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


  • Dissension in Spain

I have received a letter from Bill Buckley (Tab B)2 enclosing a memorandum to you from Jose Maria de Areilza, Count of Motrico, who served as Spain’s Ambassador to the United States during the last years of the Eisenhower Administration. The Count’s memorandum is an explosive commentary on what he considers the repressiveness of the current Spanish political scene (Tab A).3 I have acknowledged receipt of this memorandum to Buckley in vague terms because of its sensitivity. I believe it would be a mistake for us to send an acknowledgment to the author in writing, although Buckley may well indicate orally to the Count that he has given me the paper and I am passing it to you.

The following is a summary of the salient points in the Count’s memorandum:

—The group of Spaniards who unsuccessfully attempted to see Secretary Rogers last May to discuss the bases agreement (they finally sent a memorandum) did so out of a pro-American feeling and a sincere desire that there be full understanding on both sides of the significance of the agreement.

—In contrast to the U.S., total secrecy was imposed in Spain on the agreement and no criticism was permitted. Circulation in Spain of public remarks in the U.S. on the agreement was forbidden.

—Signatories of the memorandum to Secretary Rogers were questioned by the police, fined and forbidden to leave the country.

—General Franco has given Spain a long period of peace and stability in which economic and social progress has been achieved. His important failing, however, has been his lack of understanding of the evolution which has taken place in these years and his not preparing effective channels to guide that evolution toward a democratic and free system of government.

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—Unfortunately, the young team now in power is more concerned about jockeying for position in the post-Franco succession than in movement toward a democratic system. “We are on the road of a complete regression towards dictatorship of the most crude nature.”

—There are practically no civil liberties in Spain and little possibility of associating for political purposes. The labor movement is tightly controlled by the government and no real negotiations take place between management and labor. Large numbers of people who speak out against the state are condemned to prison as political prisoners.

—Government circles seem to think that there is no way of establishing a democratic system in Spain due to the fact that the people are not prepared to share responsibility.

—The people abhor this attitude of the government and the vast majority of intellectuals, churchmen, students and workers have turned their backs on the regime.

—The Count and his friends intend to continue to speak out and convey their concern to the Spanish people despite the risks involved. They consider themselves progressive conservatives with viewpoints similar to Pompidou, Kiesinger and Heath. They believe you as a “progressive conservative” would agree that one cannot fight Communism with a repressive society.

—The image of America in Spain is good, but could be tarnished badly should the people feel the U.S. endorses without reservation an anti-democratic system of government in Spain, which may well develop into despotic autocracy in the years ahead.

—The Count concludes that he and his friends ask nothing of you (theirs being a domestic problem), and only hope the U.S. and other free world countries will have an understanding attitude for what they are trying to do.


The Count’s impassioned picture of the current political climate in Spain and prospects for the future may well reflect a growing concern and activity on the part of many Spanish political groups in anticipation of the post-Franco succession. The Spanish political climate is warming and I suspect that we will be receiving more appeals for “benevolent neutrality” from various contending groups and personalities in the months ahead. We have little choice but to adopt such a posture during the delicate transition period.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 705, Country Files—Europe, Spain, Vol. III. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information. The first page bears the stamped notation: “The President has seen.”
  2. Not printed. In it Buckley expressed his concern that distribution of the letter be limited to the White House: “I feel that we may be dealing in matters of life and death.”
  3. Not printed.