282. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spanish Base Negotiations


  • Spain
  • The Honorable Nuno Aguirre de Carcer, Director General of American and Far Eastern Affairs, Spanish Foreign Ministry
  • Mr. Aurelio Valls, Minister Counselor, Spanish Embassy
  • Mr. Jaime de Ojeda, First Secretary, Spanish Embassy
  • United States
  • The Honorable U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Mr. Leonard C. Meeker, Legal Adviser
  • Mr. George W. Landau, Country Director for Spain and Portugal
  • Mr. Arthur Downey, Assistant Legal Adviser for European Affairs
  • Mr. Joseph L. Smith, Country Officer for Spain
  • B/Gen. Rex Hampton, OASD/ISA

Mr. Aguirre de Carcer met with Ambassador Johnson at 4:30 p.m. as they had arranged at their meeting on May 14.2

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In response to Ambassador Johnson’s inquiry as to whether Mr. Aguirre was prepared to exchange notes providing for an unlimited consultation period to be followed by a one-year withdrawal period, Mr. Aguirre replied in the negative and said that he had sent the draft note, which he had worked out with Messrs Meeker and Landau on May 16,3 to Madrid for the approval of the Foreign Minister and other GOS officials.

Mr. Aguirre then raised again the Spanish proposal to extend the Defense Agreement for 18 months from September 26, 1968. This would allow seven months for serious negotiations, he said, since we would lose three months during the summer when Spanish Government activity will be at a virtual standstill. He explained that this extension would include the corresponding set of documents appropriately revised which Ambassador Johnson had given him in March. He said that this extension would, of course, have to include the corresponding portion of the military assistance offer made in March.4

Ambassador Johnson said that this suggestion would mean, insofar as the military aspect of the negotiations was concerned, that the military would have to open new negotiations on military assistance. He explained that the illustrative list (at least insofar as the major items were concerned) had no meaning in a short time period. This was true because the amount of money involved would be too small to allow for any rational program of military assistance and the time frame would be too short to permit the equipment items to be delivered since the availability and lead time would extend over the five-year period.

Mr. Aguirre said he understood this, and that when General Hampton had raised this point on May 14, he (Aguirre) had said that this was a problem for the Spanish military; that they would have to choose from the illustrative list those items which fell within the limitations of cost and availability. The question of cost, he said, must be looked at taking into consideration the EXIM Bank credits. According to Mr. Aguirre’s calculation, this would mean 30 million dollars in EXIM credits and 52.5 million dollars in grant aid for the 18-months’ period. Ambassador Johnson interjected that from the U.S. viewpoint such an 18-month extension was not worth the equivalent portion of a five-year extension package. He said that such a short extension raised many difficulties, both political and military.

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Mr. Aguirre said it should be remembered that we were considering not just an 18-months’ extension but, taking into consideration the one-year “grace” period, a two and one-half year period of time. He explained that since the bases would presumably decline in importance in the next few years, Spain would expect the major portion of the military assistance at the beginning with progressive reductions in amount over the period of the extension. He said that since we were now at the end of May and had not yet concluded all of the military aspects of the negotiations, and were still facing lengthy and important political negotiations, the proposed extension would provide the time needed without damaging U.S. security interests.

Ambassador Johnson said that we had had no knowledge of this proposal until Mr. Aguirre had mentioned it in the May 14 meeting and he said it would seem fruitless to consider it until the military talks had concluded.

Mr. Aguirre said that the Spanish proposal was to extend the Defense Agreement for the 18 months now and let the Spanish military make their selection from the illustrative list afterward.

Ambassador Johnson said that the important thing for the U.S. at this point was to stop the clock on the consultation period. He explained that he had not had sufficient time since the May 14 meeting to fully consult with his colleagues within the Government and with Congressional leaders. He said he was very uneasy about pursuing the proposed extension for 18 months or any other negotiation until we had exchanged notes providing for unlimited consultation.

Mr. Aguirre replied that he was unable to exchange notes at this time because he had not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with his colleagues within the Spanish Government and the Spanish Cortes.

Ambassador Johnson reminded Mr. Aguirre that he (Aguirre) had raised the matter of unlimited consultation and an exchange of notes on that subject at the May 14 meeting.

