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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 05, 1984

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE, NIE 73/5-84, 'TRENDS IN SOUTH AFRICA’S NUCLEAR SECURITY POLICIES AND PROGRAMS'

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Seeking “constructive engagement” with the apartheid regime, the Reagan administration wanted the South Africans to keep a lid on their nuclear weapons program. The NIE’s top-secret status was compatible with one of the elements of the 1984 estimate: that any revelations that broke the regime’s “calculated ambiguity” about its nuclear status would put Washington in an “awkward position” by “fir[ing] the drive” for the sanctions and disinvestment campaigns which the administration was trying to avoid. Analyzing the motives for the nuclear program, the CIA found it “irrelevant” to any threat that the regime was likely to face.A key issue was whether South Africa had a nuclear arsenal. On that problem, the NIE dovetailed with the view taken by NIE-4-82: South Africa “probably has the capability to produce nuclear weapons on short notice.” That was accurate, but U.S. intelligence may not have known that the regime’s leaders had already decided to build a stockpile of 7 weapons, with six weapons assembled during the 1980s.
    "National Intelligence Estimate, NIE 73/5-84, 'Trends in South Africa’s Nuclear Security Policies and Programs'," October 05, 1984, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Obtained and contributed by William Burr and included in NPIHP Research Update #11. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116905
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