290. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Policy Toward Spain: Base Negotiations

In my memo to you of January 32 I reported that we were proceeding within the NSC framework to formulate issues for your decision leading to early negotiations with the Spanish on the future of our military presence there. A Review Group memorandum setting forth the key issues and options is attached at Tab A.3 Secretaries Rogers and Laird have sent you separate memoranda (Tabs B and C) indicating their recommendations.


Spain seems to have entered a transition phase leading to the post-Franco era. Neither the pace nor the outcome of Spain’s political evolution is foreordained, though it is expected that a basically authoritarian regime will continue. Spain’s foreign policy has taken on a new energy and direction. The principal tendencies are a forceful orientation toward Europe—Spain wants to become part of Europe—and a desire for a broader and more dignified relationship with the United States. These goals are compatible with U.S. interests, whereas Spanish interests in the Middle East and Latin America tend to conflict somewhat with ours.

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Spanish attitudes towards the U.S. have changed measurably in the last 15 years. The U.S. was instrumental in bringing Spain out of its isolation after World War II; the visible link with the U.S. was our military presence, as recorded in the Base Agreement of 1953. That Agreement has been extended several times, and will expire in September of this year. Thus, we must now decide the nature and extent of our future military relationship with Spain; negotiations should begin as soon as possible. The negotiations will be difficult because the Spanish are in a position to insist on a substantial quid pro quo, while our ability to offer financial assistance is more limited. A complicating factor is that we will have to express the U.S. view of the draft Spanish-EEC preferential trade agreement by mid-February during the annual GATT session. If we oppose the agreement, our base negotiations will be made more difficult; if we accept it, our global trade policy will greatly suffer. Thus, while this issue is separable and is treated in another memo, its resolution will have an impact on the negotiations.

The Bases and Their Importance

The U.S. military presence in Spain involves about 9,000 personnel located at four principal bases:

—Rota: operating base for nine [less than 1 line not declassified] submarines and a support base for Navy [less than 1 line not declassified] logistics [less than 1 line not declassified] in the Mediterranean;

—Zaragoza: air base in caretaker status which could be used as a training range for U.S. aircraft in Europe in the face of the denial of Wheelus;

—Moron and Torrejon: operating and support air bases [less than 1 line not declassified]

Under present arrangements [3 lines not declassified] Spanish authorities have not permitted nuclear overflights since the 1966 Palomares incident.4

It has been difficult to assign a value or to state the degree of importance of our current facilities. Necessity of retaining a given military capability in the light of advanced technology, cost of relocation, availability of alternative sites, and political sensitivity are all involved. For example, [2½ lines not declassified] Similarly, it is desirable to retain the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing at Torrejon in terms of pilot morale, but the function could be performed from the U.S. (as it was prior to 1966) or from other European bases (such as Italy), and in Spanish eyes the pres[Page 897]ence of these aircraft just 10 miles outside of Madrid is politically highly sensitive.

The Defense Department considers all present facilities of great importance, and indeed would like to add the increased use of a training range, because of the loss of Wheelus in Libya, [1 line not declassified] However, Defense has been unable to present or agree to a priority list of the facilities, although it has prepared a number of illustrative arrangements in descending order of military desirability (Tab A, pp 17–22). My staff has prepared a review of the base priorities, and ranked them in order of necessity, desirability and convenience (Tab D). The priority ranking is quite comparable to a similar list drawn up by State (Tab A, p. 9, and Secretary Rogers’ memo at Tab B), and is consistent with what I understand are the views of Budget Director Mayo. According to this study, really necessary activities could be continued with a U.S. presence of only a small fraction of its current level, whereas if desirable activities were included, a U.S. presence of about two-thirds (6,000) of present levels would be required.

In short, there is general agreement that the facilities are of value to us, but there is no agreement on which facilities are more important than others. I gather that DOD’s inability to agree to priorities is a function of the differing viewpoints between the Navy and Air Force.

The Spanish Position

Whereas the U.S. bases once were a mark of respectability for Spain, the bases have more recently become more controversial. The presence of foreign forces in Spain without the accompanying satisfaction of a security guarantee (through NATO or bilaterally) make Spain appear as a satellite of the U.S., and may appear to the Spanish to decrease the flexibility and independence in foreign affairs to which they aspire. Though some Spanish authorities argue that removal of the bases would be popular in Spain, it is probably more accurate to say there is a general lack of enthusiasm for them among the Spanish public.

The Spanish have indicated that they do not wish to endanger our basic security, and so will understand our need for certain essential facilities. They have made clear, however, that they will be receptive only to our genuine requirements which only the special Spanish geography can fulfill. They will resist facilities which are merely convenient. If we wish to maintain our present facilities, the State Department expects the Spanish to seek in excess of $250 million in grant military assistance and sales credits (over five years), assistance in educational reform, and support for their trade agreement with the EEC and other economic concessions. This is consistent with Ambassador Hill’s reports. In general, State is considerably less optimistic than Defense as to Spain’s willingness to agree to grant us extensive facilities.

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How Do We Pay for the Bases?

It will be difficult to secure grant military assistance. Indeed, we have just informed the Spanish that we will be able to pay at this time only $25 million of the $50 million we promised at the time of the conclusion last year of the present extension of the base agreement. Congress failed to provide the MAP funds requested for Spain in FY 1970. I understand that Budget Director Mayo considers that MAP funded military assistance to Spain should be avoided if possible, but if unavoidable, not more than $5–10 million per year should be offered; he considers it possible to offer in the range of $25–50 million in Ex-Im Bank military credits.

