595. Memorandum From William H. Brubeck of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Proposed Lockheed Sale to South Africa

I. Problem

On August 31, the South African Air Force informed Lockheed orally that unless a reply was received within three weeks regarding South Africa’s proposal to purchase 16 Lockheed P3–A ASW aircraft, South Africa would instead order French Breguet Atlantique planes (which will not be operational until 1966–68). The Lockheed deal would involve $64 million for aircraft delivered over 12 month period, beginning 14 months from order, plus a $30–40 million five-year spare part program, [Page 1000] all for cash on delivery. (All this is Lockheed information in meeting with Kitchen at State last week, no information from South Africans.) Kitchen informed Lockheed representatives that any early decision is “extremely doubtful” and they indicated their awareness of the problems.

Treasury strongly supports the sale on balance of payments grounds; Commerce agrees and adds considerations of foreign trade and domestic employment. Defense argues that an effective South African anti-submarine warfare capability is essential to maintain control of sea lines of communication around the Cape of Good Hope (British Shackletons now in use are obsolescent). You are familiar with State’s views.

II. Background

A primary consideration is the precise character of US commitments regarding arms embargo on South Africa.

On July 16, 1963 in a personal meeting, President Kennedy informed Tanganyikan President Nyerere that “It remained US policy not to export arms to South Africa which could be used to influence racialism at home.2 He was now considering a further step which would be a unilateral and voluntary refusal by the United States to export any arms to South Africa.” In view of necessary consultations President Kennedy “asked President Nyerere to hold what he had said in confidence for the time being,” and Nyerere agreed to do so.

Pursuant to Presidential decisions Ambassador Stevenson took these steps in the August 1963 UN Security Council debate on South Africa:

In a voluntary statement of August 23 announced that the US intended “to bring to an end the sale of military equipment to the Government of South Africa by the end of this calendar year.” However, he added:

“The Council should be aware that in announcing this policy the United States as a nation with many responsibilities in many parts of the world, naturally reserves the right in the future to interpret this policy in the light of requirements for assuring the maintenance of international peace and security. If the interests of the world community require the provision of equipment for use in the common defense effort, we would naturally feel able to do so without violating the spirit and intent of this resolution.”

Voted for a Chapter VI (non-mandatory) UN Security Council Resolution of August 74 which “Solemnly calls upon all states to cease forthwith sale and shipment of arms, ammunition of all types and military vehicles to South Africa.” In an accompanying explanation of his vote he referred back to his speech and said “It will be recalled that we naturally reserve the right to interpret this policy in light of any future requirements for the common defense effort in assuring maintenance of international peace and security.”

In spite of the careful language the US position was widely understood as, de facto, a complete arms embargo. When Stevenson reported the understanding of several key Africans that the US “strategic exception” clause would apply only in the event that “world-wide conflict occurred,” the Department specifically rejected this interpretation. It advised Stevenson that “if in our judgment of world-wide strategic picture, US national interest requires cooperation with South Africa in common defense, the provision to South Africa of, for example, ASW equipment, we (as power with world-wide responsibilities, the efficient exercise of which is also in interest of all Africans) reserve right to make that judgment and provide such equipment.” (Dept. 317 to USUN, attached.)5

In USUN’s 404 and 816 (attached)6 Stevenson states his definitive case against any arms sales including submarines, arguing that the US “strategic exception” statement “seemed clearly intended to convey and did convey to all concerned idea that we did not regard such requirements to exist presently and reservation would apply only in changed world circumstances . … to enter now into new contracts even for such strategic materials as submarines would in the eyes of the world directly controvert our announced policy as publicly understood.”

In applying the arms embargo State (Alex Johnson) subsequently determined, and it was announced, that after completing outstanding contracts, or further commitments to South Africa presently involved only spare parts for C–130s already sold (approved by President September 18).

At the same time (Bundy-Rusk memo of September 20) the President agreed to permit continued discussion of submarine sales to South Africa but with “no implied commitment to sell” and an understanding that “The US can make no decision before the end of this year regarding sales and any eventual decision will be taken in the light of circumstances [Page 1002] at the time the question is considered, under our policy stated in the UN Security Council in August.”7 During the past year (presumably on the basis of indicated South African interest) North American, Northrop, Grumman, Douglas, and others have inquired informally about US Government attitude on sales of Naval bombers, jet trainers, helicopter engines, etc.; there have been indications of South African interest in anti-submarine warfare gear. From these indications, it seems likely that there is a possible market, within the limits of the “strategic exception” clause, of perhaps $3–4 hundred million in military sales to South Africa over the next five years. However, all of these possible sales have been turned down or shelved not only under the terms of policy as outlined above, but pursuant to NSAM 295:

“2. Existing policy regarding military sales to South Africa will be continued. Decision regarding possible sales of submarines or any variations in existing policy will be postponed and considered only in light of further developments, including those in the South West Africa-ICJ problem.”

