235. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to President Kennedy 0


  • The Volta Project
In the attached papers1 the State Department has made the case for postponing a decision on the Ghana dam until we see what happens to Nkrumah and his policy over the next ten days or so. I concur. In fact, we should seek, if possible, the thirty-day postponement of decision suggested in Accra’s No. 577 of October 2, attached.2
The State Department does not, however, lay out the pros and cons of cancellation. Its argument moves towards cancellation, but the issue is not squarely faced.
  • Nkrumah’s foreign and domestic policies have taken an ugly lurch to the left since your letter of June 29.
  • —Hisdomestic economic and political position is less stable than it was five weeks ago.
  • —The dam is a long-range project for the people of Ghana and Africa. It should not be handled off-again, on-again in a country that is bound to suffer from various instabilities in the course of its building.
  • —The long-range prospects for Ghana fetching up an independent African country are reasonably good: it has no Communist border; it has strong nationalist, anti-Communist political elements, which are not yet cowed; its trade is heavily tied to Britain and the West. There is risk; but less risk over coming years than, say, the risk of Nasser’s taking Egypt into Communism in 1956.
  • —If we pull out on what will be interpreted as political grounds, we shall place extremely heavy pressure on Nkrumah to make any terms with Moscow he can get to build his dam; and Africans (who dislike him) will, on this account, be sympathetic. Accra’s No. 577 underlines this point. We shall probably have a second Aswan Dam problem on our [Page 360] hands and have given Nkrumah powerful grounds for justifying his Moscow connection.
  • —The deal itself represents an extremely complex consortium of government, private business, and the International Bank. And, as the memo from the Legal Adviser’s office at State indicates, it is extremely hard to find justifiable grounds for breaking it up now. Nkrumah may give us a clean-cut provocation, but his unsatisfactory behavior at Belgrade and Moscow wouldn’t hold up in court—or in African and world opinion.
We should buy a little time to assess where Nkrumah is going; to bring maximum external and internal pressure on him to settle down; and to see if Gbedemah gets anywhere.
The weight of the argument is for going ahead with the project unless things turn radically for the worse in Ghana.
If we go ahead, we should do so—and say so—in ways which make clear this is being done for Ghana and Africa—despite Nkrumah, not because of him. Accra’s No. 577 has some concrete suggestions as to how this attitude might be effectively communicated.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Ghana, Vol. I, Volta River Project, 1961. Secret. A copy was sent to Belk.
  2. Not attached to the source text. “The Volta Project and the Current Political Situation in Ghana,” memorandum from Battle to Bundy, September 30, is in Department of State, Central Files, 845J.2614/9-3061.
  3. Not printed.