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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1988

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Paul Nitze held senior government posts that spanned nearly a half-century and nine presidents, from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan. In the interview Nitze conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: "Visions of War and Peace," he discusses the purpose of arms control and his conclusions: that the United States and the Soviet Union must both be willing to settle for deterrence, and that to lessen the risk of war, reductions must have a "stabilizing" impact. Throughout the Cold War, Nitze was key in shaping U.S. attitudes toward Soviet intentions and capabilities. He recalls the shock of touring Hiroshima and Nagasaki just after World War II, when he was serving with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. He and his team conducted extensive interviews and data analysis to recommend a framework for post-war military organization. Nitze also served as secretary of the navy (1963 to 1967); deputy secretary of defense (1967 to 1969); principal negotiator for the U.S. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (1969 to 1973); head of the U.S. negotiating team at the Arms Control Talks, in Geneva (1981 to 1984); and ambassador-at-large (1984 to 1989). In his interview, he reflects on his analyses of the necessary levels and the proper mix of military forces both conventional and nuclear. He also highlights the immense effort needed to sustain preparedness in order to maintain security into the future. Known for his aggressive style and keen analytical abilities, Nitze describes the principles he used to guide crisis contingency planning throughout his career, the effectiveness of deterrence in preserving peace and liberty, and his approach to arms-control diplomacy as a way to attain U.S. strategic goals.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Visions of War and Peace
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Interview with Paul Nitze, 1988

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

Even in the best international atmosphere, the superpowers face continuing differences about hot to reduce the risk of nuclear war. This final episode analyzes the continuing themes of the nuclear age.

- American attitudes toward nuclear weapons are intertwined with American anxieties about the nature of the Soviet State. - NATO relies on a threat of first use of nuclear weapons in response to an attack even by conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. - To date, there is no defense against nuclear missiles. - More and more nations are acquiring nuclear technology. - Many people confuse arms control with disarmament.

The challenge of the Nuclear Age is to find a new way for nations to resolve disputes so they will no longer resort to force.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
United States
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Nuclear disarmament
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
World War II
Mutual assured destruction
Nuclear warfare
United States. Air Force
Warsaw Treaty Organization
United Nations
Soviet Union
Great Britain
Deterrence (Strategy)
Warfare, Conventional
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear arms control
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Nitze, Paul H. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1988,” 03/15/1988, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1988.” 03/15/1988. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Paul Nitze, 1988. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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