Mr. Aguirre replied that when the Spanish Ambassador had attempted to obtain written assurance from the Department of State on the juridical status of the Defense Agreement, he had not received any such written assurance on the substance. Mr. Aguirre then repeated in a lengthy monologue his version of the exchange of confidential letters of March 26.5 He insisted that any notion that the six months’ consultation period provided for in the Defense Agreement expired on March 26 was one held unilaterally by U.S. officials. He said that the Foreign Minister and he had not explained the Spanish view that consultations could continue indefinitely at that time because one does not refuse [Page 874] concessions in negotiations. He also insisted that the so-called deadline of April 26 was exclusively a U.S. idea and that the GOS had done nothing to cause the U.S. to become nervous about the withdrawal period.

Ambassador Johnson said that he had thought, based on what Mr. Aguirre had said in the May 14 meeting, that Mr. Aguirre would have been able to agree to the exchange of notes now and it was for that reason, he said, that he had asked Mr. Aguirre to stay until May 19. He said that he had understood that the proposed exchange of notes was mutually satisfactory and that the GOS had agreed on this procedure.

Mr. Aguirre said that he had come to Washington to propose an 18-month extension of the Defense Agreement and that with respect to the exchange of notes on the consultation period he could only state again that Spain had not been receiving written responses to their inquiries.

Ambassador Johnson then handed to Mr. Aguirre a letter signed by Acting Secretary Richardson6 in further response to the Spanish Ambassador’s request for a statement of the Department’s view of the juridical status of the Defense Agreement and Joint Declaration of 1963. The letter stated that the legal relationship between Spain and the U.S. should remain within the framework of an executive agreement. Ambassador Johnson explained that he had intended to give the letter to Mr. Aguirre earlier in the meeting but had been prevented from doing so by the discussion of other matters raised by Mr. Aguirre.

Mr. Aguirre thanked Ambassador Johnson and said that the Ambassador would acknowledge receipt of the letter. He said that the Ambassador’s letter had been drafted in terms referring to the future status of what our relationship should be. He said that he hoped that Ambassador Johnson would understand that the new reply was not exactly as much as the Spanish had hoped. He said he assumed that the U.S. Government had carefully thought out this matter and, therefore, since the relationship was to remain at such a low level (executive agreement instead of treaty) he would now have to continue the negotiations in this context, taking into consideration Spanish public opinion and the views of members of the Spanish Cortes where the lease of bases arrangement was not popular.

Ambassador Johnson reminded Mr. Aguirre that neither party in these negotiations was starting anew, but on the contrary we both were [Page 875] working from the basis of an arrangement begun in 1953. He said that both parties were, to a degree, prisoners of the past in this matter. Ambassador Johnson said he wished to clearly explain that if the GOS assumed that between now and March 1970 it would be possible for the U.S. to agree to a different type of arrangement than presently exists, i.e., a treaty, he personally saw no chance for such a change.

Mr. Aguirre said that he wished to dispel any doubts on this matter. He said that the GOS followed very closely the Congressional debates and that he thought Ambassador Johnson was probably correct in saying there was little chance for a treaty arrangement. He said, however, he thought there might be other ways to work out a new bilateral relationship and that time would be needed for this purpose.

Ambassador Johnson said that one of the purposes in asking Mr. Aguirre to remain a few days in Washington was to obtain a clearer idea of what the GOS desired.

Mr. Aguirre said that one of the suggestions made in March was that there might be a letter from the President to General Franco.

Ambassador Johnson said that he had explained clearly at that time that such a letter, if it were possible, could not be a subject for discussion or negotiation with respect to the language contained therein.

Mr. Aguirre said, withdrawing a paper from his briefcase, that he had prepared some suggestions for possible language to be included in such a letter from the President.

Ambassador Johnson explained to Mr. Aguirre that he did not need nor wish to receive such suggestions and Mr. Aguirre replaced the paper in his briefcase.

