57. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 4–2–64



The Problem

To estimate the capabilities and intentions of additional countries to develop and produce nuclear weapons over the next decade and to estimate the consequences thereof.


France has already developed deliverable nuclear weapons. Communist China has conducted its first nuclear test.2 The other [Page 169]nations which we now believe may develop nuclear weapons in the next decade are India, and perhaps Israel and Sweden. (Paras. 1, 19, 23, 26)
India’s decision as to whether to start a nuclear weapons program will depend on its evaluation of a number of domestic and foreign factors including the scope and pace of the Chinese program, any changes in Sino-Soviet relations, and outside assurances. On balance, we believe the chances are better than even that India will decide to develop nuclear weapons within the next few years. India now has the basic facilities necessary for a modest weapons program, including a plutonium separation plant. India could produce by 1970 about a dozen weapons in the 20 KT range. Thereafter, when reactor capacity is expected to increase substantially, India’s ability to produce fissionable material will increase proportionately. (Paras. 12–19)
[6 lines of source text not declassified] (Paras. 20–23)
Sweden will continue its peaceful nuclear program, but we believe the chances of its developing nuclear weapons during the next decade are less than even. (Paras. 24–26)
Soviet and US policies have had some effect in hindering the proliferation of nuclear weapons. [4–1/2 lines of source text not declassified](Para. 41)
In terms of broad international implications, the impact of the proliferation which is already occurring—in France and Communist China—will be far greater than the impact of the further proliferation by smaller powers which we can foresee. In military terms, basic power relationships between the USSR and the US are not likely to be changed significantly. But the French and Chinese nuclear programs will make relations within and between alliance systems increasingly difficult in years to come. Communist China’s recent detonation of its first nuclear device will have an important impact throughout Asia, and in Southeast Asia will reinforce Chinese efforts to achieve Asian hegemony through political pressures and indirect support of local “wars of liberation.” (Paras. 45–46)
The military impact of proliferation among the smaller powers would derive primarily from the possibility that more aggressive activities by these states could lead to confrontations involving the major powers. US and Soviet involvement in such crises could create the potential for escalation, but both countries would have incentives to urge prudence and caution on all parties. (Paras. 47–48)
The chances of unintentional or unauthorized explosion of nuclear weapons will rise as the number of countries possessing them increases. Although the odds are strongly against it, there is some possibility that the accidental firing of a nuclear warhead into the territory [Page 170]of one of the major powers could touch off an immediate nuclear exchange. An accidental nuclear explosion might, particularly if property and many lives were lost, restrain some countries not involved in the accident from undertaking a weapons program. In the country where the accident occurred, domestic opposition might become strong enough to cause abandonment of a weapons program already underway, as well as create intense pressure for the withdrawal of any nuclear weapons stationed in the area by allied nations. (Paras. 49–50)

[Here follows the Discussion section, which includes: I. General Considerations (pages 4–7); II. Survey of Individual Countries (pages 7–15); III. Policies of the Present Nuclear Powers Toward Proliferation (pages 15–16); and IV. Broad Implications of Nuclear Proliferation (pages 16–17).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 4, Arms and Disarmament, Box 1. Secret; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, and table of contents are not printed. According to the prefatory note, the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of the State Department, DIA, NSA, and AEC concurred; the FBI representative abstained, the subject being outside his jurisdiction.
  2. Separate estimates on both the French and the Chinese nuclear weapons programs are scheduled for publication later in 1964. [Footnote in the source text. The People’s Republic of China conducted its first nuclear test on October 16, 1964.]