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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Bruce Kent, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Bruce Kent, ordained a Catholic minister in 1958, became general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1980 and chairman in 1987, the year he resigned from the ministry. In this video segment, In the interview Kent conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “Zero Hour,” he describes the forces that converged to revive CND and the rallies that drew hundreds of thousands of marchers to the center of London in the early 1980s. He recounts the spread of peace movements to other Western European capitals, the partnership among protest leaders from these other countries, and some of the differences in their national agendas. He challenges the damaging spin that secretary for defense Lord Michael Heseltine used to undermine CND rather than engage in public debate about nuclear policy. Kent also refutes accusations that CND was in support of “one-sided,” full unilateral disarmament. Instead, he argues for “sufficiency” to replace “parity” of nuclear forces. The 1983 Conservative Party’s rise to power on the heels of the Falklands War, coupled with its forceful campaign to mischaracterize CND, halted the movement’s momentum. At this point, Kent recalls, CND shifted its agenda to “the long haul,” prioritizing long-term, international public education over large demonstrations. Kent critiques “flexible response”—what he calls “the Achilles’ heel” of the Western alliance. Nuclear war is so clearly unwinnable, he maintains, that “parity” must yield to “sufficiency.” As Kent sees positions like these echoed in public discourse and arms negotiations, he concludes that CND’s key contribution is helping “some serious rethinking of the basics of the whole business.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
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Interview with Bruce Kent, 1987

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

President Reagan and Soviet Secretary Gorbachev sign the INF Agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons from Europe. No one had expected the European Missile Crisis to end this way.

The story begins in 1979, when the Western Allies were worried about the Soviet Union’s buildup of SS-20 nuclear missiles aimed at Western Europe. Under pressure from the Carter Administration, NATO issued a threat, if the SS-20s were not removed, NATO would install new American missiles in Europe. The threat revived the dormant anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe, giving them an anti-American tone. In 1981, President Reagan made a proposal that the US would cancel deployment of the missiles if the Soviet Union would dismantle all the intermediate range missiles it had pointed at Europe. This was the “zero-zero” option. The Soviet Union was entering a period of change with three leaders dying in three years. In 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to accept the “zero-zero” option and in 1987 the INF agreement was signed.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Warsaw Treaty Organization
Great Britain
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear warfare
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Peace movements
United States
Antinuclear movement
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
United Nations
Heseltine, Michael, 1933-
Nuclear arms control
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Soviet Union
Reagan, Ronald
London, United Kingdom
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Kent, Bruce, 1929- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Bruce Kent, 1987,” 11/26/1987, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 28, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D6186A06D99F4F4F8FDFEF367B48E6D7.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Bruce Kent, 1987.” 11/26/1987. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 28, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D6186A06D99F4F4F8FDFEF367B48E6D7>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Bruce Kent, 1987. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D6186A06D99F4F4F8FDFEF367B48E6D7
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