Created: 8/18/1977

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible




ugust 7

MEMORANDUM FOB: The National Foreign Intelligence Board

Aesessoent: South Africa: Policy Considerations

uclear Test

The attached Interagency assessment has been coordinated at abecause of pressures of tine it has not been reviewed atthe Center for Policy Support in the Directorate

of Intelligence In CIA nonaged this project.

carraenreT-National Intelligence for Africa


Distribution A



ASSESSMENT: South Afrlcn:

Consideration*uclear Tent*


t Is our judgment thatA.'rican government plans tothrough the various stages ofweapon* prograa. Includingtestingeapon.

Ve believe thatconcerns would argi-e

In favor of testing;theae concerns weighthan foreign policy considerations in aor not to test;

|rmtiK rnar. on Tnumnjg, mmmiy

Considerations, too, wo<ild argue In favor of testing;

We do not believe that fear of adverse foreign reactionufficiently compelling reason (or South Africa toest.

2. Yet we can discern no over-rldlng pressure on South Africa's leaders to rush toeapon In the immediate future; Indeed, we think foreign policy conslder-tlons could lead the* tolexible attitude toward Ita timing.

There would be considerable pressure on Vorster within the cabinet to go aheadest as scheduled, to project an lunge of power at hone and sbroad, and to demonstrate that South Afrira la not to be coerced by foreign threats to Its security;

But Vorster might well bo persuaded toesthort time If there were Indicationsajor turnaround. policy toward South Africa wan possible, or If he Judgedest could undermine sensitive ongoingp Namibia.

assessment has been coordinated a: the working level by representatlvea of tne Intelligence Community.



1. While w* thus ascribe some flexibility, oro tne South African position regarding the timingest, we do not see anyarising which would leadermination of their long-standing program touclear weapon. We see no credible threat from the West which would be sufficient to deter the South African government from carryingest; Indeed, threats would, in our Judgment, be more likely to harden South African determination.


Till* paper runlnn the political and other non-technical factors bearingouth African decision to test or not touclear weapon in the near future. It also addresses specifically th* further question, what might Induce South Africa toeetf

Because of real current uncertainties regarding the state of Sou'h Africa's test readiness and the availability now of South African-made fissionable materialest, assumptions on these points have been made to facilitate consideration of political and other aspects. We have assumed that the South Africans, without specific additional foreign assistance or cohsent. coulduclear testatter of weeks, and that they could continue their nuclear weapons development thereafter without foreign assistance. If South Africa's test readiness, in fact, depends on receipt wl materials from an assisting foreign country, or an acquiescence of that countryinal test decision, another avenue of US counteraction which has not been considered in this paper might become available.

The following assessment is based In part on technical analysis of the program. In the main, however, it reflects the Community's knowledge of the Afrikaner people and theirelr perceptions of themselves and th* outside world; and the policy imperatives to which they seem most likely to respond.


I. Pactcr* Bearing on the Decision toot io Teat A- Domestic Politics

1- The ultimate and over-rldlng concern of the South African government is to ensure the survival of the Afrikaner nation. Duringyear rule the National Party has accomplished this to the satisfaction of itaprimarily hyapid growth in South African economic And military power, subjugation of the non-white majority, and keeping the levers of political power In Afrikaner hands. Under this system rlw Afrikaner people (ond English-speaking whites ns well)ly have survived, but have enjoyed high and rising living standards.

2. Tn the past couple of years, however, things have not been going nearly so well for the Afrikaners. Their leaders, long prone to sre South Africa asonely struggleostile and misunderstanding world, have Increasinglyiege mentality, driven by such events as:

he end nf Portuguese colonlnl rule:

the apparent Imminence of majority rule In Rhodesia;

the growth of world support for the guerrillas operating against Southwest Africa;

the collapse of South Africa's detente policy in southern Africa;

the broadening condemnation of apartheid by the West;

he installation of Comaumiet-backed radical reg^sea In black African stares;

recent hardening of. policy toward South Africa.

