77. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower 0


  • Prime Minister Balewa 1
  • Minister of Commerce Dipcharima
  • Minister of Information Benson
  • Under Secretary Dillon
  • Deputy Under Secretary Hare
  • Assistant Secretary Satterthwaite
  • Ambassador Palmer
  • Colonel Eisenhower

After amenities, the President said he was delighted to have the Prime Minister here for this is the time when we have the greatest need for reason and sound thinking. Never before in history have we seen happenings such as the mass emergence of independent States in Africa. Capital investment on a large scale is necessary in Africa, but education and technical aid are even more important.

The Prime Minister said he was highly honored to be here, and that it is a privilege to meet the President, not only because of his high office, but because of his personal standing in the world. In particular, he is held in high esteem in Nigeria for his contribution in the winning of the last war.

The Prime Minister continued that we live in a difficult world. Here the small nations must look to the large ones to exercise patience. If the large nations do not exercise patience, they can cause catastrophe. Nigeria, fortunately, possesses a wealth of experience in governing itself in comparison to other nations of Black Africa. The British, no matter what we say about them, took great pains to train the Nigerians to administer themselves. As for himself, the Prime Minister said he had had thirty years’ responsibility and had governed a district of 1½ million people before ever becoming a Minister of the Nigerian government.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that out of the chaos of the moment may come a better world. In this evolution the small nations can only offer advice to the larger ones. He hopes that large nations recognize this advice as much as possible, and he assured the President that he appreciates the tremendous problems faced by the U.S.

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He acknowledged that the U.S. cannot allow themselves to be run over by the Soviets. He pleaded, however, for an easing of tensions; for these tensions affect the small nations mentally as well as physically and cause them to act accordingly. This is aggravated by the spectacle of conflict between powerful nations being conducted every day in the UN.

The Prime Minister expressed warm admiration for the U.S. He said that whatever may be said of the U.S., she never fought an aggressive or expansionist war. Therefore, the whole burden of representing the West and standing up to the USSR falls on the U.S.

The Prime Minister said the U.S. is in a different position from the USSR. A journalist here the other day asked him to comment on the need to free all captive peoples from their colonial masters. He had said yes, this is so, but this would include the Eastern satellite nations held in bondage under the Russians.

In summary, the Prime Minister reiterated his happiness in meeting the President. He invited the President to visit Nigeria now that they are an independent country. Millions there would be glad to see him. The two foreigners whom the Nigerians hold most dear are the President himself and Sir Winston Churchill. The latter, unfortunately, will never be able to make the trip.

The President expressed his pleasure at having his own name coupled with Sir Winston’s. He said he thought there would be a good chance sometime next year that he and his wife would take a trip. If this transpires, Central Africa will be high on the list. Other regions would be Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. The President said he had pondered whether it would be possible for him to come to the Prime Minister’s inauguration. With the world situation as it is, he had regretfully to decline and sent in his place his good friend Governor Rockefeller. He had thought this would be the best way to see some of the small nations that the U.S. is interested in but had had to give up the idea. He promised to try in the future.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s words on the small nations, the President said he spoke the truth and spoke eloquently. He said the greatest usefulness of the UN is to the small nations, but it is useful also to the large ones since stability in the small nations is necessary to us. Turmoil in small nations forces the large nations into opposition.

Therefore, the opportunity to make the UN work must not be lost. He expressed agreement with the Prime Minister’s estimates regarding their uncomfortable position when the large nations glare at each other.

The President then said the U.S. is seeking today all practical measures to implement disarmament and the cessation of production of atomic fuel. If this can be commenced in a practical manner, things will be well. On our part, we are willing to open our nation to inspection [Page 230] from without. The Soviets, however, are unwilling to do the same. Apparently the Soviets are afraid for people to enter their borders for fear those people will be repelled by what they see or by their own influence to foment liberalism.

The problem, as the President sees it, is that everyone can make speeches. Khrushchev refers to himself as a “peace-loving democracy,” at the same time threatening the use of force. In this atmosphere, we cannot give way or we will invite more of the same. The U.S. has the problem of convincing the world of its peaceful intentions. Actually we would rather put our money in helping underdeveloped nations than into the sterile “fire department” for which we are required to pay $50 billion annually. This, unfortunately, is not practical since we cannot afford to look weak militarily, morally, or economically. Any man who witnesses the dead of a battlefield becomes the world’s biggest practical pacifist. Force is unacceptable as an instrument of policy; we must reach a meeting of men’s minds. At this time Communists refuse to believe that individuals have rights. They regard people as servants, a state which reduces them, in effect, to intelligent mules.

The Prime Minister said that, although Nigeria achieved independence only one week ago, they have had some experience with the Russians. He agreed that if you give in to them you are through. He cited an incident in Lagos when a delegation of Russians, including Malik, called on him at inauguration time and insisted on opening an Embassy in Lagos immediately. He himself had insisted on the submission of application in proper form. They had argued an hour, at the end of which the Soviets left in a huff with a statement that the Nigerians do not like them. He reiterated that if the U.S. gives in to the Soviets the world will fall to pieces.

