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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Josef Joffe, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Josef Joffe, an international-relations analyst from the Federal Republic of Germany, has taught and written extensively in the journals Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. He has also regularly contributed essays and commentary to print and electronic media, and he has served as publisher-editor of Die Zeit, an influential German newsweekly. In the interview he conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “Zero Hour,” Joffe describes why peace movements gathering steam in Europe in the early 1980s were unable to steer the outcome of elections. He analyzes the insecure position of a power like Germany, which was threatened by superpower relations that were either too amicable or too adversarial. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Joffe explains, would have preferred to retain some long-range missiles instead of the zero-zero option adopted by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, on the principle that “the shorter the ranges the deader the Germans.” Joffe describes German and Western European apprehensions about the 1986 Gorbachev-Reagan Reykjavik Talks. He describes the public’s anxiety about meetings between the superpowers in which they agree “on Europe without Europe.” Joffe also covers the potential impact on Germany of “the momentum of de-nuclearization,” a direction that a coalition of ally leaders failed to block. Never a “great believer” in flexible-response strategy, Joffe is more concerned with ensuring and expanding the risk of war for the Soviet Union in order to preserve “extended deterrence.” By his calculation, the best safeguard against nuclear war is the presence of U.S. troops in Western Europe. Nations that depend on the United States’ protective umbrella, Joffe observes, continually try to gauge the reliability of their “patron power.” For different reasons, Joffe concludes, the United States and Europe need each other. And for those “overarching interests,” the alliance will endure.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
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Interview with Josef Joffe, 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

President Reagan and Soviet Secretary Gorbachev sign the INF Agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons from Europe. No one had expected the European Missile Crisis to end this way.

The story begins in 1979, when the Western Allies were worried about the Soviet Union’s buildup of SS-20 nuclear missiles aimed at Western Europe. Under pressure from the Carter Administration, NATO issued a threat, if the SS-20s were not removed, NATO would install new American missiles in Europe. The threat revived the dormant anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe, giving them an anti-American tone. In 1981, President Reagan made a proposal that the US would cancel deployment of the missiles if the Soviet Union would dismantle all the intermediate range missiles it had pointed at Europe. This was the “zero-zero” option. The Soviet Union was entering a period of change with three leaders dying in three years. In 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to accept the “zero-zero” option and in 1987 the INF agreement was signed.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Kohl, Helmut, 1930-
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
Nuclear arms control
Soviet Union
Thatcher, Margaret
Peace movements
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
International relations
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
Reagan, Ronald
Warsaw Treaty Organization
Healey, Denis
Deterrence (Strategy)
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Summit meetings -- Iceland -- Reykjavik
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear disarmament
United States
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Joffe, Josef (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Josef Joffe, 1987,” 10/23/1987, GBH Archives, accessed June 25, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Josef Joffe, 1987.” 10/23/1987. GBH Archives. Web. June 25, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Josef Joffe, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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