Why did the US threaten South Africa?

That seems to be the idea in this web page. South Africa’s nuclear deterent was to be aimed against the Soviet Union and the US. Why was this so? From what I can remember of Cold War history South Africa was encouraged to go on the offensive by the US until being beaten back by a Cuban/Cuban trained army somewhere on the african continent. I thought the anti communist stance of South Africa would have been right up the US’s street during the last century.

As no one else has dropped by yet, I’ll have a stab:

The deterrent dimension to the SA ICBM programme – Cold War, Communism making great inroads in post-Colonial Africa, etc – was an obvious motivation but another ‘aim’ of it, as best I am aware, was to get the big boys to take SA seriously, in public.

Throughout that period Western countries like the UK and US adopted a duplicitous policy towards SA – treating it increasingly as a pariah in response to public concerns – but continued to deal with it/trade with it behind the scenes. Apartheid SA was, after all, staunchly anti-Communist, a key geographical ‘ally’ and a strategically vital asset.

So the political problem was that demonstrating public support for the regime became increasingly costly but, strategically, SA had to be supported against Communism. Tricky.

Alongside this dynamic was Apartheid SA’s own desire to play a bigger role in international affairs and keep the trade routes to the West as free of potential political interference as possible – to be ‘accepted’ in public (the Commonwealth, the UN, etc) and its views carry weight. If you have a big enough gun, folks will listen. Hence the nuclear programme.

I guess there may have been an ‘all eventualities’ aspect to the programme but the US and SA were not heading down a confrontational road. If anything they were military allies, albeit behind the scenes. IMHO.

The big gun approach to politics would seem plausible, its just that bit about the ICBM’s capability of striking at Moscow and New York seemed a bit odd if they wanted to stay friends with the US at first. I guess so long as they didn’t mention it to the Americans…