283. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Breakthrough on the Spanish Base Negotiations

We have finally achieved a breakthrough in the Spanish base negotiations which I believe will solve the immediate problem of renewal of the Defense Agreement—although for only two years—but which will leave the hard questions on the future of our relationship with the Spanish to be answered in coming months.

Decision of General Franco

Late on Friday, May 30, Aguirre de Carcer (Director General for North America in the Spanish Foreign Ministry) telephoned his counterpart in State from Madrid to announce that General Franco had taken a final decision on the Spanish position that evening.2 His decision was:

1. To accept our compromise offer of $50 million in grant military aid and $35 million in credits for a two-year extension of the Defense Agreement through September 1970; we would have one year following to move out (plus a “reasonable period” for dismantling even after expiration of the year) if there were no follow-on agreement;

[Page 880]

2. To sign a “stop the clock” agreement permitting unlimited consultation—until both sides agree that we have reached a dead end—before the one-year grace period for dismantling would begin;

3. To seek a $195 million “line of credit” in the US over the next five years for commercial military purchases with some kind of US Government assistance; this is a new element and the Spanish themselves are still very fuzzy on what they actually want; and

4. To extend the NASA agreement for 10 more years as we had requested.3

Next Steps

Aguirre left Madrid quietly and flew to Washington on June 1. On June 2 he met with Under Secretary Alex Johnson at State to present the Spanish decision formally. During the following two days, June 3–4, there were further meetings to work out draft language for the agreement,4 in anticipation of signing a two-year extension of the Defense Agreement here in Washington by June 10. There is an outside possibility that Spanish Foreign Minister Castiella might return for the signing; if he does not, Spain will be represented by Ambassador Merry del Val.

How We Reached This Point

Obviously, agreement on an extension of two years is less desirable than the five years we originally sought (and on which the Spanish publicly declared their agreement in principle last March 26).5 But the adverse developments of the past two months raised serious doubt that we would be able to achieve any renewal at all. In close consultation with Elliot Richardson and Dave Packard, I therefore had concurred in discussion with the Spanish of terms for renewals short of five years. The range of choice at the time of General Franco’s decision was as follows:

Duration of Renewal US Grant Aid US Credits Ex-Im Other Proposed By
5 years $175 m $100 m Post-Vietnam Option US
3 years $90 m $50 m US
2 years $50 m $35 m US at Spanish request
18 months $52.5 m $30 m Spain
[Page 881]

As you see, the Spanish accepted our terms for a two-year renewal without change.

The Problems in the Background

We reached this critical juncture for a variety of reasons. First, and perhaps foremost, the widespread criticism of our Defense Agreement with Spain in the US press and particularly in Congress raised doubts in the minds of the Spanish about the degree to which they could rely on a US defense commitment to Spain. As a result they followed the tack of pressing for a precise juridical formulation of some kind which would relieve their apprehensions on this point. And we could not offer a more precise commitment, nor am I sure we ought to.

We could not offer the Spanish a mutual security treaty, or assist them in gaining entry to NATO; if we could have done either, we certainly would have been able to push for a full five-year extension. The Spanish requested assistance for educational reform within the context of our base agreement, but our hands were tied because appropriations for the Defense or MAP budgets are not transferable to educational projects, and the funds available for European educational and cultural affairs in the Department of State budget have dwindled with each passing year in the face of severe Congressional pressures.

Finally, there was a growing sentiment—not only in the press and in Congress, but in the Executive Branch as well—that the day had passed when our bases in Spain could be justly termed indispensable. Certainly the Rota installation is the most vital, although even its importance to our national security probably will decline over the coming years. With one of our three air bases already on standby status, and a second soon to follow the same route, however, it is difficult to argue indispensability.

To be sure, the bases are militarily useful and their retention would be desirable—all other things being equal. But the twists and turns of the Spanish negotiations over the past year have partly ideological roots; there are many in the bureaucracy who do not mind failure. Some are, of course, sincerely convinced that the bases are not “worth” it. I have followed the negotiations closely and while I cannot prove it, I strongly suspect that the negotiations and especially the high-handed treatment of Foreign Minister Castiella on his visit here were influenced in some measure by growing disenchantment with the Spanish base issue. Unfortunately, not only are the military bases at stake but the full range of our future relations with Spain. I regret that we have been unable to renegotiate our status there in a more graceful and effective fashion, and I think we should draw a lesson from this experience for the future.

[Page 882]

Where To Go From Here

I feel that we should move rapidly to conclude the two-year extension of the Defense Agreement on the terms agreed with the Spanish, as the best available package at the present time. But we should recognize that an era has come to an end. Our future relationship with Spain will depend on an entirely new series of negotiations, for the Spanish have put us on notice that they will no longer accept a lessor/lessee relationship and hope to move up to cooperation extending beyond the military sphere into political, economic, scientific, educational, and cultural fields.

In the immediate future, therefore, our task will be to take a new look at the entire Spanish base question, returning to the fundamental question of what the bases are worth to us in the context of a broader and longer-term relationship with Spain. This new look would include a complete review of the military need for the bases in Spain and a projection of that need into the future. We also should explore acceptable terms for a new agreement with the Spanish which would place our relationship in a broader context.


1. That you approve the conclusion of a two-year renewal of the 1953 Defense Agreement with Spain through September 1970, with a “quid” of $50 million in grant military aid and $35 million in credits, and authorize State to work out the details with the Spanish, clearing the final package with me.

2. That you authorize a study of what our relationship with Spain should be in the decade of the 1970s, using the National Security Council mechanism for final decision.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 706, Country Files—Europe, U.S.-Spanish Base Negotiations. Secret; Limdis. Sent for action. An attached note from the NSC Staff Secretary, June 10, reads: “The attached has been read by the President and is being returned for your information.”
  2. The conversation was reported in telegram 87879 to Madrid, May 31. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15–4 SP–US)
  3. Not further identified.
  4. No memoranda of conversation for these meetings was found. Agreement was reported in telegram 91365 to Madrid, June 5. (Ibid.)
  5. See footnote 12, Document 277.
  6. The President initialed the Approve option under both recommendations.