267. Memorandum From Samuel Belk of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kaysen)0


  • Next U.S. Moves Toward Guinea

The meeting in the Governor’s office yesterday was for the most part a belaboring of the obvious, with some confusion thrown in. However, we finally formulated a short-range line of action with which I hope you will agree.

By way of background, you probably are aware that Sargent Shriver has done an excellent job of convincing the town that the time had indeed [Page 419] arrived when Guinea will make a clean break with the Bloc. Ambassador Bangoura made calls yesterday on both Williams and Hutchison, taking the same line, saying the break (“de couper”) will come soon and that they are depending on the U.S. to step in and fill the gap. Neither Shriver, Attwood nor Bangoura have given any indication as to the actual timing of the “break,” nor how Sekou Toure plans to do it. This of course is something for Toure himself to decide on his own. Assuming that the break does come, we should take great care not to give the impression that we are calling the shots.

If we do decide to move in, we face a dilemma as to how and with what we should do it. We do not know the extent of the Bloc aid programs. The Guineans have always been very secretive about it. When I asked if the Guineans probably would not be more forthcoming now that they plan a break, Williams and the others doubted very seriously that the Guineans knew enough about Bloc assistance themselves to be very helpful. Apparently Toure himself is totally ignorant about foreign assistance to Guinea, whether it be Bloc or non-Bloc—he simply does not and will not understand it.

Most of the discussion centered about a possible letter to Toure from the President. The majority of those present had bought Attwood’s suggestion that the President should reiterate existing aid programs and cite a figure (e.g., $31 million). The Governor overruled them on this, strongly supported by me. I said I saw no reason why the President should reiterate in a letter a list of programs which have already been publicly announced, and that there were obvious dangers in citing the $31 million figure which, as the Governor had said, would lend itself to very unfortunate interpretations. If there were to be a letter at all, it should be one that would express the President’s sentiments in general terms, but in such a way as to inspire Toure’s confidence in our intentions should Guinea face difficulties in the future. (Trimble has just read me the first draft which isn’t bad. I will have it shortly.)

Toure leaves for Addis on May 21 (Tuesday) where Attwood thinks he may make a strong pro-Western statement. Any letter we send, therefore, should go out over the weekend. We will have no control over what Toure says at Addis and in the light of his past his statement, if unrestrained, might be damaging to our posture with other African states. This is why the President’s letter should be reassuring but not so much so that it will appear that we have, on such short notice, rushed in pell-mell to replace the Bloc.

The important conclusion of the meeting—to which I personally agreed—was that the President should send Toure a letter over the weekend which would be drafted along the general lines set forth above. As you know, Toure has asked for a Presidential letter and knows that Attwood[Page 420]has recommended it. Tasca is calling a meeting to draft such a letter today, which they will then send to the White House for approval.1

In addition, an instruction is being sent to the Country Team in Conakry to get more specifics on exactly what the U.S. should do if Guinea breaks with the Bloc and, hopefully, some idea as to timing. Everyone at the meeting yesterday agreed it would be foolish to go ahead when we are still uncertain as to exactly what the situation is that we are facing. It was felt that we should go slowly and respond readily to requests for short-term assistance—e.g., Guinea needs rice, and this we can furnish quickly and easily, and we should say so in the letter.

Finally, I have laid on a requirement with CIA to prepare a paper telling us absolutely everything they know about Bloc programs in Guinea. This we should have shortly.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Guinea. Confidential.
  2. The letter from Kennedy to Toure was transmitted in telegram 1039 to Conakry, May 17. (Department of State, Central Files, POL GUIN-US) On May 20, Ambassador Attwood delivered the letter during his farewell call on President Toure. Attwood told Toure that the total U.S. aid commitment to Guinea during the previous 18 months had totaled $31 million, of which only about $6 million had been expended, but pointed out that public announcement of this figure in the President’s letter might have had a negative effect on the economy-minded U.S. Congress. (Telegram 747 from Conakry, May 20; ibid., AID (US) 8 GUIN)