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South Africa, the nation that gave up its nukes

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de klerkIt would be a mistake to think that the end of the Cold War also ended the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed states continue to deploy huge arsenals of nuclear weapons, other states continue with their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and there is the alarming possibility that such weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists.

Accordingly, it might be helpful to consider the factors that led South Africa to develop nuclear weapons in the 1970s, and the reasons why it decided to dismantle them in 1989.

In 1974, as Soviet influence began expanding in southern Africa, our country decided to build a small number of nuclear bombs. After the collapse of the Portuguese empire in Africa in 1975, South Africa's industrial heartland was suddenly vulnerable to air attack from the Soviet Union's new allies in the region.

The buildup of Cuban forces in Angola from 1975 onward reinforced the perception that a deterrent was necessary, as did South Africa's growing international isolation and the fact that it could not rely on outside assistance in case of an attack.


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