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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Petra Kelly, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Petra Kelly was one of the founders of the German Green Party. In the interview she discusses her views of the European peace movement and the development of arms control. Her opening comments focus on the debates over Pershing II and cruise missile deployments in the late 1970s, opposition to which, she says, triggered the peace movement in Germany. She defends the movement from various criticisms, explains its diverse reach across Europe, and credits it with important successes. In her opinion, the increased possibility of a limited nuclear strike in Europe was the most important explanation for the rise of the movement, and she adds that this concern continues to grow as nuclear weapons become smaller and more precise. On the question of credit for recent arms control progress, her view is that Reagan and Gorbachev would not have succeeded without the positive climate brought about by the peace movement. She expresses views on a variety of other issues including the ineffectiveness of deterrence the current state of arms control, and the pressures Chancellor Kohl is facing from the peace movement and the U.S. government.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
Program Number



Interview with Petra Kelly, 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

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


Strategic Defense Initiative
Great Britain
Todenhofer, Jurgen, 1940-
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Peace movements
Soviet Union
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Pershing (Missile)
Nuclear arms control
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Kohl, Helmut, 1930-
SS-20 Missile
Antinuclear movement
Cruise missiles
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
Reagan, Ronald
Schmidt, Helmut, 1918 Dec. 23-
United States
Nuclear weapons
Shultz, George Pratt, 1920-
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Kelly, Petra Karin, 1947-1992 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Petra Kelly, 1986,” 12/16/1986, GBH Archives, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Petra Kelly, 1986.” 12/16/1986. GBH Archives. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Petra Kelly, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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