302. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spanish Prince Juan Carlos’ Call on the President


  • Prince Juan Carlos
  • Ambassador Jaime Arguelles
  • The President
  • Ambassador Emil Mosbacher
  • Ambassador Robert Hill

The Prince opened the conversation by thanking the President of the United States for the invitation to visit his country. He expressed his and the Princess’ great pleasure and said that they, as well as their countrymen, attached great importance to the visit. He said that General Franco, the Chief of State, was very pleased by the invitation and was asked to convey to the President and Mrs. Nixon their best wishes. He said that he was bringing to the President a personal letter from General Franco.2 This was handed to the President. For several minutes there was general conversation, mostly pleasantries and reminiscences about the President’s visit to Spain3 and other related matters.

Then the President expressed pleasure with the outcome of the Burgos trials.4 He said this really placed the Russians on the spot and undoubtedly saved the lives of the alleged hijackers in Russia.5 The Prince agreed. At times he seemed somewhat nervous about discussing the trials and throughout the conference he was ably assisted by Ambassador Arguelles. The President inquired about the background of the Basque movement. The Prince explained that the separatist Basques operate in the northern part of his country and were very much in evidence in northern Spain and southern France near the Spanish border. The Prince pointed out that he was not concerned so much about the nationalist separatists, but rather the terrorists, who from time to time, had caused problems in his country. The President pointed out the wisdom of the Burgos decision and made it clear that considerable [Page 932] pressure had been brought to bear on him to speak out. However, he had refused to do so because it was an internal matter. He said for other countries in Europe to take advantage of Spain’s internal problem was unfortunate. Both Ambassador Arguelles and the Prince thanked the President for his attitude.

The President then brought up for the first time the necessity for stability in governments and an orderly transition of power when it is appropriate. The President said that he had been interested in Spain for many years and his objective continued to be to encourage Spain’s entry into the European Common Market and NATO. He told the Prince that he did not see that full association would be possible for four to five years. The President pointed out that it was short sighted for many of the NATO countries, especially the Scandinavians, to deny entry of Spain because of Spain’s importance in Europe and the Mediterranean. He told the Prince that Heath and Home from England were both strong men and that he was encouraged by their attitude concerning Spain. The President asked the Prince if he had any comments about Italy. The President said that Italy was a country that he liked very much, but he was concerned about the current lack of stability there. The President and Prince agreed that Colombo was a strong leader, but the Prince pointed out there were many serious problems. The President agreed. Ambassador Arguelles said he too was concerned, but did not see any immediate danger of a communist take-over.

The President returned to the necessity for stability and orderly transition in Spain and again reassured the Prince that he felt that Spain had acted wisely in handling the Burgos trials. The President pointed out that any weakening of stability in Spain would have a serious effect upon the flow of capital investments and tourists. The President tried to draw the Prince out again on the succession in Spain. The Prince was cautious. He told the President that he was from another generation. He said, of course, he remembered the civil war because members of the royal family lost their lives in defending Spain’s institutions, but many of the generation he represents do not remember the war and are not concerned about it. However, he felt the young people are depending on him to bring progress to his country. The youth of Spain are volatile, but do not offer any threat at the present time to the government.

The President seemed pleased and pressed further for more information, but the Prince did not respond. The President pointed out that he had had conversations with Lord Louis Mountbatten about the future of Spain.6 The President said he recognized the Prince’s relation [Page 933] ship with Lord Mountbatten. The Prince then pointed out that the transition was moving in an orderly fashion, but only General Franco knows when any new moves would take place. The President again stressed the need for continued stability and progress and the importance that Spain would play in the future of Europe. The President said that our form of government would not work in many areas of the world. However, certain democratic institutions had been adopted by friendly governments, but this was a matter that was up to the individual countries. The President compared the governments of mainland China and Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. Then the President talked about Iran. In every instance, with the exception of mainland China, the different systems of government seemed to work. What worked in Iran might not work in Spain. The President pointed out that many African countries had adopted democratic institutions, but in many cases they were not working successfully.

The President then talked for several minutes about Latin America, and he said he believed that Spain could play, once again, an important role in the area. The President believed that past grievances were rapidly being forgotten. The Prince agreed. The Prince pointed out that he hoped to travel in Latin America this year, but General Franco was very concerned about security. (Note: No mention was made about the forthcoming trip of the Foreign Minister now scheduled for late March.) The President said he was sorry that the Prince would not be traveling to New York City, but unfortunately we too had security problems.

Once again they returned to Spain and the succession. The Prince pointed out to the President that Franco kept his own counsel and that he did not know until six days before the public announcement that he was heir to the throne.7 I mentioned to the President that the Prince had made a very interesting and somewhat progressive speech on July 23, 1969, regarding his acceptance of the role as heir to the throne. The President suggested that I send him a copy. The Prince pointed out that the United States must remember that Franco is much more popular today than he was a few years ago. A general discussion took place on this subject. The meeting then ended with a few more pleasantries.

Comment: The Prince was pleasant and talkative, but at times not very clear in his comments as to his future role in Spain. It was obvious to those present that the President has made very clear to the Prince our interest about the transition that Spain is passing through.

The conference ended at 12:05 p.m. when the President and Juan Carlos talked alone for several minutes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Memos for the President. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 299.
  4. See Document 301.
  5. On October 15 and 27, 1970, civilian airliners were hijacked over Soviet airspace and forced to land in Turkey.
  6. No record of the conversation was found.
  7. See Document 285.