SPAIN AND THE MEDITERRANEAN TO-DAY
In connection with the present tension in the Mediterranean, the attitude of Spain is worth watching.
German and Italian influences on the Falangist Government and on the economic life of the country, the press and radio, the army and foreign relations, are the decisive factor. The results of these influences are gradually being allowed to appear more openly in accordance with a calculated and pre-arranged plan. Since the beginning of the war the support given by the present rulers of Spain to Germany has appeared mainly in two fields: first economic help; and second, the backing given to the position of Germany in international relations through official speeches and statements by General Franco (who declared that Spain wanted peace but was not afraid of war), and news and comments in the press and on the radio. These are under German control, their military and economic experts occupy all the key points, and the number of their agents, including those of the Gestapo, is exceedingly large, the German Embassy at Madrid alone having a staff of 240.
The attitude of the Spanish press may be gathered from the restrained words of Mr. R. A. Butler, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his speech closing the debate in the House of Commons on the Trade Agreement with Spain:
"We cannot at present feel that in every respect the Spanish Press has been giving a fair show to our side. It is not for me to use only words of honeyed balm, but it is the hope of His Majesty's Government that, as a result of this Agreement, comments in that Press will assume a tone more in consonance with the atmosphere which we all desire."
In recent days support for Germany is beginning to appear in other fields, chiefly in connection with the attitude of Italy. It is here that one may get a clearer idea of the Axis game in the Mediterranean.
The end of the Civil War did not mark the cessation of military preparations. German and Italian war material - including about 1,200 planes - remained in Spain, "bought" by General Franco's Government. Italian officers remain attached to the General Staff of the Divisions of the Spanish Army. Strategic roads and fortifications are being built with speed on the French frontier, chiefly at the ends of the Pyrenees, in the Basque Country and Catalonia. After a period of quiescence, war material has again been accumulated there during the last couple of months.
On February 6 General Yague, the Air Minister, announced his plan to have 2000 airmen at the end of this year, and 4000 by the end of 1941. A few weeks ago the War Minister officially stated that under present conditions in Europe, Spain must have a strong army ready to put into the field, and the National Defence Council has been working hard on military plans.