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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Vitaliy Zhurkin was a Soviet foreign policy expert who served as Deputy Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada starting in 1971 and as Director of the Institute of Europe at the Academy of Sciences starting in 1987. He was a consultant to the Soviet delegations at the 1979 Vienna summit, the 1985 Geneva summit and the 1986 Reykjavik summit. Here he offers his own, as well as broader Soviet, views on a range of nuclear-related issues. Beginning with the notion of offensive and defensive strategies, he notes that the latter has evolved to a point that it is now seen as dangerous in its own right. He does not agree that the USSR was primarily concerned with the defensive aspects of the SALT I treaty, and goes on to discuss perceptions of how each side approached those negotiations. He notes the significant U.S. geographical advantage over the USSR, and comments on several specific points -- including the significance of the term "strategic weapon," and the status of SLBMs and MIRVs, calling the latter the most destabilizing development of the 1970s. The conversation turns to Soviet perceptions of the development of the arms race. In his view, the typical dynamic is that the United States is the first to develop a new weapon or other technological improvement, such as MIRVs or cruise missiles, and continues to test or deploy at will, then objects when the Soviets finally do the same. He believes the same will happen with SDI. He denies that this process of U.S.-Soviet action-reaction reversed itself in the mid-1960s. He is sharply negative about the "Schlesinger Doctrine," Jimmy Carter's PD-59 and Ronald Reagan's NSDD-13 because all incorporate the "impossible" concept of a limited nuclear war.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Haves and Have-Nots
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Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 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

A case study of the dynamics of nuclear proliferation: China triggers India and India triggers Pakistan in the competition to have their own nuclear weapons.

In 1953 President Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace program. This marked a total reversal of American foreign policy. Americans would give material to allow countries to build reactors. “So overnight we passed from nuclear middle age to nuclear renaissance,” recalls French atomic scientist Bertrand Goldschmidt. The Soviet Union started its own program and helped China learn to build a bomb. The first Chinese nuclear blast was in 1964. Indian defense expert K. Subrahmanyam recalls that a nuclear China prompted India to set off a “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974. “There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear explosion,” responds General A. I. Akram of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. “’74 was a watershed. It brought the shadow of the bomb to South Asia, and that shadow is still there.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States. President (1977-1981 : Carter). Presidential Directive 59
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Soviet Union
Schlesinger, James R.
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Cruise missiles
Soviet Union
Great Britain
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Strategic Defense Initiative
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear arms control
Nuclear warfare
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Moscow, Russia
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Zhurkin, V. (Vitalii) (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1986,” 12/18/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1986.” 12/18/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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