209. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Ambassador Stabler


  • The Secretary
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, C
  • Ambassador Wells Stabler
  • Arthur A. Hartman, EUR
  • Robert E. Barbour, EUR/WE (notetaker)
[Typeset Page 676]

The Secretary: Wells, how are you? It is good to see you. Tell me, how did the Vice President do?

Hartman: He did very well, especially with the crowds. He was well received everywhere he went; people seemed to know him. Sometimes they even knew his name.

Stabler: Yes, it was an enormous success. When I was with him yesterday, people were shouting his name.

The Secretary: What Europeans were there?

Stabler: Giscard d’Estaing, Scheel, Prince Philip, the President of Ireland and a lot of lesser lights.

The Secretary: Did the Vice President talk with any of them?

Stabler: He talked briefly with Giscard d’Estaing after the ceremony at the church, and he also chatted with Scheel and Prince Philip. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what they talked about, but they were all very short. The Spaniards really appreciated his visit, that is, the fact that he came, that he went through all the ceremonies, including that very gloomy burial ceremony, and that he even stayed to participate in the events for Juan Carlos.

The Secretary: What did he do in between?

Stabler: He stayed in Madrid for the most part. One day he took a trip out to Segovia.

Hartman: He seemed to enjoy himself, even though he was going 15 hours at a stretch. He also had a talk with Constantine.

The Secretary: Why him? [less than 1 line not declassified]

Stabler: He was rather impressed by his views.

The Secretary: [less than 1 line not declassified] If he is impressed by him, I’ll have to unimpress him.

Stabler: I think he meant by Constantine’s view of the history of what might have been and how things might have been different. But I didn’t hear him. On things in general, the transition has gone very smoothly, although the apparatus is no help to him. The old Franquists and those who were there before want to continue to act as they used to.

The Secretary: I know that experience.

Hartman: Not really, you have much better control.

The Secretary: Does he plan to get rid of the Prime Minister?

Stabler: It is not clear yet. His first problem is whether to replace the President of the Cortes, and the betting is that he will get rid of him, though it is not certain. If he replaces the President of the Cortes, then he will have to decide whether to do the same thing with the Prime Minister. If he does not do that, he might change some members of the [Typeset Page 677] government—the Minister of Interior, the military chiefs, and maybe even your friend Cortina, who seems disliked by everybody.

The Secretary: Giscard d’Estaing thinks he is the most egregious fool he ever met. He knew him when he was Ambassador. He made a special point of telling me that a measure of his influence in Madrid will be whether the King gets rid of Cortina.

Stabler: He would love to stay on, and he acts as if he intends to.

The Secretary: The first thing is, if I go, what kind of situation can I expect? Will he try to sit in on everything?

Stabler: If there is no change, that is, if Cortina is still there, then he will indeed want to be or at least will try to be in on everything. Don’t forget, Juan Carlos is a constitutional monarch, not a real ruler. He has important foreign policy obligations vis-à-vis the government, and he does not have the constitutional authority of his predecessor. He doesn’t plan to preside over the Council of Ministers, for example.

The Secretary: [1 line not declassified]

Stabler: [4 lines not declassified]

The Secretary: [2 lines not declassified]

Hartman: [1 line not declassified]

Stabler: [5 lines not declassified]

The Secretary: [3 lines not declassified]

Stabler: The constitutional problem is a real one. Franco had the power to issue decrees; Juan Carlos does not.

The Secretary: If he doesn’t preside over the Council of Ministers, he will soon become just a figurehead.

Stabler: No, not necessarily, if the Prime Minister carries out the King’s wishes. In that case the Council of Ministers becomes a formality and the King is better off than if he were involved in every government decision.

Hartman: It all depends on his choice of people.

Stabler: If you go and if Cortina is there, it will be very difficult. If a change is coming, though, it might be better to go later, even if it is just slightly later.

The Secretary: But how would we get to Europe later, unless the conference is delayed. Besides, I don’t want to go there just to see Juan Carlos. What is the situation on the bases?

Stabler: Cortina wants to press forward.

The Secretary: I want to press forward. If he wants to press forward and I want to press forward, why are we not doing it?

Stabler: The promises he gave to you, and the exact terms of the agreement that he and you reached, have not been given to anybody else.

[Typeset Page 678]

The Secretary: That’s his problem.

Stabler: I am not really sure he can deliver the goods. Besides, if there is a new foreign minister, he may want to take a new look at it.

The Secretary: So we are going to have to negotiate both sides of the agreement all over again?

Hartman: No, but we have been waiting for them to get ready.

