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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Jimmy Carter, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States, from 1977 to 1981. In the interview Carter conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, he relates his experience as president-elect, when the task at hand was to absorb military force structure and preparedness. As Carter recalls, the Soviets temporarily shelved the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) II talks after he pressed them on human-rights violations. From the get-go, he wanted an arms-control agreement that he negotiated, as opposed to one shaped by a prior administration. Rather than build from the 1974 Vladivostok agreement, Carter immediately sought dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons, but he was compelled to acquiesce to the step-by-step process that the Soviet Union would accept. The Salt II Treaty that he and Leonid Brezhnev signed in June 1979 was, Carter believed, the best they could do at the time. Not expecting the pitfalls that lay ahead, both men anticipated a SALT III agreement that would produce more-dramatic results. He recalls the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and its impact on the ratification of the SALT II agreement. In his interview, Carter also discusses his support for limited linkage, such as pressuring the Soviets to minimize their role in Ethiopia while still continuing arms talks. In 1978, there was general agreement about normalizing relations with China, to be followed by Deng Xiaoping's visit to the United States. The timing of the visit—it occurred just a month prior to a Soviet summit meeting—proved controversial, but it remains a decision that Carter defends. He also upholds his decision to approve funding for the MX missile as a stabilizing factor. Finally, Carter points out that the terms of SALT II, although never ratified, remained intact for at least seven years, and that its concepts provided a stable framework for subsequent negotiations.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
Program Number



Interview with Jimmy Carter, 1987

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

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear arms control
International relations
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
MX (Weapons system)
United States
Nitze, Paul H.
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
Chamberlain, Neville, 1869-1940
Soviet Union
Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Nuclear weapons
Deng, Xiaoping, 1904-1997
Horn of Africa
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Nuclear nonproliferation
Atlanta, GA
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Carter, Jimmy, 1924- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Jimmy Carter, 1987,” 01/27/1987, GBH Archives, accessed May 24, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Jimmy Carter, 1987.” 01/27/1987. GBH Archives. Web. May 24, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Jimmy Carter, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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