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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Michel Tatu was a French journalist who served as Moscow correspondent for Le Monde from 1957-1964. In this interview he discusses the Soviet position, and especially Khrushchev's position, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He assesses Khrushchev's reasoning behind his decision to put missiles in Cuba in order to level the playing field with the U.S., specifically choosing Cuba over Germany because President Kennedy had previously shown a tough stance on Berlin -- including sending tanks to confront Soviet forces -- but a milder position on Cuba after the Bay of Pigs. He relates the Soviet reaction to the U.S. blockade, and the discrepancies between Khrushchev's position and that of the Soviet Politburo, which is especially noticeable in some of the letters from Khrushchev to Kennedy. He describes the process of resolving the missile crisis -- centering around Khrushchev's recognition of Kennedy's determination and his concern about a possible U.S. invasion -- and the political consequences of the crisis, specifically for the USSR's standing among community countries, for Khrushchev's position in the Soviet leadership, and for the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [2]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Kuznetsov, Vasily
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
International relations
Jupiter missile
Nuclear weapons
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982
Feklisov, Aleksandr, 1914-2007
Soviet Union
Castro, Fidel, 1926-
McCloy, John J. (John Jay), 1895-1989
Scali, John
United States
Kremlin (Moscow, Russia)
Paris, France
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Tatu, Michel, 1933- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [2],” 03/26/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed March 21, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_34A087409AC54B44B8BAB063BFA1800E.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [2].” 03/26/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_34A087409AC54B44B8BAB063BFA1800E>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_34A087409AC54B44B8BAB063BFA1800E
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