Documents on the history of nuclear proliferation, the arms race, and disarmament efforts. See also the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, US Army)
August 14, 1981
Report on Diplomatic Actions Taken Concerning Foreign, Nuclear-Related Supplies to Pakistan, Richard L. Williamson, Arms Control Disarmament Agency (ACDA)
ACDA report on the lasting effects of the November 1978 demarches on inverters and plutonium reprocessing technology. Describes the objectives of the demarches and the direct effects on the Pakistani nuclear program, including preventing the shipment of equipment from France, West Germany, Norway, and Switzerland. Concludes with an overview of international norms of nuclear commerce.
September 30, 1981
Memorandum of Conversation, Brazilian Foreign Minister Guerreiro and US Secretary of State Haig
Brazilian Foreign Minister Guerreiro and American Secretary of State Alexander Haig meet in Washington D.C. Haig illustrates a shift in American nuclear policy from that of the Carter administration to a more lenient approach.
January 19, 1982
Report, Embassy of Hungary in India to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry on Indian-Pakistani relations
Report based on information from a Soviet ambassador on India's strategy for dealing with Pakistan. India is concerned about the military support Pakistan is receiving from the United States and China, as well as Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. India is receiving military support from the Soviet Union, modernizing its forces, and seems to be preparing for war with Pakistan.
January 26, 1982
Report, Permanent Mission of Hungary to the International Organizations in Vienna to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry
Report on a conversation with Indian Ambassador Dalal. Topics discussed include the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India and Pakistan's nuclear programs, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the upcoming election of a new Executive Director.
Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Intelligence Assessment,'India’s Nuclear Program: Energy and Weapons'
This massively excised report indicates the Agency’s strong views about releasing its knowledge of India’s nuclear weapons activities, even when the information is decades old. That many of the pages are classified “Top Secret Umbra” suggests that some of the information draws on communications intelligence intercepts, another highly sensitive matter.
National Intelligence Estimate, NIE-4-82, 'Nuclear Proliferation Trends Through 1987'
With proliferation becoming a “greater threat to US interests over the next five years,” intelligence analysts believed that the “disruptive aspect of the proliferation phenomenon will constitute the greater threat to the United States.” While the estimators saw “low potential” for terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons, the likelihood of terrorist/extortionist hoaxes was on the upswing. Significant portions of the NIE are excised, especially the estimate of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its impact in the Middle East. Nevertheless, much information remains on the countries of greatest concern: Iraq and Libya in the Near East, India and Pakistan in South Asia, Brazil and Argentina in Latin America, and the Republic of South Africa, as well as those of lesser concern: Iran, Egypt, Taiwan and the two Koreas.
July 27, 1982
National Intelligence Estimate NIE 4-82, 'Nuclear Proliferation Trends Through 1987'
This estimate seeks to analyze the actions of a series of countries, which in the course of 1982-1987 could affect U.S. interests. It analyzes countries with developing nuclear programs in different regions in the world (South Asia, East Asia, Near East, Latin America, and Africa) and their intentions and capabilities in terms of nuclear weapons.
September 01, 1982
Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 91-2-82, 'Argentina’s Nuclear Policies in Light of the Falkland’s Defeat'
Argentina, like its neighbor, Brazil, was determined to develop an “independent nuclear fuel cycle,” with the capacity to reprocess plutonium and enrich uranium. Also like Brazil, Argentina was one of the few Latin American countries to refuse to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Thus, Argentina’s nuclear activities were under routine scrutiny to see if they involved anything that suggested an interest in a weapons capability. US intelligence agencies continued to monitor developments but perspectives shifted as Argentina’s domestic politics evolved. Prepared after the Argentine-British conflict over the Falklands Islands, in which Washington helped London, this special estimate professed “great uncertainty” over Argentina’s nuclear intentions. While “emotionally” the Argentine military leadership was interested in a weapons option, it had “reduced capability to fulfill this desire.”
Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, 'India’s Nuclear Procurement Strategy: Implications for the United States'
This CIA report on India, “India’s Nuclear Procurement Strategy: Implications for the United States,” has comparatively few excisions. It discusses in some detail Indian efforts to support its nuclear power and nuclear weapons development program by circumventing international controls through purchases of sensitive technology on “gray markets.” The report depicts a “growing crisis in the Indian civil nuclear program,” which combined with meeting nuclear weapons development goals, was forcing India to expand imports of nuclear-related supplies. The purchasing activities posed a “direct challenge to longstanding US efforts to work with other supplier nations … for tighter export controls.”
January 20, 1983
Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 13/32-83, 'Chinese Policy and Practices Regarding Sensitive Nuclear Transfers'
With nuclear proliferation a policy priority for the Jimmy Carter administration, and Pakistan already a special concern, the possibility that China and Pakistan were sharing nuclear weapons-related information began was beginning to worry US government officials. These concerns did not go away during the Reagan administration. While nuclear proliferation was not a top priority, the administration was apprehensive about the implications of the spread of nuclear capabilities and that China may have been aiding and abetting some potential proliferators by selling unsafeguarded nuclear materials.
October 21, 1983
Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 93-83, 'Brazil’s Changing Nuclear Goals: Motives and Constraints'
Brazilian nationalism has often posed a challenge to US official precepts on the way the world should work and these estimates convey the deep Brasilia-Washington gap over nuclear policy during the 1980s. The SNIEs from 1983 and the 1985 update emphasize Brazil’s quest for technological-industrial autonomy which in nuclear terms meant developing an indigenous program to master the fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities. In seeking those objectives, Brazil did not want to face any constraints, and its leaders were unresponsive to U.S. or other pressures for safeguards on nuclear facilities.
July 31, 1984
Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 91/3-84, 'Argentina’s Nuclear Policies Under Alfonsin'
Almost two years after the 1982 SNIE, the military rule had collapsed and a democratically-elected government led by Raul Alfonsin was taking an unambiguous stand on nuclear weapons. In its 1984 assessment, the intelligence community was more certain about Argentina’s nuclear policies: “on the basis of discernible evidence … Argentina does not have a program to develop or test nuclear explosives.” Nevertheless, Alfonsin was unlikely to change “Argentina’s long-term efforts to achieve its goal of acquiring a full range of nuclear-fuel-cycle facilities.”
October 05, 1984
National Intelligence Estimate, NIE 73/5-84, 'Trends in South Africa’s Nuclear Security Policies and Programs'
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.
Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, 'The Libyan Nuclear Program: A Technical Perspective'
For years, U.S. intelligence agencies did not take seriously Muammar Gaddafi’s efforts to develop a Libyan nuclear capability and this report provides early evidence of the perspective that the Libyan program “did not know what it was doing.” According to the CIA, the program’s “serious deficiencies,” including “poor leadership” and lack of both “coherent planning” and trained personnel made it “highly unlikely the Libyans will achieve a nuclear weapons capability within the next 10 years.” The Libyan effort was in such a “rudimentary stage” that they were trying to acquire any technology that would be relevant to producing plutonium or enriched uranium.
August 13, 1985
Ciphered Telegram No. 214, Embassy of Hungary in India to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry
Information on the current status of both Pakistan and India's nuclear programs. The opinion of Indian Vice President Venkataraman is that Pakistan is lying about having already completed an atomic bomb.
Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, 'Argentina: Seeking Nuclear Independence: An Intelligence Assessment'
According to the 1985 report, the Argentines “have achieved at least a proof of principle of uranium enrichment via gaseous diffusion.” In other words, they had a workable system. Nevertheless, the enrichment plant would not be “fully operational until 1987-1988.” While the assessment of Argentine interest in nuclear weapons did not change, CIA analysts asserted that “Argentina continues to develop the necessary facilities and capabilities that could support a nuclear weapons development effort.”
Memorandum, US National Intelligence Council, NIC M 85-10001, 'The Dynamics of Nuclear Proliferation: Balance of Incentives and Constraints'
The most recent CREST release included this analysis of “The Dynamics of Nuclear Proliferation: Balance of Incentives and Constraints.” The analyst sought to explain why “no additional overt proliferation of nuclear weapons has actually occurred” since the Chinese nuclear test, India had not weaponized while Israel and South Africa had not “taken any action to signal overt possession of nuclear weapons.”