The limits of regional power: South Africa’s security strategy, 1975–1989

Noel Anderson, Mark S. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the strategic decision-making of the South African regime between 1975 and 1989. Existing scholarship argues that Pretoria was a regional hegemon and that this position underwrote its security strategy. We suggest that scholars have overstated the implications of its regional strength. Using archival documents and interviews with retired military and political elites, we show how Pretoria’s threat perception, conventional military operations, and nuclear strategy were in fact conditioned by an awareness of the limits of its power within the global distribution of power; its isolation in the international system; and fears of conflict escalation vis-à-vis extra-regional threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Strategic Studies
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • conventional operations
  • nuclear strategy
  • regional power
  • South Africa
  • threat perception

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