In response to Ambassador Johnson’s inquiry concerning what the GOS had in mind with respect to the bilateral relationship following the end of the proposed 18-months’ extension period, Mr. Aguirre began a half-hour monologue by reviewing a staff study prepared for General Franco on the negotiations. The study contained a résumé of the military discussions, the Congressional interest in national commitments, the letter from the Ambassador to the Secretary on the juridical status of the Agreements, and reached a conclusion that there was a credibility gap in regard to security commitments. The study proposed:

1. An extension of the Defense Agreement until March 26, 1970;

2. All of the rights under the Defense Agreement and its technical and procedural annexes would remain in full force during the 18-months’ period;

3. A proportionate share of military assistance should be provided during the 18 months;

4. During the extension period the GOS would study in detail the Colossus Project, the opportunities the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Act [Page 876] offers to Spanish defense industries, and the possibilities for various arrangements in the educational and scientific fields;

5. U.S. security interests would be respected in the future, but certain facilities of no importance would not continue, such as, permitting F–100 Squadrons to remain based in Spain or the continued operation of PX movies.

Mr. Aguirre said the Foreign Minister would come soon and that he would wish to discuss bilateral executive agreements of cooperation covering political, military, economic, educational, and scientific matters. Mr. Aguirre referred to such agreements as an Accord Cadre. He said that the Foreign Minister would also wish to discuss the Spanish proposed Educational Reform Program, which he had discussed with Mr. Kissinger in his meeting on May 16. He said Mr. Kissinger had expressed great interest in the Program. Mr. Aguirre explained that in a post March 1970 Agreement the U.S. would be able to preserve those military rights which would be important to its security, i.e., overflights, communications, logistic support, MATS and MSTS operations, interlocking AC and W networks, joint military exercises, ports of call, the POL pipeline, et cetera. He said that the main difference between the existing Agreement and such a future agreement would be that there would no longer be “bases” in Spain. He said the present joint-use bases would, in the future, be under complete Spanish command. He added that the status of Rota and the Colossus Project could be discussed apart from that of the existing air bases. He said that such an arrangement would offer the possibility of use of the bases by friendly third countries such as Portugal. He said such an arrangement would, of course, contemplate the continuation of military assistance programs and shiploan arrangements.

Ambassador Johnson inquired whether the Spanish saw this arrangement as a substitute for the 1953 Agreement or as a modification of the 1953 Agreement.

Mr. Aguirre replied that the GOS preferred a new agreement but, if necessary, he believed such an arrangement could be accomplished within the framework of the existing Defense Agreement.

General Hampton inquired whether this future agreement would mean that the 16th Air Force Headquarters and the 401st Fighter Wing would not be permitted to remain at Torrejon.

Although evasive in his reply, Mr. Aguirre replied that they would not be allowed to remain at least in their present status. He added that under a new arrangement it might be easier for the 401st Fighter Wing to use the bases since it would only involve Spanish permission to do so.

Ambassador Johnson said that he appreciated receiving Mr. Aguirre’s thoughts and added that he was not at this point prepared to [Page 877] discuss in detail the proposals. For clarification, Ambassador Johnson asked if it was the official and formal position of the GOS that it would not wish to renew the Defense Agreement for a five-year period on the basis of the documents exchanged in March. He asked further if it was the official GOS position now to propose an 18-months’ extension only.

Mr. Aguirre replied affirmatively to both questions.

Ambassador Johnson said he assumed, therefore, that the U.S. must consider whether we wished to accept the 18-month proposal or not. He said that we had already informally considered the proposal and did not find it attractive. He emphasized that this was not a final and formal reply. He explained that the new Administration had taken the position that the United States wished to extend the present Agreement for five years under the terms offered in March. He said this was still the position of the U.S. Government. He asked Mr. Aguirre if he wished to have the Spanish proposal presented formally to the U.S. Government and whether the GOS expected a formal reply.

Mr. Aguirre replied affirmatively. He stated that he had written instructions from the Spanish Chief of State drafted in October of 1968. These instructions stated in summary:

1. There was a firm and unified position between the Foreign Ministry and the Spanish military;

2. The Defense Agreement with the U.S. was a matter of high policy;

3. The military talks should have as their purpose to convince the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military necessity for continued use of the bases in Spain;

4. The military costs to the U.S. of continuing the Agreement would not be lost to the U.S. since such military assistance would be employed by Spain in the defense of the West;

5. It should be emphasized in negotiations that the proposed grant assistance to Spain was an insignificant amount in relation to the overall U.S. Defense Budget;

6. The military assistance should not be proportioned out over the period of the Agreement, but should be provided in the largest amounts at the beginning of the assistance period;

7. The dangerous effects of the Soviet Fleet in the Mediterranean should be emphasized to the U.S.;

8. The military assistance delivered by the Soviets to certain North African countries should likewise be emphasized;

9. Joint military planning between the two countries should be encouraged;

10. The added risks to Spain and changes in the strategic situation since 1953 should be emphasized;

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11. Time should be allowed to obtain careful consideration of the new U.S. administration.

