Spain, the United States and NATO

By Gooch, Anthony | Contemporary Review, May 1992 | Go to article overview

Spain, the United States and NATO


Gooch, Anthony, Contemporary Review


United States

In recent times the Spanish attitude to the United States has been coloured in essence by three historical factors:

(i) Recollection of the Spanish-American War. |El Desastre', the

debacle of 1898, was the final traumatic episode in the long story

of the Spanish Empire, involving the loss of the Philippine Islands

and Cuba.

(ii) Anit-Axis Inducements and their Cessation. In World War II

the United States other Allied Powers supplied Spain with

foodstuffs in order to keep Franco from throwing in his lot with

Hitler and Mussolini. However, once the danger receded, the

supplies ceased and Spain was left to her own devices in a

situation of semi-starvation.

(iii) The 1953 Defence Treaty. Spain, not having been occupied by

German forces, did not have to be freed from them. Nor did

the United States rid Spain of Franco. On the contrary, the

Defence Treaty of 1953 turned the US into one of the firmest

pillars of the Franco State.

In 1945 the United States and the other Western democracies, which had been essentially pro-Republican in the Spanish Civil War, perceived the Franco Regime not only as a recipient of German and Italian aid in its fight against the Republic, but as having become, during World War II, a near-lackey of Hitler, as having put itself, in consequence, beyond the pale and as deserving of ostracism. Ambassadors were withdrawn, and there was no Marshall aid for the Spanish people, who thus had cruelly to pay for the sins of the Regime. The ironic, bitter-sweet film Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall, a minor political masterpiece, cleverly and movingly encapsulated the feelings of the ordinary Spaniard in this regard.

However, as the Cold War between East and West developed, the Americans gradually came to the realization that it was in their interest to drop their hostile, negative attitude and take advantage of a view of Spain as a highly desirable bastion in the global struggle against communism, as a |reservoir of Western spiritual values'/reserva espiritual de Occidente, Franco being, to use another Regime phrase |The Sentinel of the West'/el centinela de Occidente. For General Franco the Civil War had been una cruzada cristiana contra el Anticristo comunista/a' Christian Crusade against the communist Anti-Christ' -- a reading which suddenly suited the United States admirably. The American obsession with the communist menace in the present over-rode the historical obsession with the Spanish/Axis connexion. Powerful though the old stigma was, the Cold War made natural allies out of these strange bedfellows: democratic American and authoritarian Spain. Spain, then, seen as a totalitarian pariah, had been excluded from the American largesse disbursed to other European nations, but, with the signing of the US-Spanish Defence Treaty, a fundamental change came about. A special, tailor-made mini-Marshall Plan was devised.

Many years later, the treaty was to turn into the |US-Spanish Agreement of Friendship and Co-operation'. That was to be in 1976, the year King Juan Carlos, together with Queen Sofia, visited Washington and delivered a historic address to the American Congress.

Back in 1953, Spain had had to pay a high price in submission to the United States, curtailment of Spanish sovereignty, and exposure, as a prime target, to Russian missiles. However, Franco needed the benefits of the treaty so badly that he was prepared to pay almost any price, and the conditions were negotiated by the military bureaucracy of the Alto Estado Mayor/Supreme General Staff -- men that the United States under General Eisenhower found it not too difficult to do business with. It was not to be until the sixties that the career diplomats of the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores would begin to play a part in negotiations with the Americans. …

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