LONDON — Britain's Winston Churchill authorized about $100 million in bribes to keep Spain out of World War II, according to papers discovered by a British historian.
David Stafford said the British wartime leader approved payments of 2.5 million pounds (about $100 million in today's terms) to advisors and army commanders of fascist leader Gen. Francisco Franco to sway them against supporting a Spanish alliance with Nazi Germany.
"Financial subversion was an integral part of British intelligence," Stafford, a professor at Edinburgh University, said Monday. "Churchill understood the levers of power available to him as prime minister and was quite willing to use them."
With Germany winning the war across Europe in 1940, the possible entry of neutral Spain posed a significant threat to Britain's war effort. It would have jeopardized shipping lanes in the Mediterranean.
Spain ultimately stayed out of the war, but the deciding factor was Hitler's waning fortunes rather than financial payments, said Stafford, whose book "Churchill and the Secret Service" is due out in October.