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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Raymond Garthoff, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


A career diplomat, Raymond Garthoff served as executive secretary of the SALT I delegation, and simultaneously as deputy director of the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs. In this interview, he speaks in detail about preparations for the negotiations in Helsinki and their conduct. In his view, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger saw SALT as a component of the broader bilateral relationship, and he describes their strategy vis-a-vis the Soviets in the lead-up to the talks. Moscow’s interest in talks, he believes, stemmed from having just achieved strategic parity with the United States and realizing the significant economic strains of a continuing arms race. Mr. Garthoff discusses some of the atmospherics at the start of the talks and the different cultures of both delegations, such as the Soviets’ sensitivity to sharing information, even with their own side. He breaks down the substantive views and preferences of each U.S. agency involved in the negotiations. He comments more than once about the highly politicized nature of the entire process, specifically how it was seen by the White House within the domestic political context. This includes the negotiating that took place between Nixon and Sen. Henry Jackson over what the agreement would look like. Among other points discussed in detail are the importance of the informal exchanges that took place during the process, including the “tundra talks” in Lapland, and the “difficult and interesting” question of the value of the Kissinger-Dobrynin back-channel talks.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
One Step Forward
Program Number



Interview with Raymond Garthoff, 1986

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

Soviet and American nuclear forces reach rough nuclear parity in the 1970’s. Each side, pursuing its own interest, negotiates the first successful arms control agreement, SALT I.

In May 1972 President Nixon found himself in Moscow delivering a message of peace and friendship. Nixon announced the first major superpower arms control agreements, SALT I and the Anti-Ballsitic Missile (ABM) treaty. Nixon described his feeling about negotiating with the Soviets. “I didn’t trust the Russians. But I recognized that ... there was no alternative but to have some relationship of ‘live and let live’ between the two superpowers.” Two years after the historic meeting in Moscow, Nixon was forced to resign due to Watergate. ABM silos in the United States were shut down but the production of ballistic missiles armed with multiple nuclear warheads (MIRV’s) contributed to a massive increase in weapons in both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Smith, Gerard C.
Antimissile missiles
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles
Helsinki (Finland)
Nuclear weapons
Newhouse, John, 1929-
United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
United States
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
Grinevsky, Oleg, 1930-
Nuclear arms control -- Verification
Ogarkov, (Marshal) Nikolai Vasilyevich
Nuclear arms control
United States. Dept. of State
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Garthoff, Raymond L. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Raymond Garthoff, 1986,” 12/03/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Raymond Garthoff, 1986.” 12/03/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Raymond Garthoff, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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