At home, too, the government has had few, if any, recent successes toto Its constituents that it Is coping effectively with the country's mounting problems, including:

- continuing serious racial disturbancesthe worstentury;

a recession that will noon enter Its third year;

the embarrassment of the Angolan Intervention;

sharply rising defense costs;

i i'

wit* these developments, the testinguclearhave strong appeal to the Vorster governmentay toIn the Rovernment'a capability to beep the present socialwithout significant change and without major concessions to the

black majority.

also note thnt It Is consistent with Vorster's personalityproccdlng with nuclear wespons development snd to undertakethroughout his career hastrong inclination towardproject power and toughmlndednesa and haa made no secret of hisfor world opinion directed at Influencing hieakedecision. Thia would be an Important fe;toi in South Africanto attempts at forcing .'orster's government not to test a Additionally. Vorstsr, whoreat Interest In his placehistory and who has lamented privately that his achievementsthe status quo are not appreciated, may view development ofAfrican nuclear capabilityramatic achievement for which he

will be remembered.

B. Military Considerations

South Africa, evenest, would probably stillyears awayependable delivery capability. It is ourmany In the military would favorhead with the testing phasenext step In the long process of acquiring deliverable nuclearfurther believe that the military would defer to political leaders onwhether or not to test, and on the timingest. For manythe rationale for going ahead in the development ofcar that ultimately South Africa faces the threat ofhy Communlst-bAcked black regimes and perhaps even by Soviet and Historically, the Afrikaner responseerceived threat hasospume the worst and to prepare for It; and we believe thatajor factot In Pretoria's opting to test and continue toweapons.

C. Foreign Policy Considerations

are virtually certain that Vorster is awarea nuclearsooner or later be detected snd made known throughout the world. to test must therefore be seenonscious decision to defy the


worlrf and to Increase greatly the risk of bringing on various combinations of censure and sanctions, as well an jeopardizing any sensitive negotiations South Africa might be engaged in at the time.

find this attitude entirely consistent with the defiant,cast of the Afrikaner world view, which is basedtrongto be able to stand aloneationesire to demonstrate

to the outside world thai the Afrikaners will not brook outside interference In their affairs. Inest would be viewed as projecting an image of Afrikaner power to the world. While some analysts believe that Vorster would feel this drive could be satisfied merely by possessing the capability to test, most think that he would not rest content without the denonstration effectost.

note that the approach to the test phase Is hut one stepcritical oneIn South Africa's long-standing, complex program of Ue therefore see the foreign policy objectives of thisbeing more General and leng-rnnge. ecognized nuclear weaponin vorster's view:

th- linkage of the world's image of South Africa solely as the coi-ntry of apartheid;

ompelld to pay attention to South African whites (particularly Afrikaners)orce which must be taken account of;

pressure on all the parties involved in southern African affairs to give more serious consideration to the Interests of South African whites.

the same time we believe that Vorster recognized thatreactionest would In all probability weaken the chancesinfluences to predominate In the Rhodeslan and Namibian crises,enhance Soviet Influence in the area. While this considerationbe likely toest, it could lead Vorster toeat sohe still perceived significant advantages to be gained from ongoing

I). The Question of Sanctions

Africa's leaders cannot separate foreign policy concernsof censure, sanctions, and other punitive measures whichmight adopt In the wake ofr in anticipation ofnuclear test.

12. We agree that particular sanctions (discussed below) could hurt the Soulh African economyparticularly if they Involved participation of

Tit fV ijl *

all the major industrial countrle*ew peripheralran and Israel. It is our judgment, however, that the Impact of sanctions, even under the most optimistic aasunptlons about universality ofwould not be felt for atear. It was also pointed out thst Imposition of flnnnclal sanctions might lead South Africa to renounce or cease payments on Its outstanding short-term debt to the West, amounting* billion.

was noted that South Africa hasong way towardgoal of industrial self-sufflclrncy.

It hasear stockpile of oil;

It has recently claimed to be SOX self-sufficient In Industr'sl machineryn transport equipment: its two art-teat industrial vulnerabilities in the past.