The Secretary: And not going up to the Hill to testify, for we haven’t done anything at all up there. And why haven’t we pressed the Spaniards?

Hartman: I talked to Cortina about this myself Tuesday. He apologized for not following up on our request to get started again but said he hoped we understood how preoccupied they have been. He asked me what your plans were, and I said it would probably not be possible to wait until he had a chance to see you, and why not start again now? Cortina did not answer. Rovira seems to have no authority.

Stabler: I have talked to him at least six times, and each time they say that they are sorry, that they cannot yet finish.

The Secretary: Could you ask them a seventh time?

Stabler: Yes, and it would be good for you to be there.

Hartman: But suppose there is to be a change of government? Do we want to get involved with this one?

The Secretary: That makes it even easier. We should continue with this one and wrap it up to let the other sign. Or do you want me to wait until the Socialists are in the government?

Stabler: That would be a long wait; anything of that nature is a long way down the road. When they realize that there is not going to be any change, even then it is not inconceivable that we will not see some reductions asked.

The Secretary: I lack the subtlety to understand EUR’s viewpoint. How will we find out if we don’t ask? Will we gain anything by waiting?

Hartman: But in the points you sent to the Vice President you suggested he point out that we were not pressing and that he say that if they were not ready now we would wait until they were.

The Secretary: Don’t put words in my mouth. You wrote that paper, not me. You knew I would be concentrating on domestic aspects. My position is that we should conclude now, but EUR does not want to. Isn’t that true?

Hartman: But why conclude them with Rovira. If Cortina would just tell Rovira we could get on with it. I went over all this with Rovira at lunch the other day, but he kept saying that we should do more now [Typeset Page 679] so that the King would get a better deal. They’re leaking all over the place that we are going to make a better offer.

The Secretary: It gets worse and worse the longer we wait.

Stabler: No, I agree that we should go ahead.

Sonnenfeldt: In the staff meeting this morning Monroe Leigh said that the Spanish agreement is generating more and more rumblings up on the Hill that it ought to be a treaty. We will really have trouble if we have to change it.

Stabler: Whether it is a treaty or a joint resolution, it would still have a quality that the preceding arrangements did not have. I could talk to them again.

Hartman: I think we ought to tell Rovira that we are still prepared to continue on the other agreements at any time and ask him when they might want to do so. This would leave it open.

The Secretary: Would we conclude them?

Stabler: Between now and then we could do the work that has to be done and have them ready for you. Our people are available any time.

The Secretary: Why is it not a good thing, then, to finish them and sign them? What do you think, Hal?

Sonnenfeldt: I wish we had it buttoned up and in position. It may get more difficult over time. But maybe Cortina just has no one from whom he can get directions.

Stabler: His strong point was his relationship with Franco.

Sonnenfeldt: I don’t think there is any question that the price is going to go up.

Hartman: The price may go up and we may have to drop a facility.

Stabler: We have already said that we were ready to drop a facility.

Hartman: Moron. It was Moron that we said we were prepared to give up. Maybe we shall just have to make clear that we are prepared to discuss it at any time.

The Secretary: Wasn’t it clear before?

Stabler: Absolutely. On my very first day back I talked to Rovira and told him Bob was ready to come and said that we were prepared to wrap it up very quickly.

The Secretary: How come, then, that you gave them the impression that you didn’t want to conclude then? Look, let’s cut out the baloney. I told Juan Carlos I’d be there about the 15th. What are we going to do about that? Does Cortina know?

Stabler: I am certain Cortina does not know.

The Secretary: But you will admit that Juan Carlos knows? Since I told him so last week on the phone?

[Typeset Page 680]

Stabler: Yes, of course. His Chief of Household told me that he was looking forward to seeing you.

The Secretary: So if this is the case, since I do not get back until the 8th, how long are we going to have to keep this thing open?

Hartman: I believe we should keep it open a little while longer to see if he moves on the Prime Minister.

Stabler: The first problem is the President of Parliament, then there is the possibility of changing the Prime Minister. There is a good deal of talk that this will be very soon, maybe sometime next week. My feeling is that if he makes any appointments in the next few days or weeks, the new people will start to focus on the agreement we have and on the fact we are able to keep all the facilities and then we shall begin to hear the same sort of criticism that we heard before you and the President went there, about our having four bases and 10,000 Americans in Spain. I think we could expect an effort by the Spaniards to want a new deal with a smaller American presence. This doesn’t come from any official indications, it is just my honest opinion about how things might come out.

The Secretary: The situation is compounded by the fact that we have already briefed on the Hill. If we start making changes now, we shall really have a massive problem.

