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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1988

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Dean Rusk came from barefoot poverty in rural Georgia and achieved black-tie success. He was the first assistant secretary for UN Affairs, in 1949; assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern Affairs, in 1950; and the country’s second-longest-serving secretary of state (1961 to 1969), after Cordell Hull. In his interview conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “Visions of War and Peace,” Rusk reflects on a wide range of political and nuclear issues spanning more than forty years. He discusses his recognition that the first atomic bomb introduced a “new phase of warfare”; his opinion that Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s “adventures” spawned the Cold War and the United States’ “containment” policy; how the past three decades created a vastly different diplomatic landscape against which to conduct foreign relations; and the urgency of domestic problems that threaten national security. Rusk voices his opposition to the Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as “Star Wars” and first unveiled in March 1983. Although known throughout his career for his hawkish views, in “Visions of War and Peace” Rusk turns again and again to the dominant lesson of the nuclear age: nuclear war is “simply that war which must never be fought.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Visions of War and Peace
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Interview with Dean Rusk, 1988

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

Even in the best international atmosphere, the superpowers face continuing differences about hot to reduce the risk of nuclear war. This final episode analyzes the continuing themes of the nuclear age.

- American attitudes toward nuclear weapons are intertwined with American anxieties about the nature of the Soviet State. - NATO relies on a threat of first use of nuclear weapons in response to an attack even by conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. - To date, there is no defense against nuclear missiles. - More and more nations are acquiring nuclear technology. - Many people confuse arms control with disarmament.

The challenge of the Nuclear Age is to find a new way for nations to resolve disputes so they will no longer resort to force.



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Raw video

Media Type


Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
United States
Marshall, George C. (George Catlett), 1880-1959
Soviet Union
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
First strike (Nuclear strategy)
Nuclear weapons
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
World War II
Nuclear arms control
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Military-industrial complex
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear warfare
Strategic Defense Initiative
Warsaw Treaty Organization
International relations
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Atlanta, GA
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1988,” 04/13/1988, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1988.” 04/13/1988. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1988. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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