III. Discussion

While the “strategic exception” clause provides us legal justification for a Lockheed sale, there would be a considerable emotional reaction against the US—in Africa and Asia, a lot of propaganda, as well as criticism by American liberal and negro groups and many newspapers.

Because the African nations have interests of their own to protect, they won’t break with us on this issue. But their emotions some times out run their reason. We might, for example, lose the Chirep issue in the General Assembly in November on just this one point—or some base or overflight rights. Certainly, for what it is worth, we will lose an enormous amount of respect and good will in Africa and our “deal” with the South Africans will probably be tied to our supposed deal on Tshombe and the Congo.

Next year, we may find ourselves in a serious impasse with the South Africans over the World Court decision on South West Africa. We are doing a number of things against that eventuality, (under NSAM 295, the only point at which President Johnson has ever considered the South African problem) mostly directed at being able to have as much freedom of action and as few hostages to South Africa as possible if and when that happens. To get involved in a long term aircraft contract would run exactly counter to that policy.

McNamara and Rusk have agreed, like Stevenson, that “It will be difficult to justify to world public opinion, particularly Africa, what will be claimed to be an abrogation of US policy enunciated in the Security [Page 1003] Council” (regarding submarine sales but also applicable here). (September 16, 1963 memorandum to the President.)8

In spite of these considerations a case can be made for the sale to South Africa. They are trying to buy, largely for internal political reasons, respectability and membership in the Western alliance club, and that is about all they really want for their money. Likewise, it can be argued that we can have more influence on the South Africans by dealing with them than by isolating them. Furthermore, all we are doing on something like an embargo on ASW weapons and the like is making irrational political concessions to the black Africans; there will be no end to their demands so we can’t win at this game anyhow. And this South African Government—and its problems—will be with us for a good many years to come.

On balance of payments, not only does Lockheed sale open the way to other sales to South Africa; Lockheed argues with some cogency that it strengthens their chance of several hundred million dollars of additional sales of P3–A to other countries, particularly by limiting the French Atlantique’s cost competitiveness outside NATO area. Regarding Defense considerations, it should be noted that at the time of the Security Council problem in August 1963 Secretary McNamara thought that South Africa’s strategic importance was less then that of the Portuguese Azores and did not override foreign policy considerations.

This is a pretty complicated issue and I don’t think we should try to strike the balance on these considerations now. I don’t think, however, that a decision as significant as the Lockheed sale should be taken whimsically, and without regard to its impact on an overall policy. I don’t think we really have such a policy now in spite of all the discussion of the past year. All I am really arguing, therefore, is that we should hold the problem open until November so that we have real freedom of decision at that time. I would therefore recommend that we:

Advise Lockheed that we cannot approve a sale at this time but that, without any commitment, their best chance is to give us time to deal with the problem at a later date; and that, in the meantime, we will try to keep the question open with the South Africans.
Request State and Defense, pursuant to the above, to explore South African interest and perhaps, to buy time, send experts to South Africa to discuss the matter (we have had no communication with the South African Government on this transaction).
Try to get a real high-level agreement over the next several months as to what the policy of this Administration is going to be on the question of South Africa.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Africa, Union of South, Vol. I, Memos and Miscellaneous, 11/63–10/64. Secret.
  2. For a record of Kennedy’s meeting with Nyerere, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXI, Africa, Microfiche Supplement.
  3. For text of Stevenson’s remarks on August 2, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 683–689.
  4. For text of Security Council Resolution 181 (1963), see ibid., pp. 689–690.
  5. Not attached. Telegram 317 to USUN, August 3, 1963, is in Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14–1 S AFR/UN.
  6. Not attached. Telegram 404 from USUN, August 9, 1963, is ibid., FT 18 S AFR; telegram 816 from USUN, September 13, 1963 is ibid., FT 18 S AFR–US.
  7. Bundy’s memorandum to Rusk announcing the President’s decision (dated September 23, not September 20) is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXI, p. 649.
  8. See footnote 2, ibid.