Hartman: I don’t think there will be any flak if we drop that one base.

Sonnenfeldt: But if we have less and pay more. . . .

Stabler: I don’t know; we’ve been prepared all along to drop that base and to pay that same amount.

The Secretary: I don’t see it; are you trying to keep us in or get us out?

Hartman: We have to acknowledge that there is not likely to be a really functioning government for awhile.

The Secretary: Would there be any problem in my seeing Cortina?

Hartman: No, none. It was the first thing he told me that he wanted to do. He asked when he might be able to see you.

Sonnenfeldt: Somebody likes you.

The Secretary: [2 lines not declassified]

Stabler: [2½ lines not declassified]

The Secretary: But what should we do about that trip?

Hartman: I would hold the announcement until maybe the end of next week.

Sonnenfeldt: That would work out well with the EC Summit.

The Secretary: Keep me informed of how that goes. Now on the internal side. No. I must know why you think it is not important that the talks be ended early.

[Typeset Page 681]

Hartman: It is important.

The Secretary: I am the one who has to pay the price. [1 line not declassified]

Hartman: The thing is that maybe we ought to hold off on the announcement to see whether there is a change. Why don’t we just wait until the end of next week?

Stabler: Or even a week before you go.

The Secretary: I would like to know what I am supposed to do. It would be very rude to cancel just a few days before I am to go there. You don’t seem to think it is important that I promised the King I would come.

Hartman: No, don’t cancel, just don’t announce it yet. It is important for you to see the King.

Stabler: Would there be any point in my seeing him and asking his views? Maybe he would want to wait himself.

The Secretary: Oddly enough, he telephoned to me and invited me to come, so there is no question of my going.

Sonnenfeldt: If there is no meeting in Paris, you could have lunch with the King and return here, or you could leave the Chiefs of Mission meeting and return here. But you don’t want to be discourteous to the King.

The Secretary: I don’t understand why it is that if Cortina is so eager to get on with it why I shouldn’t [less than 1 line not declassified] get it over with. I am the one who suffers. What obstacle could there be?

Stabler: The problem is that I am not sure Cortina is capable of concluding.

Hartman: Would you object to our getting McCloskey over right away to start preparing the documents in detail?

The Secretary: Far be it from me to interfere in the regulated work of the Foreign Service. I should think now that there is only advantage in putting a deadline on the negotiations.

(There followed a discussion of possible schedule changes and time differences.)

I would rather see Juan Carlos without Cortina. Not necessarily alone, but not with Cortina.

Stabler: The King would just have to work it out. When the Vice President called on the King, Cortina was not invited but he showed up anyway. But he was just blocked out. What should we do about the announcement?

The Secretary: Ask his views. We can’t treat him as though he were an errand boy. Tell him I am not sure of the exact dates because of the energy conference. It could be either Saturday and Sunday, the 13th [Typeset Page 682] and 14th, or the 14th and 15th. Then we would leave again at mid-day on the 16th. Maybe I can skip the Chiefs of Mission conference. When will we know whether there is going to be an energy conference?

Hartman: We should know a few days after the European Council meeting. Before that if there isn’t going to be one.

Stabler: Should I tell him what you are thinking?

The Secretary: Yes, I have told his emissary, and on the phone. Call on him. Can you do it without Cortina?

Stabler: Yes, but I shall tell Cortina that you are thinking of coming if we can first make a little progress in our talks.

The Secretary: Now on the internal side.

Stabler: The first problem involves the President of the Cortes. He is an old-line Franco follower. If Juan Carlos does decide to change him, he might then keep Arias. Arias’ credentials aren’t bad. About a year ago he favored some modest liberalization measures to broaden participation in elections, authorize the right to strike, etc. But if Juan Carlos doesn’t change Arias he might still change some others in the government. His problem, as we’ve seen, lies in the old Franco apparatus, how they suspended newspapers, closed down the press center. The papers are full of it today. Then yesterday the King got a nice political science lecture from the Cardinal at the mass. The Cardinal told him what he thought his government should look like, and what his political philosophy should be.

The Secretary: I was not amused by that mass.

Stabler: But it isn’t surprising. I have seen the Cardinal from time to time. He has always talked like that.

The Secretary: [less than 1 line not declassified] Did you ever tell him when you talked to him that you thought he was off base?

Stabler: Well, no, but he was always the most extreme, even before Franco.

