203. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Pedro Cortina Mauri, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • William Turner, U.S. Ambassador to OECD
  • Martin Forester, US Mission to OECD (Interpreter)
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Cortina: We have a problem in Madrid that I want to discuss with you, which I already discussed with the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Belgium. I also talked with Denmark but they haven’t reached an understanding.

Kissinger: But I think I know which conclusion they will reach.

Cortina: I had instructions on leaving Madrid to find out what your reflections are on this matter.

Kissinger: Are you going to tell me your thoughts?

Cortina: It is not necessary to reiterate.

Kissinger: What I have not conveyed to the Foreign Minister is that I don’t know what to yield to.

Cortina: I will speak French because you understand better: You understand it well.

Kissinger: I understand your theory but not the practice.

Cortina: You mean the practical consequences.

Kissinger: He speaks English better than I do.

Cortina: The practical consequences which I mean are following: As I told you, if from the Atlantic side one does not recognize that Spain is an element of the defense of Europe, then Spain will have to [Typeset Page 647] change its bilateral relations with the United States in accordance with this. The second point is that if Spain is not recognized as an element of the defense of Europe, from the point of view geographically, humanly, and economically—Europe is so constructed that the defense of Europe rests on us. We contribute without any compensation to the construction of Europe and the defense of Europe. We can be good Europeans. We have come to the end and we cannot continue in this situation because we will not accept it.

Kissinger: I agree with you. I have indeed told you that Europe is pursuing the wrong policy. What they are doing to Spain they should do to Portugal, and what they are doing to Portugal they should do to Spain. They should leave Portugal alone and move closer to Spain. What you are saying is, if they don’t move to Spain in some formal way, (1) our bases will be reduced so that they can’t help Europe and can only help Spain and the U.S., or (2) we can use our relations in some way to link Spain to Europe through the United States.

Cortina: How?

Kissinger: I don’t know. It is my question to you. You have made a proposition to me last time [in conversation at Torrejon, May 23], in which you said there should be a defense arrangement between the United States and Spain and that defense arrangement should make an arrangement with NATO. You drew a diagram—which has occupied the best minds in the State Department.

There are two problems. I don’t see how a defense arrangement can make a treaty, and I don’t see how NATO can make a treaty. As an institution.

Cortina: It is a formal aspect, that we will study. First, if you agree it is necessary to establish links, and a need for these links is recognized by other members. It is not the first time we have discussed it. There is the Declaration of Principles.

Kissinger: Oh yes, we have talked about it but I never understood the practical consequences. [To the interpreter:] He knows but won’t tell me until I am in total agony.

Cortina: I don’t have all the documents with me.

Kissinger: We are interested.

Cortina: I think of another way. In a sense I haven’t yet defined it; I am just thinking out loud. It is an element of European defense, in a sense. First, if one recognizes that Spain is making a contribution to the defense of Europe, that is the first idea, then, it is very easy to draw the consequences.

Kissinger: Like what?

Cortina: The first is, while recognizing this, that one must recognize also the facilities which the Americans enjoy in Spain are also enjoyed by NATO.

[Typeset Page 648]

Kissinger: I understand all this. The easiest would be for Spain to join NATO but that isn’t possible now. If it is not possible, I would look very sympathetically at any concrete proposal you could make.

Cortina: The facilities that the Alliance uses, even if they are American planes, on the other hand, there are decisions that have been taken in certain centers of decision in NATO. As a practical measure, one could have liaison and observers of Spain in NATO and NATO observers in Spain. In order to recognize Spain’s role.

Kissinger: I think it will be very difficult. But let me think about it. I am seeing General Haig tonight.

Cortina: There has to be a prior recognition of Spain’s contribution to the defense of Europe.

Kissinger: How do you do that?

Cortina: In a few days you are having a meeting in Brussels. That is the moment to discuss this question. If your President poses this question, without forcing it on others, just pointing to the reality of the facts that exist and a willingness to recognize consequences—the first consequence is recognition; the second and third consequences are pragmatic consequences.

Kissinger: I understand the practical aspect and I understand the theory that you want to express the importance of Spain’s defense contribution. I will think about it; would you do us a favor and think about it too? And give us any ideas you have on a formal recognition?

Cortina: That is easy—it is a declaration, some expression of principle. Whether it is one, two, three instruments, it is the same thing. It is the political will to do it.

Kissinger: We have the political will but we don’t know whether we can carry it out practically. I now understand completely what you have in mind. We can’t carry it out at this meeting [in Brussels].

Cortina: You and President Ford will come to Madrid.

Kissinger: Yes. The President will be prepared to discuss it. But he is more given to practical discussions than to theoretical discussions.

Cortina: All right. You know he could say to us: Our allies recognize the importance of your contribution.

Kissinger: Let me understand: Is it enough for you if the President makes a declaration—maybe not this Saturday—that we recognize the importance of Spain for the defense of Europe, and so do our allies, and for this reason Spanish officers can join certain commands? Is this enough?

Cortina: I have to consult.

Kissinger: We can’t do it in two days, but this is enough to work on. We can discuss it with our allies and then report to you on Saturday.

[Typeset Page 649]

Cortina: Very good.

Your Ambassador Stabler yesterday visited the President of the Government to ask him if President Ford could meet with twenty members of the opposition.

Kissinger: Not the opposition, but twenty people who are not in the Government.

Cortina: I want to know what the opposition consists of. There is something original here. Chiefs of State represent the unity of the nation and state, and are symbolic of the sovereignty of a state. What goes on below them doesn’t concern the Chiefs; it concerns the Government and Ministers but not the President. It would be something new.

Kissinger: So you are against it.

Cortina: Absolutely.

Kissinger: So we will drop it.

Now you want my coat? [Laughter]

Cortina: Coat and overcoat!

Kissinger: We will tell our Ambassador. You tell your President to forget it was raised.

Cortina: It will be very bad for our negotiations.

Kissinger: Don’t threaten me! We have already dropped it.

Cortina: It would be difficult.

Kissinger: We have dropped it already. Don’t raise it with the President.

Cortina: Your Ambassador won’t insist.

Kissinger: Not only will he not insist; he won’t discuss it.

We want to have a good visit and pay respect to your Government.

Cortina: We hope so too.

[The meeting ended.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Cortina discussed the U.S.-Spanish base negotiations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 23, Classified External Memcons, May–December 1975, Folder 1. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. The meeting took place in the U.S. Delegation Room at the OECD. Kissinger, Stabler, and Cortina discussed the base negotiations on May 23 at Torrejon Air Force Base. (Memorandum of conversation, May 23; ibid.) In telegram 3581 from Madrid, May 26, Stabler analyzed the Spanish negotiating position. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1975) In telegram 3613 from Madrid, May 27, Stabler reported a meeting with Arias on the schedule for Ford’s visit. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 12, Spain—State Dept Tels To SECSTATE—NODIS (1))