16. Based on all the above, it Is the consensus that South Africa's leaders would probably not be deterred fromeapon out of concern over the Imposition of economic sanctlona.

In addition, the Vorster government already has cranked Into leaudgment abou" the prospec; of sanctions. 8 budget, fo. example,hsrp drop in Weatorn credit and the resulting lack of real economic growth.

It is our viewand probably that of the Vorster governmentthat It would be extremely difficult to get general and effective WesternIn economic or financial sanctions, even in the condition of shrill censure of South Africa that would Inevitablyuclear test.

k. ase:, south africa's peaceful nuclear Power

17. pSrate hut related question Is whether South Africa's leaders would he willing to Jeopardize peaceful nuclear development In the interest nfeapon. There are two major elements in this development: fuelnd nuclear power plant construction. South Africa's dependence In the enrichment case Is neither Immediate nor Rreat. although the South Africans have been seeking foreign financial and technical aid in Its plans tnuch larger plants to compete in the world's market for enriched reactor fuel. In the nuclear power program, however. South Africa iti critically dependent on foreign sources of supply, particularly Franc*.

19. The power plant program Is an Important one. planned to provide eventually on tbe orderf South Africa's power needs. eeda ro.ild he met 'rom coal-fired plants, but would Involve long-distance power trancmlaalon and other extra costs.


e enrichment program involves South African pi.inn to export by the0 million of enriched uranium annuallyhis wui'd final four times (he value of raw uranium ore exports. While thla would hemall pari of total exports (currently running nt S"ear). It nonetheless would meanl*;thle piece of foreign rxchange earnings.

20- estimate that sacrificing foreign assistance for these two programs would eliminate nuclear power possibilities for many years and reduce significantly South African participation In the enriched reactor fuel market.

21. Whether this wouldurrent decision to test is uncertain. We think itetter than even chance that the South Africans already have written. deliveries which probably are not duen in the light both of tho current worsening in. relations and earlier foot-dragging by. in delivering component" for these two programs.

*1. The Timing

It, In spite ot our overall Judgment that South Africa's leader* perceive persuasive reasons touclear weapon progrsm, Including the testing phase and beyond, we do not feel that they are yet under any ovcr-rldlng pressure to rush toeapon In the immediate future. We see this program asertain technically-derived calendar or schedule but this schedule Is not unchangeable. There are decision-points along the schedule where Vorster and his inner circlehom we believe sre In close touch with every apsect of the programhave the option of moving ahead, delayingbort period, or cancelling indefinitely.

The relevant question, we believe, ia not, "why would they testut rather, under what condition or circumstances would they be Induced toest shot?

We would stress that Vorsternder pressure, particularly from the hard-liners within hie cabinet, to go aheadest on schedule. It is our consensus also that the Afrikaner electorate would not be much impressed by anything shortest shot; and that the Vorster .aner circle would be aware of this needemonstration effect. Others, for example his foreign minister, might well argue:

hat thore is no urgency to tost;

ert might not only complicate current negotiation* on Namibia, but would make it difficult for those Americans

(.ind Europeans) who are sympathetic to white-South Africa's cause to exert any Influence. and western policy toward Pretoria.

2%. Ue Judge that thereomewhat better than ever, chance that South Africa's leaders wouldelatively flexible attitude toward the tidingest; and that they might be persuaded tocheduled testhort period Ifr Indicationsajor turnaround. policy towards South Africa waa pcscible.

IA. While we perceive this degree of "give" In the South African position on testing, this give has severe Units.

we perceive no credible threat which would be sufficient to deter South Africa from carryingest; Indeed, our reading of the Afrikaner personality suggests that threat* would have the opposite effect to that intended;

Ue do not foresee any circumstances which would Induce South Africa to terminate, or even to postponerolonged or indefinite period, its nuclear weapons program;

If South Africa were within two to three weekscheduled test, tha costsrolonged delay and the long lead-time needed before again reaching the test phase would probably

be prohibitive.

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic: