Spanish suspicion of US bases and NATO may ruffle Reagan visit
For Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez, President Reagan's visit to Spain next week will be ``very delicate'' in view of acute Spanish suspicions toward the United States and the growing debate over Spain's place in the NATO alliance. In an interview with American journalists early this week, Mr. Gonz'alez admitted to being ``somewhat concerned'' about anti-Reagan demonstrations when the US President arrives here from West Germany.
Gonz'alez talked at length about Spanish reservations over various US policies, notably its Central American policies and the US military presence in Spain.
Expanding on his defense policy statement six months ago, the prime minister said Spain wanted to start negotiating ``as soon as possible'' a reduction both of US military personnel and of base facilities. The US has some 12,000 servicemen in Spain at four main air and naval bases.
He said the bilateral US-Spanish relationship, which is covered by a five-year defense and cooperation pact signed in 1982, was one of the issues that ``could and should'' form part of the talks with Mr. Reagan. But he said Spain still had to evaluate what was and was not dispensa-ble in the US presence. He did ``not to put strategic interests at risk,'' he said.
``It is a very touchy social issue,'' he said. Since Spain did not participate in World War II and was not liberated by US troops, the public here does not appreciate the US military role in the same way other Europeans do.
Gonz'alez said he was ``preoccupied'' about the referendum on NATO membership promised for next year. He has called for endorsement of Spain's present membership status without joining the alliance's military structure.
The timing of Reagan's visit is ``very delicate,'' he said. ``It could be interpreted by some as an element of pressure on the outcome of the referendum. But it could also have a backfire effect.'' By this, Gonz'alez evidently meant that an unsuccessful visit could reinforce anti-American and anti-NATO feeling.
Gonz'alez stated firmly the referendum would go ahead even if early general elections were held next spring. He said Spain had to demonstrate solidarity with the West and promised ``the utmost effort to make the Spanish people understand their responsibilities in security.''
For the moment, however, he felt there was ``no necessity'' for Spain to join NATO's integrated military command.
Asked why Spain continued to resist pressure to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Gonz'alez said he had no intention of producing nuclear arms but was reluctant to sign the treaty ``when those countries that produce arms and have the possibility to limit them put restrictions on those countries that do not.''
Gonz'alez said Spain would not adopt a position on the US Strategic Defense Initiative until it had more information. But he added: ``If in reality it were to lead to an increase in the arms race, I would not be in favor.''
Gonz'alez was most critical of US thinking on Latin America. ``It surprises me that the United States does not have a strategy to the year 2000,'' he said. ``How can it afford not to have a strategy? Instead it has a day-by-day policy.''
He said it was contradictory to call for peace in Central America while requesting funds to arm Nicaraguan rebels.