232. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between President Kennedy and the Acting Under Secretary of State (Ball)0
Ball said he wanted to give him a quick rundown on the Volta River project. The situation is that we have gone very far in committing ourselves to it. Now we have the problem of Nkrumah acting up and also the fact that there is some reason to think final situation may not be stable as it was because there is a strike going on and some trouble out there. What Ball proposes to do is to have Soapy Williams and Abe Chayes and probably Harold Linder go out there the latter part of next week with the statement that since this is such a major project that they want to be satisfied the conditions are such that all the provisions are going to be met before there is any final closing. They will make a complete study of the situation and that will make them come back and in the meantime we will have seen the situation developed there. The Parliament comes back early in October. The President said he supposed we were faced with something a bit like the Aswan Dam situation. Ball said that was what we wanted to avoid. Pres. said that if it is cancelled they will blame everything on us. On the other hand, if we go through with it, everybody will think we are crazy in the Congress and every place else.
Ball said that was right. He thought that this formula was probably about the best … The President said we couldn’t delay their visit a couple of weeks could we, but announce we are going to do it. He thinks the more time we get, the clearer the situation becomes. Ball said we could do that. We have one technical problem—we may have to close by November 5 in order to get in under the authority of the DLF act which is going out of existence. The President asked how much money are we going to commit of our own. Ball said the total in loans and guarantees would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $240 million. But actually the draw down won’t begin for a long time. The draw down on the DLF money won’t be until next year and on the bulk of the money (which is what goes into the smelter) won’t begin until 1965, so that we are not actually laying out money. There are lots of outs for getting out of this thing—on various breaches of covenance all the way down the line.
The President said he had given up on him. He wouldn’t mind giving them a little aid just to keep the contact, but he thinks he’s been unnecessarily difficult with us, considering the effort we’ve really made about him. As bad as he’s been in Belgrade, as well as his desire to send 400 soldiers to Russia—ideally would be to give them some aid but not to [Page 356] give them that kind of aid. Ball said he thinks what we have to avoid is being in a situation where it appears to all these underdeveloped countries that because he has said some unpleasant things we are terminating a great project. President said on the other hand, these people would much rather have the dough themselves. Ball agreed. We ought to delay that decision, he would think, and do it on a basis of saying we are sending these people out to make the check before. If it is cancelled they …
President said otherwise, of course, then it comes out in the paper that we are giving Ghana, no matter how it is stretched out, $220 million. This would make us look sort of foolish in view of his statement about supporting others.
Ball said Mollenhoff is writing a story tomorrow to the effect that the thing has been put on ice. Ball thinks if this mission is announced in the next few days they are going out for the purpose of making a check to make sure that all the financial commitments etc. are going to be met without tying it specifically—
President said as long as Ball and he are in touch on it so that we don’t go beyond the point of [no] return, then we can see how we go in the next month or six weeks. It could really mess up our foreign aid program by giving him that kind of money when we give others almost nothing.
President asked what were we doing on Tanganyika. Ball said we had a consortium which we are about to propose through DAG which has German money, our money, and two or three other kinds of money. President said if we decide not to go with them it seemed that we could say it just doesn’t make sense to put that kind of money in. Then immediately commit a good percentage of the money to some other African countries. Then at least we wouldn’t look like we had pulled the rug out of Africa—just Ghana. Ball said that was a possibility. This fellow might get overthrown in the next couple of weeks and a really solid government come in. The situation is very fluid. If agreeable to the President, he will send these people. Pres. agreed. Ball said we would delay them and not make any final commitment.
- Source: Kennedy Library, Ball Papers, Ghana, Volta Project. No classification marking.↩