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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Kenneth Adelman, 1989

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Kenneth Adelman served as an Assistant to the US Secretary of Defense during the Ford Administration, then Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations and Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) under Ronald Reagan. In the interview he characterizes the thinking of the incoming Reagan team, including members of the Committee on the Present Danger, and describes himself as a “conservative hardliner.” He recounts his nomination to be Director of ACDA and the contentious confirmation process. Adelman describes some of the differences between the Reagan years and previous administrations, especially concerning the connection between arms negotiations and building up military strength. He offers the view that the Soviet Union remains “a focus of evil in the world,” and that while the administration’s rhetoric has appropriately changed on the subject, its views have not. He explains the importance of the Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement (INF) and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and details what he views as the mixed outcome of the Reykjavik summit and the equivocal contributions of President Reagan there. He disparages the perception that arms control will solve the main problems Washington has with Moscow. Finally, he credits Reagan with producing a truly groundbreaking arms control package and advancing the idea of strategic defense, which will remain an important concept in the future.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Kenneth Adelman, 1989

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.



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Raw video

Media Type


Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1991 July 31
Committee on the Present Danger (U.S.)
Reagan, Ronald
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Strategic Defense Initiative
Summit meetings
Arms control
United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Soviet Union
Presidents -- United States – Election -- 1980
United States
Cold War
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 Dec. 8
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Adelman, Kenneth L. (Kenneth Lee), 1946- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Kenneth Adelman, 1989,” 11/30/1989, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Kenneth Adelman, 1989.” 11/30/1989. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Kenneth Adelman, 1989. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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