295. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spain
  • Chief of State, Generalissimo Francisco Franco
  • Foreign Minister, Gregorio Lopez Bravo
  • Ambassador to the U.S., Jaime Arguelles
  • United States
  • Secretary of State William P. Rogers
  • Ambassador Robert C. Hill
  • Mr. George W. Landau

1. The Secretary called on Generalissimo Franco at 1005 hours May 29. After introductions and opening amenities, the Secretary extended greetings on behalf of President Nixon and handed General Franco a letter from the President.2 General Franco expressed his appreciation, and recalled the good relations he had had with former President Eisenhower. The Secretary said U.S.-Spanish relations were very good at present, and he hoped they would continue to improve. Satisfactory progress had been made in the current negotiations, and he hoped the new agreement would include education, science, and the environment, in addition to military matters. The U.S. continued to seek Spanish association with NATO, perhaps beginning with low key liaison arrangements. Franco expressed his general agreement with the approach being taken in the negotiations.

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2. Generalissimo Franco raised questions about developments in Indochina. He said that the U.S. action in Cambodia was long overdue,3 but thought that no deadline should have been set for a pull-out. Referring to Viet Nam he said he thought that Ho Chi Minh was more of a patriot than a Communist. The Secretary noted that the U.S. allies were performing very well. He added that the USSR provided 70% and the Chinese Communists 30% of the matériel used by the Communists in Viet Nam. Economic progress, he noted, was impressive everywhere in Asia except in mainland China, which was still very backward.

3. The Secretary asked for a Spanish evaluation of Portugal and Prime Minister Caetano. Generalissimo Franco described Portugal as “Spain’s Siamese twin,” which it could not allow to fall very far behind economically. He spoke favorably of Prime Minister Caetano, describing him as a “good politician.” Foreign Minister Lopez Bravo added that before Portugal could make significant economic progress Caetano would have to pull his team together, as it was seriously divided at present.

4. The Secretary asked for Franco’s views of the Mediterranean situation. The Generalissimo said that Spain was very concerned, that the Arab-Israeli war was very damaging to Western interests and favored only the USSR. “The Arabs and the Israelis are like fire and water. They don’t mix.” A solution to the war must be found, and both sides should be ready for it because they are both very tired. He thought that Nasser might wish a settlement, but might not be permitted to make one. Finally, he wondered whether the USSR wanted war. The Secretary said that the U.S. was also concerned about the Mediterranean, but that Spain should be more so because it was closer.4 The Foreign Minister observed that when he visited Nasser recently the latter was completely preoccupied with dominating Libya. The Secretary said that there were 50,000 Soviets in the UAR at present. It appeared that the USSR would soon dominate the UAR completely and that the latter would in turn dominate Libya. The Foreign Minister said that the Libyan Foreign Minister would visit Spain in early July and he would relay to Secretary Rogers what he learned from him. The Secretary said the U.S. had good relations with Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, and that relations with Algeria were improving. In answer to the Generalissimo’s question he said he thought the USSR did not want war but a continuation of the present turmoil.

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5. Departure amenities followed, and the meeting ended at 1045 hours. After the Secretary, the Ambassador and Mr. Landau departed the meeting, Messrs. Pedersen and McCloskey, who were in the outer reception room during the conversation, were introduced to Generalissimo Franco.

6. Comment: The audience was cordial throughout. The Chief of State appeared to be in good mental and physical condition for his age, except for a noticeable tremor in his hand and leg. He seemed alert and well informed. His handshake was firm. It is noteworthy that he chose not to enter into detail on the current U.S.-Spanish negotiations. Also, that he displayed a sympathetic attitude toward U.S. policies in the rest of the world.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL SP–US. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Allen on June 5; cleared by Hill and Landau; and approved in S on June 23. The meeting took place at the El Pardo Palace. Rogers visited Spain May 28–29 following the NATO Ministerial meeting at Rome May 26–27. A memorandum of the Secretary’s May 29 conversation with Lopez Bravo is ibid., POL 1 SP–US.
  2. Not found.
  3. Reference to the May 1 U.S. military incursion into Cambodia.
  4. Six lines of text were covered over at this point. They read: “He complimented the Generalissimo on his use of metaphor, adding that when he dealt with the Israelis he felt that he was getting burned and when he dealt with the Arabs he felt that he was drowning. He agreed that both Arabs and Israelis were too emotional to accept a rational approach.”