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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Royal Bertram Allison, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Lt. General Royal Bertram Allison was the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for strategic arms negotiations in the late 1960s, and the principal military member of the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I) with the Soviet Union. In the interview he discusses his perspective on SALT, what he hoped the United States would achieve from the talks and the results they ultimately produced. He discusses the effect of mutual superpower parity on strategy, and how the Joint Chiefs of Staff initially resisted the idea of strategic arms limitation but came to the conclusion that it was in the interests of national security. He describes his Soviet counterparts at SALT I, including then-General Nikolai Ogarkov, and the difficulties in beginning a dialogue with the Soviets on such a critical subject for the first time. Gen. Allison also discusses the Kissinger-Dobrynin back-channel negotiations, which he saw as dangerous and personally offensive, since they were kept secret from the rest of the American delegation and reflected a lack of confidence on the part of the Nixon administration. He describes Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s amendment to SALT I and how much control he had in deciding the delegation for SALT II, on which Gen. Allison did not serve because of the Senator’s influence. The interview concludes with brief treatments of a variety of topics, including the general’s views on the significance of the SALT treaty, and on the relationship between SALT and the Vietnam War.

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



Interview with Royal Bertram Allison, 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


Perle, Richard Norman, 1941-
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Semyonov, Vladimir Semyonovich
Garthoff, Raymond L.
Ogarkov, (Marshal) Nikolai Vasilyevich
Fosdick, Dorothy
Grechko, A. A. (Andrei Antonovich), 1903-1976
Smith, Gerard C.
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
International relations
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Moorer, Thomas H., 1912-2004
Mutual assured destruction
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
Nitze, Paul H.
Rowny, Edward L., 1917-
MX (Weapons system)
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Nuclear arms control
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
Soviet Union
United States
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Minuteman (Missile)
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles
Trident (Weapons systems)
Antimissile missiles
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Johnson, U. Alexis (Ural Alexis), 1908-1997
Deterrence (Strategy)
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
German rearmament
Washington, DC
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Allison, Royal Bertram (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Royal Bertram Allison, 1986,” 12/02/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Royal Bertram Allison, 1986.” 12/02/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Royal Bertram Allison, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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