238. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Ghana

PARTICIPANTS

  • British Side
    • Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
    • R.A. Butler, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary, The Foreign Office
    • Sir David Ormsby Gore, British Ambassador
    • Sir Timothy Bligh, Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
    • Sir Burke Trend, Secretary to the Cabinet
  • US Side
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Governor Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    • David K.E. Bruce, Ambassador to Great Britain
    • McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Richard I. Phillips, Director, P/ON
    • Willis C. Armstrong, Director, EUR/BNA

Governor Harriman said we were interested in discussing Ghana where we are greatly concerned over our investment in aid and EX–IM Bank funds for the Volta project.2 Nkrumah blames the United States for all his troubles, including the attempt at assassination, and he has now sent away some six teachers from the university against the wishes of the excellent British rector. His behavior has become intolerable. The Prime Minister said he was worried about Ghana. Nkrumah has gone very close to being Communist. If the United States took away its aid to the Volta project, it was his opinion that Ghana would go right over to the Russians who would supply the money for the Volta dam. (Sir Alec first said “Aswan”, and then corrected himself.)

Governor Harriman said there was a date in March or April when work on the dam could be stopped or could continue to be pursued. If the decision were to proceed, one would have to finish the task because of [Page 418]the flooding problem which would result if the dam were not completed. He thought it desirable to take a look at the situation to see what could be done. Mr. Butler said he was worried about a collapse of the Ghana economy with or without the Volta project, and noted that another difficult question would arise over the implementation of the 7-year plan of development. If the United States could hold up Volta to accomplish certain objectives, this might be useful, but a withdrawal would be extremely serious since aid to Volta is about the only instrument we have in Ghana. Mr. Butler said he also thought one could not be sure how long Nkrumah would last.

The President observed that it was going to be difficult to keep on giving aid in the face of public opinion in the United States concerning Ghana’s actions and attitudes. However, the President added, we obviously do not want the Soviets to get a base in Ghana.

The Prime Minister asked whether the project could be slowed down and Governor Harriman said that a decision in March or April could stop the project for a year. He wondered if the British could talk to Nkrumah and say that Ghana could not very well expect the project to go forward in view of the present attitudes of the Ghana Government toward the U.S. Mr. Bundy noted that our people have not been able to get at Nkrumah and the Prime Minister said there had been no British contact with him either. The Prime Minister said he had received an offensive letter from Nkrumah recently. The Secretary noted that Nkrumah had not been out of his castle since January 2. Ambassador Ormsby Gore said perhaps the British High Commissioner could get into see Nkrumah if he had a letter from the British Prime Minister.

Governor Harriman said that Mr. Kaiser was prepared to go to Ghana promptly if it would be useful. Mr. Kaiser has had some access to Nkrumah. The President suggested that perhaps the Prime Minister could answer the letter from Nkrumah and then Mr. Kaiser could visit Ghana. Mr. Butler remarked that Nkrumah is obsessed with the thought that the US and the UK desire his destruction. Governor Harriman said that Nkrumah has Russian guards in his castle, and has confidence only in them.

The Secretary said we recognize fully the consequences of canceling the Volta projects, but that we have to be aware of the fact of the possibility that Congressional resolutions or amendments to bills could require us to terminate aid. He added that our Ambassador to Ghana thinks that Nkrumah is in a stage of personal disintegration. The Prime Minister said he was convinced that Nkrumah had “gone round the bend.” He said he would write to Nkrumah.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, February 1964. Secret. Drafted by Willis C. Armstrong. Approved in M on February 24, in S on February 27, and by the White House on February 24. The meeting took place at the White House. The source text is labeled “Part IV of VI.”
  2. At a meeting between Rusk and Butler earlier that day, Butler asked Rusk not to take a position against the Volta River project, and Rusk said the United States would consult with the British before taking any decision to end U.S. support. (Memorandum of conversation, February 12; ibid., Central Files, POL GHANA–US)