The Secretary: Wells, let me give you my position. I shall have to do it in a rather brutal way, but I must have it. I will have it. I do not think the issue in Spain lies in accelerated democratization. I agree that there must be some democratization, but somehow we must find a position that lies between this and an Italian or a Portuguese situation. There must be authority, and people must know where we stand. I am not interested in the opinions of some of those fools in Congress. That is not our job. Our job is to lay down a policy. We must think this through, and I want to know where you think it is going to come out.

Stabler: I agree completely that we do not want him to go in any direction that is likely to slide into an Italian situation or chaos.

The Secretary: We just cannot have a democratization in a short time or the lid will blow off.

[Typeset Page 683]

Stabler: But there must be a more open, more democratic society.

The Secretary: I agree with this. But if the King thinks you are playing the labor game, what will he think of what you tell him?

Stabler: I am not playing the labor game. The Labor Attaché does see them, and I think it is important to do so. It is not just to have a contact. It is to have some input from the beginning so that if they begin to develop a democratic labor movement, we shall have some input into it. And that is why I think we should maintain these contacts. It is also why, with my agreement, we invited two Socialist labor leaders to come to the United States last year.

The Secretary: Left wingers? Why them and not others?

Stabler: Well, because there just aren’t any others. And if we don’t have any capability to get something into the system, and I know here Meany and his people won’t see them, we won’t have any influence with them at all. I agree that we don’t want to have a Portuguese situation. But we won’t prevent that by not having any contact with them, because then we are just not to have any influence.

The Secretary: I agree with the contact, but we must build our policy on strength so that we do not become dependent on that kind of influence. This is much more important.

Hartman: If Juan Carlos acts strongly, he will introduce into the government new tendencies without calling them parties, and these will be visible in the government. There will be strong pressures on him not to overdo it because people like Valcarcel think very much about the political situation in Northern Europe and they don’t want that.

Stabler: Yes, they talk about a German situation. But it will never happen. There will never be three parties. If those people are put into the government they will nonetheless open up new lines to the Basques, the Catalans and people like that.

The Secretary: There is just no point in it. I don’t think conciliation will do it. The Basques have been fighting for 1,000 years and if they have their way they will go on fighting for another 1,000 years.

Stabler: The problem is that they can’t ignore them.

The Secretary: But if there is to be any political payoff, it has to be on the basis of strength, and Juan Carlos can’t do it by himself. [less than 1 line not declassified] I think he is going to do it if he doesn’t know where he wants to come out and where to look for advice.

Stabler: Some of it will come from on-the-job training, and he has matured a lot.

The Secretary: [2½ lines not declassified]

Hartman: But his speech was good, it was very good. He said some things but he didn’t go too far. But he has got to be strengthened and given a sense of political consciousness. If he doesn’t have it, everyone [Typeset Page 684] will go running to him with the latest hot ideas. There is the Army. It will be very present and maybe it could give him some leadership.

Stabler: Yes, some people in the Army say the change would be good, but others do not want to see any change at all.

The Secretary: If the King is not soon in a position to act from some recognizable political line, he will be engulfed. The British, the Socialists, the Basques, the Catalans will all be after him to do one thing or another and he will be engulfed. Even the Christian Democrats.

Stabler: He hasn’t given any sign of going too fast. The first thing to do is get some support for himself by making some changes in the government as symbols of a change from the past.

The Secretary: I agree that there is a need for change, but there is also a need for strength. He depends on people.

Hartman: Yes, and much will depend on the kind of people he brings in. Under the constitution, he has much less power than Franco, so until he appoints his own government, it will be hard for him to have much personal support.

Sonnenfeldt: Constitutionally and in every other way he will be weaker than Franco.

Stabler: There is a base there now, but his break from the Franco image will have to be gradual.

Sonnenfeldt: It will blow up if it is not gradual.

The Secretary: My judgment is that he is looking for someone to counsel him. I would like him to look to you but before I let you loose on him, I want to know what you will tell him. Someone must tell him what to do. I don’t know Spain but I know enough of its history and of revolution to know that if he tries to move from weakness or if he moves too fast, the lid will blow off. I agree he can’t stay where he is, but before we encourage him to move, it must be clearer where he will be going.

Hartman: He knows strong men in the Army.

The Secretary: I am not advocating his going back to reaction.

Sonnenfeldt: Who would that be?

Stabler: Maybe the commanding general of the Presidio Ceuta, who was the chief military negotiator. He was thinking of naming him Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, which would be a new portfolio. Gutirrez Mellado could do it even though he has no experience. What the King has said so far hasn’t been bad. He said he would move without haste but without pause.

The Secretary: That doesn’t mean anything.

