431. Intelligence Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1



1. The ultimate intentions of the Argentine leadership in the nuclear field are not yet clear. Recent events have reconfirmed Argentine leaders’ determination to develop an independent plutonium and heavy water production capability. There is no evidence of a decision by the government to carry the nuclear program through to a weapons capability, but such an option is clearly left open.

2. While there are no indicators that Argentina has engaged in or planned for any research dedicated to designing the implosion mechanism for a nuclear explosive device, the management of its reprocessing program has been led since 1976 by military officers who seem strongly motivated to acquire sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapons capability. Brazil’s nuclear potential probably has become a factor in Argentine deliberations over their future nuclear development programs. (Argentina’s nuclear policymakers have begun to allude confidentially to Brazil’s reprocessing plans as a justification for their own reprocessing programs.)

3. The managers of Argentina’s reprocessing program have not regarded the presence or prospect of international safeguards as serious obstacles to the acquisition of plutonium for experimental or military purposes; moreover, most influential Argentines have regarded international safeguards as an infringement on their national sovereignty and encumbrances imposed by great powers. Yet we have no evidence that Argentina’s nuclear activities have ever been conducted in violation of international safeguards.

4. Argentina’s top leadership seems to have been preparing to sign the Treaty of Tlatelolco only on the condition that it not impede the further development of its independent nuclear capabilities and does not

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restrict future Argentine options to develop the ingredients for nuclear weapons.

[Omitted here is the body of the report.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 4, Argentina, 1/77–12/78. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. According to a March 10 note from CIA Executive Secretary B.C. Evans to Dodson, the report “was prepared under the auspices of the National Intelligence Officer for Nuclear Proliferation and the Acting Intelligence Officer for Latin America.” (Ibid.)