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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Harold Brown, 1987 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Harold Brown is an American scientist who served as Director of Defense Research and Engineering from 1961-1965 and the Secretary of Defense from 1977-1981. In the interview he discusses the ICBM modernization debate during the Carter Administration, which occurred concurrently with the SALT II ratification process. He explains that the urgency of the ICBM modernization, particularly the MX missile, was in response to the Soviet buildup and increased accuracy, which was not sufficiently limited by SALT II, and therefore left America potentially vulnerable. He goes into the military’s position during this debate, as well as the views of specific members of the Carter administration, including Zbigniew Brzezinski and Cyrus Vance. He describes Carter’s personal reluctance to approve nuclear weapons programs, but his overall recognition of the strategic situation. He also explains the purpose of PD-59. Additionally, he describes the evolution of the U.S.’s relations with China, particularly in terms of military cooperation.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Carter's New World
Program Number



Interview with Harold Brown, 1987 [1]

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 Carter comes to office determined to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to improve relations with the Soviet Union. His frustrations are as grand as his intentions.

Carter had hoped the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. He stopped production of the B-1 bomber. He believed the SALT II negotiations would be a step toward eliminating nuclear weapons. But his intentions were frustrated by Soviet actions and by a lack of consensus among his own advisors, including Chief SALT II negotiator Paul Warnke and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who was dubious about arms control). Carter balanced Soviet aggression in Africa by improving American relations with China. He withdrew SALT II treaty from Senate consideration but its terms continued to serve as general limits on strategic nuclear force levels for both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear arms control
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
United States. President (1977-1981 : Carter). Presidential Directive 59
Minuteman (Missile)
United States. Army
Reagan, Ronald
United States. Navy
Multiple Protective Structures (Missile basing system)
United States. Congress
MX (Weapons system)
United States. Air Force
Rockwell B-1 (Bomber)
Mondale, Walter F., 1928-
Vance, Cyrus R. (Cyrus Roberts), 1917-2002
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Nuclear weapons
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Brown, Harold, 1927- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Harold Brown, 1987 [1],” 03/26/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Harold Brown, 1987 [1].” 03/26/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Harold Brown, 1987 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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