The evolution of Spain's internal response to strategic and political ties with the United States from Franco to Zapatero

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The modern era of Spanish relations with the United States began with the signing of the 1953 Madrid Pact that gave the US access to military bases in Spain. This thesis examines how the military bases provided the context for shaping the political and strategic ties between the United States and Spain. Through analysing the motivations and actions of successive Spanish governments from 1953 to 2009, this thesis will articulate the functional benefits that each partner has gained over the period under review. The study will show the changing nature of the relationship through four key phases: the need to end international isolation under Franco (1953-1975); the post-Franco desire for closer integration into the European economic and political architecture (1975-1996); the rise of an Atlanticist ideological commitment to the US (1996-2004) under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar; and finally Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s multi-polar view of world politics (2004-2009). The last two chapters give an assessment of Aznar’s leadership by contrasting it with his immediate successor, Zapatero, who took over the leadership role of Spain during the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The argument of this thesis is that the nature of the relationship between Spain and the US has evolved over time from being transactional in nature to being, by mid-2009, based on a more balanced partnership. Base politics plays two key roles in this progression; firstly the nature of bases was a transactional pact based on military expediency to a Treaty of Friendship that has led to closer integration between the two countries strategically, politically, diplomatically and socially.
The second key change was the economic growth of Spain and this thesis will argue that the US need for Spanish bases led to Spain’s rapid membership of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), followed by accession to the European Economic Community (EEC), in turn leading to Spain’s growth in economic and geopolitical power.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRory Miller (Supervisor) & Efraim Karsh (Supervisor)

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