A very valuable quid pro quo for the Spanish would be some form of link with NATO (full membership being impossible during Franco’s tenure). State is not optimistic about this possibility. (The British and Scandinavians reject any NATO link for Spain, but we should probably consider a fresh initiative.) A bilateral security arrangement with the U.S. is generally considered infeasible because of U.S. Senate attitudes. Our willingness to broaden the base of our relations and make the military ties less obvious by negotiating a general treaty of cooperation would be well received by the Spanish. Such a treaty, covering scientific and educational cooperation as well as military, would offer added prestige to our relationship.

On the economic side, Spain would wish our acquiescence in their preferential trade agreement with the EEC, our support for LDC treatment for Spain under a worldwide generalized preferences scheme, and better treatment under our foreign direct investment tax regulations. The first of these would be the most difficult for us.

The Options

All concerned support an attempt to retain the maximum possible level of U.S. military presence in Spain. No one believes that a reduction has a positive value per se. There are two options, one supported by State and the other supported by Defense. They are more in the nature of negotiating tactics, than basic policy divisions.

Option 1. To negotiate with the objective of retaining all of our current military arrangements in Spain, plus expanded use of the weapons training range [1 line not declassified]

Secretary Laird recommends this option (Tab C). He feels that while some activities could be performed elsewhere, the quality of the Spanish facilities could not be duplicated, and that in any event relocation would be costly and time consuming. He feels that it is premature to reduce our posture merely because of the anticipated Spanish demand for unacceptably high quid pro quo. The Spanish cannot be expected to make known their demands, he argues, until the negotiations [Page 899] have commenced. Only then should decisions be made to reduce our presence if it is clear that the Spanish insist that we reduce or that we cannot afford to pay their price.

Secretary Rogers considers this option inflexible (Tab B). He argues that to seek the retention of all existing facilities and ask for additions would cause the Spanish to present us with impossibly high demands, from which Spanish pride would prevent them from receding. The 1968–69 negotiations failed, he feels, for exactly that reason.

Option 2. Negotiate on the basis that we seek a degree of military presence less than the full amount in Option 1.

Secretary Rogers recommends this option, which he considers offers the flexibility necessary to give greater assurance of successful negotiations. The initial position would be to seek the maximum (minus the air base at Moron—now scheduled to be placed on caretaker status) consistent with our ability to pay the requisite quid pro quo. We should be prepared to reduce our request in order to retain our most important rights and facilities.

Your Decisions

It is necessary for you now to make the basic decision between the two options presented, taking account of the fact that our principal objective is to ensure that we retain, at a minimum, our most important rights and facilities in Spain. It is probably not realistic to believe that we can retain all we now have.

To seek the maximum (plus additional facilities) would probably substantially increase the risk that the negotiations will either abort or be quite protracted. The latter possibility will be dangerous in light of the Symington hearings; the former will harm our security interests. Moreover, to begin negotiations with even more than the 1968 shopping list would seem to the Spanish as if we were simply trying to use Spain and were insensitive to the new directions of Spanish policies. That would not be the best method of establishing a more dignified and honest relationship with the Spaniards.

It is important for our overall objectives and also for these negotiations to place emphasis on a renewed attempt to forge a link between Spain and NATO, and to broaden the scope of our bilateral relationship with Spain. While the NATO link may not prove possible, it is questionable whether an adequate effort to achieve it has been made.

The most important immediate step is for the Government to be clear now about the nature and extent of the quid pro quo which can be offered in the negotiations, sustained over the term of any agreement, and which will avoid an impasse with Congress. Of equal importance is achieving inter-agency agreement on the priorities to be assigned to each facility (taking into account military requirements, duplication or [Page 900] relocation costs, and political sensitivities) for use as fall backs to a more limited military presence. These steps are necessary to prepare a detailed negotiating position that conforms to your basic approach of maintaining good relations with Spain through the 1970’s and retaining a military presence though reduced if necessary.


That you approve the following basic choice and consequent steps which when completed will permit drafting of a negotiating position:

1. We should seek to retain as many of the present and desired military rights and facilities as are possible within the limits of a sustainable quid pro quo; negotiations to this end should not be protracted.

2. Prompt agreement should be reached within the Government on a sustainable quid pro quo and on priorities to be accorded to each facility.

3. Priorities and sustainable quid pro quo should be agreed through the DPRC in the context of five-year force and budget projections.

4. With the aim of seeking continued good relations with the Government of Spain through the 1970’s, a course of action should be developed with respect to concluding a general treaty of cooperation, and to renewed efforts to develop a Spanish link with NATO.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 704, Country Files—Europe, Spain, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action. The tabs are not printed. In an attached February 3 note, Kissinger wrote: “Mr. President: I apologize for the length of this package. The importance and complexity of this subject required a rather extensive treatment for you to receive a proper presentation of the issues.”
  2. Document 288.
  3. This paper was a revised version of Document 287.
  4. A U.S. B–52 aircraft carrying four nuclear devices collided in mid-air with a KC–135 aircraft over the village of Palomares on January 17, 1966. Three of the nuclear devices landed on Spanish soil and one fell into the sea. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XII, Western Europe, Documents 189191, 194, 195, and 207.
  5. The President initialed the Approve option after each of the four recommendations.