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Ghana: Soviet Union
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Foreign Military Assistance > Soviet Union


In January 1958, Ghana and the former Soviet Union opened diplomatic relations. According to many Western observers, Moscow planned to use Ghana as a base to extend its influence and communism throughout West Africa. Nkrumah, on the other hand, hoped that close relations with the Soviet Union would enable him to diversify Ghana's sources of military assistance. Ghana temporarily achieved its goal; Moscow, however, failed to establish a communist foothold in West Africa.

The two countries maintained a multifaceted military relationship. In 1961 Ghana purchased eight Ilyushin-18s on credit at more than US$1.5 million each. High operating coats forced the Ghanaian government to return four of these aircraft to the Soviet Union and to transfer the other four to Ghana Airways. Two years later, Moscow presented an Mi-4 helicopter to Nkrumah as a personal gift. In 1965, after a year of internal unrest and several assassination attempts against him, Nkrumah concluded an arms deal with the Soviet Union for the purchase of weapons for the Presidential Guard. The shipment included twenty-four light artillery pieces, twenty-one medium mortars, fifteen antiaircraft guns, twenty heavy machine guns, and a large amount of ammunition.

Apart from these military sales and the gift of a helicopter, the Soviet Union deployed an array of military, security, and technical advisers to Ghana. In 1964, for example, Soviet crews manned four patrol boats based at Tema; according to anti-Nkrumah elements, these patrol boats cruised the coast of Ghana and carried arms to opposition groups in nearby countries. By early 1966, the Soviet Union had begun construction of a new air base near Tamale in northern Ghana. Soviet instructors worked at secret Bureau of African Affairs camps, at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in Winneba, and at numerous other security and military training facilities. Additionally, at least seventy-six Ghanaian army officer cadets attended military schools in the Soviet Union. Ghana Young Pioneers also received training at Komsomol schools in the Soviet Union.

After the downfall of the Nkrumah regime in 1966, up to 1,100 Soviet personnel were expelled from Ghana. The new government broke diplomatic relations with Moscow and terminated all military assistance agreements. In the following years, Soviet-Ghanaian cooperation was minimal. In the mid-1980s, Ghana unsuccessfully petitioned the Soviet Union to reactivate some of the projects that had been abandoned after Nkrumah was overthrown. In late 1986, Ghana's National Secretariat of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution reportedly signed an agreement with the Soviet Union for assistance in training national cadres. At the end of the 1980s, an unknown number of secret service personnel and commandos received training in the Soviet Union. As of late 1994, there was no indication that Ghana and Russia, the most powerful of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, had concluded any military assistance agreements.

Data as of November 1994

Last Updated: November 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Ghana was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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