The Press and the Intelligence Community: The Construction of OTRAG and Cóndor as Global Threats

Published date01 January 2024
AuthorDaniel Blinder
Date01 January 2024
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
61(1) 46 –72, 2024
© 2024 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817241228384
Research Article
The Press and the
Intelligence Community:
The Construction of
OTRAG and Cóndor as
Global Threats
Daniel Blinder1
This article studies the way the US government through the Central Intelligence
Agency, the Washington Post and the New York Times approached in tandem the
development of rockets in Argentina and in two African countries (Zaire and
Libya) during the last stretch of the Cold War. A qualitative analysis is carried
out from primary government and journalistic sources, looking at how the
media acted alongside the government and the intelligence community, providing
the same information and a very similar interpretation of the facts, building
common sense and a geopolitical imaginary. This is a geopolitical analysis of the
construction of imagery of the dangerous identity of the OTRAG and the Cóndor
II in the 1970s and 1980s. The conclusions show that both cases were construed
as a geopolitical identity on non-core countries that ended in pressures, the
projects be terminated, managing to build a sense by which the economic and
political interests of the United States were projected hegemonically as universal
Space technology, press, intelligence, threat construction, geopolitics
1National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), Institute of Studies for
Productive Development and Innovation (UNPAZ), Argentina
Corresponding author:
Daniel Blinder, National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), Institute of
Studies for Productive Development and Innovation (UNPAZ), Leandro N. Alem 4593, Office 219
(1665), José C. Paz, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The international press tends to frame technological development in non-
traditionally developed countries as potentially dangerous. International political
actors are perceived and represented influencing the policies adopted for certain
Blinder 47
countries, international rules that should be adopted, expectations over countries
as responsible players in international politics, the technologies states could have
or develop without jeopardizing the so-called international community, that have
hegemonic standards about what is good and what is wrong in international
behaviour. These case studies contribute to understanding the limitations that the
issue of technological development imposes on non-hegemonic international
actors, from the perspective of the construction of a common sense, which makes
them a threat. Pressures that hinder the development of technology and reinforce
the global status quo sustain this as common sense.
This article studies how the developments of rocket technology in Argentina
and Zaire towards the end of the Cold War were framed and recounted in the
American newspapers of international reach: the Washington Post and the New
York Times: a perspective from the United States. It qualitatively shows how the
media acted in tandem with the government, providing the same information and
interpretation of events, and therefore, played its part in the manufacture of
meaning. This paper takes a geopolitical approach to analysing the construction of
the German Orbital Transport und Raketen AG (OTRAG) in Zaire and the Cóndor
II in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s was dangerous. Its potential combat use
triggered alarms; the development was called irresponsible and dangerous.
Argentina and OTRAG had their secret development of an intermediate-range
missile with dual purposes, and the country was treated as proliferating,
threatening, and defiant to the international system. In both cases of analysis, the
development of space technology was resisted and visualized as such in the
international press.
The original contribution this article makes is to show how a political agenda
on cutting-edge technologies is built, studying two paradigmatic cases of rocket
developments in non-core countries. OTRAG and Cóndor are two relevant and
textbook cases in which technology development in non-core countries is
depicted as a threat, regardless of the peaceful purposes and the political
alliances at the time. In fact, OTRAG was a German company, and European
enterprises have invested in the Argentinean Cóndor project, all of them Western
Allies to the United States in the Cold War. Some technologies are regarded as
dangerous in a hegemonic cosmovision, parallely reinforcing the idea of
responsible use of technologies, the necessity of global regulation to guarantee
international security, and finally, consolidating the position of the countries
that have the right to have it, and the ability to regulate such industries. The
Soviet Union and other communist countries were strategic rivals and its
technological advances were often dangerous to national security, either
missilistic or nuclear (Gaddis & Nitze, 1980; Payne, 1994; Peoples, 2008;
Schmid, 2018). Otherwise, the USA would not only be surpassed technologically
but also militarily. However, ‘Third World’ countries did not represent a survival
threat. The alleged security issues against such developments were about
technological hegemony and avoiding competition. Bringing the discussion to
the present, as it was in the East–West confrontation, global powers constrain
technology development of semi-peripheral states for monopoly and status quo
reasons (Blinder, 2015, 2022).

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