A cold relationship: United States foreign policy towards South Africa, 1960 – 1990

Barnard, Tjaart (2016-12)

Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: The diplomatic relations between the United States (USA) and South Africa (SA) had its birth in 1799 with the establishing of a consulate in Cape Town. Over the next two centuries the political dealings between the two countries were at times limited to almost merely acknowledgement of the other’s existence, while at other times there was very close cooperation on almost all levels of state. Diplomatic ties were strengthened during the Second World War, the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War when Americans and South Africans shared the same dugouts, flew in the same air missions, and opposed the same enemy on both the tactical as well as ideological fronts. During the Cold War, SA aligned itself with the Western world in the hope of being seen as staunchly anti-communist in order to fit in with the Cold War rhetoric of the West. Washington was delighted to have an ally in Southern Africa who would ensure, or so Washington hoped, that communism did not get a foothold in this strategically placed part of the globe. Unfortunately for the USA, South Africa’s apartheid policies went against everything that the USA proclaimed to stand for – freedom and democracy. The USA eventually found itself in a precarious position of having to choose between its own national interest and moral obligations. From 1960-1990 the USA-SA relationship oscillated as various personalities (presidents, politicians etc) and world events (e.g. Sharpeville massacre, Vietnam War, Watergate etc) impacted on it to various degrees. The USA-SA alliance consisted of political, economic and military relations (including nuclear weapons technology) which at times had to be clandestine in order for the USA to not lose its international prestige as leader of the free world. With SA however forging ahead with its policies of segregation and destabilisation the USA had to increasingly act under a cloak of plausible deniability in all spheres of its relationship with SA. The Soviet Union (USSR) and its allies (mainly Cuba) conducted military operations in Southern Africa and provided training to African liberation movements with the intention of helping them to achieve freedom from the apartheid regime or to protect themselves from Pretoria’s aggression, as was the case with Angola. Soviet support for the liberation movements in SA and the rest of Southern Africa was a mutual concern for both SA and the USA. Consequently the USA supported South African adventurism into its neighbouring countries under the auspices of preventing the communist forces from achieving world domination. By the end of the Cold War, the USA could no longer turn a blind eye to SA’s occupation of Namibia or the incursions into Angola. With assistance from the USA and other Western allies Pretoria was able to, in the greatest of secrecy and to the amazement of the world, built several nuclear weapons. SA’s nuclear programme never really reached a level where it could threaten the larger nuclear powers but it was troublesome enough to move the USA to action. By means of coercion and diplomatic pressure the USA managed to convince Pretoria to abandon its quest for a nuclear arsenal.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Verenigde State van Amerika (VSA) en Suid-Afrika (SA) het al vanaf 1799 ʼn diplomatieke verhouding gehad met die vestiging van n konsulaat in Kaapstad. Tydens die daaropvolgende twee honderd jaar het die verhouding gewissel van kwalike erkenning van die ander se bestaan tot intense samewerking op byna alle gebiede. Die verhouding was versterk tydens die Tweede Wêreld-Oorlog, die Berlynse Lugbrug en die Koreaanse Oorlog toe Amerikaners en Suid-Afrikaners aan dieselfde kant geveg, gewerk en dieselfde vyandige ideologie teengestaan het. Tydens die Koue Oorlog het die apartheid regering van SA aan die kant van die Weste geskaar en hulself as uiters anti-kommunisties bemark om sodoende in te pas by die Koue Oorlog retoriek van die Weste. Washington was verheug om 'n vriend te hê in Suider Afrika wat kon verhoed dat die kommuniste 'n greep op dié strategiese deel van die wêreld kon kry. Ongelukkig vir die VSA het die Suid–Afrikaanse beleid van apartheid teenstrydig gestaan met die waardes van vryheid en demokrasie wat deur the VSA nagestreef word. Die VSA moes besluit of moraliteit of nasionale belang van die staat die belangrikste was. Vanaf 1960-1990 was die VSA-SA verhouding op 'n wipplank rit wat bepaal was deur persoonlikhede (presidente, politici ens) en wêreldgebeure (bv. Sharpeville, die Viëtnam Oorlog, die Watergate Skandaal ens). Die VSA-SA alliansie het bestaan uit politieke-, ekonomiese- en militêre verhoudings (wat ook kernwapens en tegnologie ingesluit het) wat by tye in geheimhouding moes plaasvind om sodoende nie die Amerikaners se beeld as die leier van die vrye wêreld te skend nie. Die VSA moes gereeld op talle vlakke ontken dat hulle in 'n alliansie met SA was. Die Sowjet-Unie en sy geallieerdes (hoofsaaklik Kuba) het militêre operasies uitgevoer in Suider Afrika en Afrika se vryheidsvegters opgelei met die doel om dié lande te help om onafhanklikheid te kry van die apartheid regering of om hulle te beskerm teen SA. Sowjet ondersteuning aan die Suid-Afrikaanse vryheidsvegters en die ander vryheidsvegters van Suider Afrika was 'n bron van kommer vir beide die VSA en SA. Gevolglik het die VSA die Suid-Afrikaanse regering aangemoedig en ondersteun om buurlande aan te val onder die voorwendsel om die kommuniste te verhoed om wêreld dominansie te verkry. Teen die einde van die Koue Oorlog kon die VSA nie meer voorhou dat SA regmatiglik in beheer was van Namibie nie en nog minder kon hulle SA se aanvalle op Angola regverdig nie. Ironies genoeg het die VSA toe die rol van mediator vervul om sodoende die konflik in Suider Afrika tot 'n einde te bring nadat die VSA vir jare lank die konflik aangehits het. Met behulp van die VSA kon SA daarin slaag om n hoeveelheid kernwapens te vervaardig. Onder die grootste geheimhouding natuurlik. Alhoewel SA se paar kernwapens nooit n bedreiging vir die groter moonthede sou wees nie, het die bestaan daarvan die VSA to aksie aangespoor. Deur middle van politieke druk kon die VSA daarin slaag om SA te laat afsien van sy kernprogram.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100340
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