Spain and the United States

Spain and the United States

The anti-American sentiment that figured significantly in Spain's relations with NATO had its roots in the historical rivalry between the two countries for control of the territories of the New World. The Spanish-American War ended this rivalry, stripping Spain of its remaining colonies and leaving a residue of bitterness toward the United States.

In the years following the Spanish-American War, economic issues dominated relations between Spain and the United States, as Spain sought to enhance its trading position by developing closer commercial ties with the United States as well as with Latin America. A series of trade agreements signed between Spain and the United States in 1902, 1906, and 1910 led to an increased exchange of manufactured goods and agricultural products that benefited Spain's domestic economy. Cultural contacts and tourism also increased.

The emotions of the American public were stirred profoundly by the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain, and approximately 3,000 United States citizens volunteered to serve in the Spanish Republican Army, although the United States government remained adamantly neutral. Following the Nationalist victory, much of public opinion in the United States condemned Franco's regime as a fascist dictatorship, but the United States government participated in various Allied agreements with Spain, aimed at ensuring that Franco would not permit the Iberian Peninsula to be used by Adolf Hitler against Allied forces.

The 1953 Pact of Madrid between Spain and the United States provided for mutual defense as well as for United States military aid, and it brought to an end Spain's postwar isolation. It did not end anti-Americanism in Spain, however. Francoist leaders resented having to accept what they considered to be insufficient military supplies in return for basing rights. They also chafed at United States restrictions against the use of American equipment in defending Spain's North African territories in 1957. This anti-American sentiment was bipartisan in Spain. Whereas Francoists resented the United States for its democratic form of government, the opposition parties in Spain perceived the United States as the primary supporter of the Franco regime and therefore as a major obstacle to the democratization of Spain.

Following the death of Franco in 1975, the United States welcomed the liberalization of the Spanish regime under King Juan Carlos and sought to bring Spain further into Western military arrangements. In 1976 the bilateral agreement between Spain and the United States was transformed into a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. In addition to renewing United States basing rights in return for United States military and economic aid, this treaty provided for a United States-Spanish Council intended to serve as a bridge to eventual Spanish membership in NATO.

During the early years of democratic rule, the government's focus was on consolidating the parliamentary system, and foreign policy issues received less attention. However, a point of contention persisted between the governing UCD and the Socialist opposition over Spain's relations with NATO and with the United States.

When Calvo replaced Suarez as prime minister in 1981, he made vigorous efforts to gain approval for Spanish membership in NATO, and shortly after this was accomplished a new executive agreement on the use of bases in Spain was signed with the United States in July 1982. This agreement was one of a series of renewals of the basic 1953 arrangement, providing for United States use of strategic naval and air bases on Spanish soil in exchange for United States military and economic assistance.

Many Spaniards resented the presence of these bases in Spain, recalling the widely publicized photograph of United States president Dwight D. Eisenhower, throwing his arms around Franco when the first agreement on bases was signed. There were occasional popular protests against these reminders of United States support for the dictatorship, including a demonstration during United States president Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to Spain.

The Socialists had consistently advocated a more neutralist, independent stance for Spain, and when they came to power in October 1982, Gonzalez pledged a close examination of the defense and cooperation agreements with the United States. A reduction in the United States military presence in Spain was one of the stipulations contained in the referendum, held in 1986, on continued NATO membership. In keeping with this, the prime minister announced in December 1987 that the United States would have to remove its seventy-two F-16 fighter-bombers from Spanish bases by mid-1991. Spain also had informed the United States in November that the bilateral defense agreement, which opinion polls indicated was rejected overwhelmingly by the Spanish population, would not be renewed. Nevertheless, in January 1988 Spain and the United States did reach agreement in principle on a new base agreement to last eight years. The new military arrangements called for a marked reduction of the United States presence in Spain and terminated the United States military and economic aid that had been tied to the defense treaty.

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