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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Yuriy Lebedev was Counselor, then Counselor-Envoy, at the Soviet Embassy in Cuba from 1962-1968, and a Delegate to the SALT II talks from 1974-1979. He first describes the SALT I talks, at which he was a military expert. The atmosphere was positive and characterized by a basic trust between the sides. He notes that while both delegations initially sought to deal with offensive weapons they came to realize that the main problem was with the deployment of ABM systems, which he discusses at different points in the interview. He recalls that forward basing was an issue the Soviets decided to postpone from SALT I to SALT II. He adds that the U.S. has always taken the initiative in launching new systems and phases of the arms race. On the issue of parity, he sees it as an achievement of all Soviet peoples, not just the military. He views the Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe as strategic weapons. He disagrees that the USSR did not push hard enough for an agreement on MIRVs, pointing to moments during SALT II when he says relevant proposals were made. He explains Moscow’s rejection of Cyrus Vance’s early proposals for cuts in March 1977, and comments on the U.S. decisions regarding the B-1 bomber and the MX missile. He ends with his personal reactions to the signing of SALT II and the subsequent political fight over its ratification.

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



Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 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


Smith, Gerard C.
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Nuclear weapons
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Soviet Union
MX (Weapons system)
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Vance, Cyrus R. (Cyrus Roberts), 1917-2002
Rowny, Edward L., 1917-
Schlesinger, James R.
Brown, Harold, 1927-
Nuclear arms control
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Antimissile missiles
United States
Moscow, Russia
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Lebedev, Yuriy Vladimirovich (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1986,” 12/19/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1986.” 12/19/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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