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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Vladimir Semyonov (Semenov) was the first Soviet Ambassador to East Germany, a Deputy Foreign Minister, and Chief Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) Negotiator, 1969-1972. He recounts why the USSR entered the SALT I talks and describes the atmosphere as difficult because the process represented the first time in history that such significant problems immediately related to each country's security were being directly addressed. But while the talks were sometimes "rough," there was a clear sense that both sides were genuinely seeking solutions, and the involvement of the highest levels of both governments ensured success, he says. On the other hand, SALT II involved "incomparably more complex" issues. He goes on to criticize the current U.S. administration's moves to increase its armaments, and also explains events such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from the Soviet viewpoint. He acknowledges that the existence of the back channel during SALT I did not simplify things for the main negotiators. Among other points, he discusses the issue of SLBMs, the prospect of a third-country attack, and the concept of linkage to regional events such as the bombing of Cambodia. Asked about Zbigniew Brzezinski's comments that Soviet activities in the Horn of Africa might affect SALT II, he likens Brzezinski's remarks to a dog barking at the moon while the moon is unaware. Turning briefly to World War II, he recalls Joseph Stalin's reactions to Truman's revelation at Potsdam in 1945 about a new, powerful weapon: Stalin understood it as an attempt to gain leverage over the Soviet delegation, he says, and immediately ordered the acceleration of the Soviet nuclear program. Mr. Semyonov also recalls his reaction that the Hiroshima bomb represented a very dangerous step.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
One Step Forward
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Interview with Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov, 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.



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Raw video

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Ogarkov, (Marshal) Nikolai Vasilyevich
Nuclear energy
Rowny, Edward L., 1917-
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
Soviet Union
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Nuclear disarmament
Smith, Gerard C.
Garthoff, Raymond L.
United States
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Kurchatov, I. V. (Igor Vasil'evich), 1903-1960
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Warnke, Paul C., 1920-2001
Nuclear arms control
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Nitze, Paul H.
Nuclear weapons
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Semenov, V. S. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov, 1986,” 12/10/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov, 1986.” 12/10/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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