spanish Foreign Office has indicated that it does not plan any early resumption of negotiations; it has interpreted as “pressure tactics” our warnings that a prolonged delay would make it harder for both sides to reach agreement. Although we have made it clear that Ambassador Hill’s participation will not change the ongoing negotiations, they have great hopes that his arrival might help them to get some political concessions and they have indicated that they may hold off substantive talks until Ambassador Hill arrives. In any event, we do not expect to hear from them until the Spanish military have reached a decision on the remaining questions concerning the military aid package.


We are seriously limited in our negotiating flexibility. Congressional pressure will make any upgrading of the 1963 Joint Declaration or any other political concessions extremely difficult if not impossible. There are serious obstacles to obtaining Congressional approval for the $175 million grant aid and an increase in our offer to the Spanish seems out of the question.

Thus our options are limited. In essence, we want a base rental for which we are willing to pay $175 million over five years. The Spanish want a security commitment and they want to be treated as a formal ally and not as a lessor of real estate. This fundamental difference in approach makes a satisfactory solution difficult. We believe that if we are able to make the military package attractive within its present financial limits, the Spanish military will put their full weight behind reaching an agreement, and through Franco’s intervention the renewal might be effected. DOD is providing the information the Spanish Air Force has requested and will do its utmost to meet the Spanish desires. However, [Page 871] unless the military are fully satisfied the Foreign Office may prevail in its view that the Agreement would benefit neither the Spanish people nor Spain’s position in the world and we may face the possibility of having to move out.

Embassy Madrid’s roundup telegram of the Spanish base negotiations as seen from there is enclosed. For ready reference there is also enclosed a copy of the 1963 Joint Declaration.7

Elliot L. Richardson
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 706, Country Files—Europe, U.S.-Spanish Base Negotiations. Secret.
  2. March 15. A copy of the memorandum is ibid.
  3. See Document 277.
  4. Senator Frank Church (D–ID).
  5. Senator John Sparkman (D–AL).
  6. A copy of the April 22 letter is in the National Archives, RG 46, Records of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Records of the Chairman, Carl Marcy Papers, Box 8.
  7. Neither telegram 1658 from Madrid nor the Joint Declaration of 1963 is printed.