The Prime Minister referred to the situation among the smaller nations. They are all in a great state of excitement over the prospects of independence. Some are not ready. They have a need for financial and human help without obligation. Guinea and Ghana have accepted help from the Soviets to the extent that the Prime Minister believes they have developed obligations to the Soviet bloc. Nigeria will not do this; but this fact does not reduce her need for the help. Nigeria needs capital investment of a private nature. This he would expect to come from the U.S., Britain, Germany, and to a lesser degree, France. He had referred to this in his speech at the UN and asked that placing Nigeria in a position of obligation be avoided.

The Prime Minister referred to the visit of Averell Harriman recently, who, he said, had come as the President’s representative. Harriman had expressed the view that aid to Africa be through the UN, with bilaterals avoided. The President hastily informed the Prime Minister, much to the latter’s surprise, that Mr. Harriman did not in any [Page 231] way represent the President. The Prime Minister continued, however, that if Nigeria is stable, and if she recognizes the danger inherent in becoming dependent on other nations, then she should be allowed to receive bilateral aid. The President agreed with this and said that aid to Africa through the UN does not necessarily preclude bilaterals. He said we put great interest and stock in Nigeria. In this he says he is not just talking; we will be depending on Nigeria heavily. He said the UN Special Fund is particularly valuable for the type of situation which has arisen in the Congo. Here this fund would be of tremendous value for the development of rivers, dams, minerals and the like. The Prime Minister interjected that Nigeria has a river project in the offing. The President said he believes by and large it is better to handle aid on a loan basis rather than grant. This requires the recipient to be responsible, independent, and self-respecting. He recognizes grants are some-times necessary, but that they connote some feeling of obligation.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that Nigeria, as the largest and most heavily populated of the Black African nations, can do much to help the other nations if they are stable and progressive. Nigeria, however, has some way to go. Her living standards are low and technical know-how is lacking. However, Nigeria’s standing is high, as evidenced by the fact that the French Community nations came to Nigeria in the UN and gave Balewa the mandate to speak for them.

The President said the immature nations figure that with enough money they can grow overnight. He said you cannot make a tree grow overnight, no matter how much water you pour on the seed. Stability is necessary to promote growth. He cited the expense of modern weapons and the burden which it is placing on Great Britain. By contrast, Germany, not permitted to re-arm to a large degree since the war, has been growing at an unparalleled rate economically.

Turning to a casual subject, the President asked as to the altitude of Lake Chad. The Prime Minister said it is actually at a low altitude, even below sea level. The highest mountains in Nigeria are 7000–9000 feet.

(The discussion of institutes for primary education then transpired, at which time I was absent arranging for photographs.)

The Prime Minister then very seriously asked the President his advice on the way Nigeria should vote in the UN on the seating of the Chinese Communists. Here is a nation of 650 million people without representation. Whatever happens, the Soviets and Chinese Communists will come to grips and conflict will result. Thus, the Prime Minister cannot understand why the U.S. opposes admission of Red China to the UN. He admitted that he himself is a layman and not too well informed. He derives his opinions from the competition which he has been able to observe between the Red Chinese and Russians in Africa. The President admitted this is an extremely tough problem. Conditions [Page 232] have changed, and there are signs that the Sino-Soviet axis is not so strong as it was once upon a time. He pointed out the emotional bill of particulars that the U.S. holds against the Communist Chinese, particularly from their acts in the Korean war and from their holding of U.S. prisoners illegally. He pointed out that Red China has been branded an aggressor by the UN and this brand has not been removed. The President cited the fact that the charter of the UN insists that its members be peace-loving. He further cited the condition of U.S. prisoners when returned from North Korea, in a brainwashed condition. Two years ago the Chinese agreed to release some, but this had not transpired. The President continued with his bill of goods to mention the invasion of Viet-Nam by the North Chinese, plus the Chinese insistence that regardless of the attitude of the UN, they intended to take Formosa by force. He reiterated that the American people are emotional. They look at the list of actions, and say, “The hell with that.” At a later date the Chinese Reds may be admitted, but this is not the time.

To the Prime Minister’s question, the President said he had studied the idea of two Chinas in the UN a great deal. He feels that to recognize Red China would destroy Chiang Kai-Shek, our ally of long standing. There is no easy answer; the President realizes there are 650 million people involved and the government is operated without measurable resistance. He recognized that John Foster Dulles, in a book dated 1956, had said that after a certain length of time any nation of this sort would be automatically recognized.3

The President said he is hard put to advise the Prime Minister on this issue. He said that if Red China is admitted to the UN on a precipitant action right now, this would constitute such a repudiation of the U.S. that we would be in a hard fix indeed. He himself has always avoided the word “never” regarding Red China. Once they cease their aggressive intent, release our prisoners, and abandon their professed intention of taking Formosa by force, then the way will be open. The Prime Minister said that would provide a new situation.

Mr. Dillon told the Prime Minister that the Red Chinese have rejected any prospects of two Chinas in the UN. This surprised the Prime Minister considerably. He admitted that he had been ignorant of this fact, plus the fact that Red China was currently still branded an aggressor by the UN.

John S. D. Eisenhower
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Secret. Drafted by John S.D. Eisenhower.
  2. The Prime Minister also met with Secretary Herter in New York on October 6; a memorandum of that conversation is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.
  3. Reference is probably to DullesWar or Peace (New York: Macmillan Co., 1950).