Stabler: It means he understands that he must meet pressures, especially from the younger people, who will not accept his trying to copy Franco.

[Typeset Page 685]

The Secretary: If Franco had been thirty years younger today they would have followed him happily.

Stabler: Yes, that’s probably right, but now everyone says it went on too long, that Spain is not in its time. Yet they have no other experience and no idea of what they want.

The Secretary: Somebody has to advise Juan Carlos.

Hartman: That is why his choice of new people will be very important.

The Secretary: If it is not you, I will go myself. I am not just going there to have dinner. He needs help. I don’t know who his advisers are, but I do know that if he tries to heed all the advice he gets, there will be disaster.

Hartman: He has already had a talk with Giscard. I think the major Europeans—the Germans, the French—will advise him to go slow and tell him to straighten out his economy and to bring in good people.

The Secretary: Yes, Giscard will be sensible.

Stabler: The French suggested that he get rid of the President of Parliament but that he keep Arias.

The Secretary: I don’t want a frozen situation.

Stabler: There is no way he can be as autocratic as Franco was, but it is important that he put in some new people who will themselves embody a kind of moderate change and who will make up for some of his own weaknesses. He has to have a Prime Minister with charisma, for example, but I am told that he is thinking of putting his former tutor, a man named Torquata Alverez Miranda, who has absolutely no charisma at all.

The Secretary: Is that the same as the Minister of Interior?

Stabler: No, that’s his brother. There is Lopez Letona. No one knows him, but he was the King’s go-between with the Socialists. The reason I know is because the King told me. But he hasn’t mentioned him again.

The Secretary: What does he expect the Socialists to tell him? Does he think they won’t push him? What I want to know is, what you would tell him. What kind of advice you would give him to give him a feeling he means business.

Stabler: If he hasn’t made any decisions on those two positions, that is all important that he put in as Prime Minister someone in whom he has absolute confidence, not someone out of the 1939 mold. He must be his choice, have some charisma, have a past that he can put to work for himself. Not Torquata Alverez Miranda, who has no past at all. It is only his tutor, and not someone whose captive he would become like Fraqa. But it would be quite improper for me to try to tell him whom to select.

[Typeset Page 686]

The Secretary: Yes, I agree you can’t do that. My problem is that I am not sure myself how I would respond to his request, and since I don’t know what to say to meet his problem, how could I tell him? It is vital to know in this kind of situation where things lead.

Stabler: It is difficult to believe that we ought to be in a position to tell Juan Carlos where he wants to come out. We bear a very heavy responsibility.

The Secretary: Bearing that kind of responsibility doesn’t bother me. I much prefer it to having the Communists there.

Stabler: Yes, I agree. But I would not tell him or give him the sort of advice the Dutch gave him. You know they talked about free elections, about bringing the Socialists in, and things like that. It would really be necessary to sort out the route he should follow to see what sort of Spain he wants to have. There are already some good elements present.

Hartman: His speech was a very good charter. It was just right.

The Secretary: I am afraid I have to get back to the White House. Would you write out for me tonight where you think we want to go and send it to me on the airplane for me to edit. I wish I had more time now but we can meet again at the Chiefs of Mission conference. [1½ lines not declassified] He needs someone to give him strength, not 500 ideas. The Dutch, the British, the Germans, the French will all be trying to tell him what to do. He needs somewhere solid to turn.

Stabler: If he decides to change only one man, it is very important that he make the right choice.

The Secretary: He can put in ten representatives of ten associations if he wants to, and under this one cover he can still do what he needs to do and avoid chaos. But every association will be after him and if he acts the way they want him to, we shall have a government just like the Portuguese government.

Stabler: That is the image he has in mind and wants to avoid.

The Secretary: But is he governing?

Hartman: Maybe he needs to produce a Prime Minister who can also be a technician.

The Secretary: If he is not a technician, he will be a figurehead.

  1. Summary: Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt, Stabler, and Hartman discussed U.S.-Spanish relations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840139–0556. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Barbour; and approved in S on January 2, 1976. Franco died on November 20. On November 22, Rockefeller and Stabler attended Juan Carlos’ investiture as Chief of State and proclamation as King. On November 23, they attended Franco’s funeral. SNIE 27.1–2–75, November 20, explored Spain’s short-term prospects in the wake of Franco’s death. It suggested that “the critical question is whether a controlled liberalization can gain broader support for the regime, without triggering reactions from the Franquist right—which may still be able to obstruct political change—and without being exploited by Spain’s clandestine Communist Party (PCE) and separatist groups.” (Central Intelligence Agency, History Staff Files)