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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1986 [3]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


For nearly half a century, Paul Nitze was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Nitze served as assistant defense secretary from 1961-1963. In the interview he discusses the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He describes his support of the idea of a quarantine, followed by an airstrike if necessary, noting that he was ready to do whatever necessary to achieve the objective of getting the Soviet missile out of Cuba. During EXCOMM meetings, he argued against Secretary McNamara, who was saying that the missiles didn’t change the strategic balance. Nitze notes that the Cuban Missile Crisis war related to the American-Soviet tension over the concurrent situation in Berlin. He never thought there was much of a possibly of nuclear war during the Missile Crisis because of the American conventional superiority, from which re draws the lesson that a country is secure with both a conventional and nuclear superiority, and shouldn’t rely solely on its nuclear forces.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
Program Number



Interview with Paul Nitze, 1986 [3]

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.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Bundy, McGeorge
Soviet Union
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
Anderson, George Whelan, 1906-1992
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Gilpatric, Roswell L. (Roswell Leavitt), 1906-1996
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
United States. Navy
McCone, John A. (John Alex), 1902-1991
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
United States
Hilsman, Roger
Nuclear warfare
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Nuclear weapons
Warfare, Conventional
Sorensen, Theodore C.
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Nitze, Paul H. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1986 [3],” 03/10/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 18, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_ADE712262B8348B597CCD2FF8A953480.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1986 [3].” 03/10/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 18, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_ADE712262B8348B597CCD2FF8A953480>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1986 [3]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_ADE712262B8348B597CCD2FF8A953480
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