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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Dean Rusk -- the sole cabinet member addressed by President John F. Kennedy as "Mr. Secretary" -- was the second-longest-serving secretary of state: his service spanned the Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations, from 1961 to 1969. His interview conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age illustrates Rusk and Kennedy's close relationship during the Cuban missile crisis and conveys the President's emotions and approach to decision-making as events unfolded. While Rusk was part of the Executive Committee inner circle during the missile crisis, he was also a separate entity: he reserved his recommendation "until the President and I heard from all of these working groups." Throughout the two-week crisis, Rusk avidly pursued a diplomatic resolution, helped build consensus, and facilitated out-of-channel communications. Beyond the missile crisis, Rusk talks about European fears that the United States' commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be weakened by the "flexible response" strategy.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
Program Number



Interview with Dean Rusk, 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

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Organization of American States
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Soviet Union
Nuclear arms control
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
McCloy, John J. (John Jay), 1895-1989
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear weapons
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Home of the Hirsel, Alec Douglas-Home, Baron, 1903-1995
United States
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Kosygin, Aleksey Nikolayevich, 1904-1980
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
United Nations
Berlin (Germany)
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
International relations
Scali, John
Atlanta, GA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1986,” 05/02/1986, GBH Archives, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1986.” 05/02/1986. GBH Archives. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Dean Rusk, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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