Ambassador Johnson asked what the situation would be from the Spanish viewpoint if the formal reply from the U.S. Government to the proposal for an 18-month extension was negative. He explained that he believed it was very important for both parties to understand each other perfectly. He asked if the U.S. reply to the temporary extension were negative, what would the Spanish reply be to the U.S. proposal to extend the Agreement for five years.

Mr. Aguirre replied that he would say, based on “preliminary soundings,” that the answer was negative.

Ambassador Johnson then asked if it was Mr. Aguirre’s wish that he present to the Administration the Spanish proposal for an extension for a temporary period with the understanding that we would, during that time, negotiate a new agreement, and failing this, we were to consider that we were unable to reach an agreement.

Mr. Aguirre replied affirmatively.

Ambassador Johnson emphasized again to Mr. Aguirre that this proposal would open up the 1953 Defense Agreement to the possibility of Congressional action since any amendment of the Agreement might involve considerations legally considered to be in the realm of a treaty. This, he said, was a very different matter than an extension of the Agreement as provided for under Article V of the Defense Agreement. Ambassador Johnson said that he believed he understood clearly the Spanish proposal, but he wished to reiterate that there still remained the problem of the exchange of notes concerning the unlimited consultation period. He asked on the basis of Mr. Aguirre’s oral assurances, if the U.S. answer is “no” and we had thus agreed to disagree, would the United States have one full year to withdraw. He explained that he was puzzled over Mr. Aguirre’s reluctance to give in writing his Government’s assurances on a matter of such importance.

Mr. Aguirre replied simply that the draft note was in Madrid for approval.

Ambassador Johnson asked when the U.S. could reasonably expect to receive an answer as to whether the notes would be exchanged.

Mr. Aguirre replied that, at the earliest, the answer might be forthcoming by the end of the week, i.e., May 23.7

Ambassador Johnson asked what channels should be used for communicating the U.S. response to the GOS proposal for an [Page 879] 18-months’ extension, and Mr. Aguirre replied that the Spanish Embassy could serve as the channel.

The meeting concluded at 7:35 p.m.8

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15–4 SP–US. Secret. Drafted by Smith and approved in J on May 26. The meeting was held in Under Secretary Johnson’s office.
  2. A memorandum of conversation is ibid.
  3. No copy of the draft note was found. According to a May 16 memorandum from Edgar Beigel (EUR/FBX) to U. Alexis Johnson, a luncheon meeting between Aguirre de Carcer and State Department Legal Adviser Leonard Meeker had been set up at Meeker’s home to work out remaining difficulties with a draft. (National Archives, RG 59, Records Relating to Spain, 1949–1976, Def 15 Base Negotiations) Telegram 80685 to Madrid, May 21, indicates that the draft note agreed upon at this meeting was forwarded by the Spanish Embassy in Washington to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for study. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15–4 SP–US)
  4. See footnote 10, Document 277, and Document 278.
  5. Not found.
  6. It reads: “I am referring to your letter of April 18 and Secretary Rogers’ reply of April 25. Further to the Secretary’s letter I would like to confirm to you my Government’s view, which Ambassador Johnson has outlined to your representative previously, that the legal relationship between Spain and the United States should remain within the framework of an executive agreement as it has since 1953. I can assure you that this position remains unchanged.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15–4 SP–US)
  7. The meeting took place on May 26. A memorandum of conversation is ibid.
  8. On May 20, Johnson telephoned Wheeler to inform him “that we had had a rough session with the Spaniards.” After outlining Spanish positions he suggested further consultations between State and Defense Department officials. (Ibid., RG 59, Records of U. Alexis Johnson, Lot 96D695, Telecons, April–May 1969)