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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with James Fulbright, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


J. William Fulbright was a U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1945-1974, and long-time chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. In the interview he discusses the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the evolution of U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. He describes being called to Washington, along with Armed Services Committee chairman Richard Russell, for consultations with President Kennedy just before he publicly announced the Cuba blockade -- and his realization that the President had already made up his mind and was only conferring with them as a courtesy. He argues that the continued embargo of Cuba as well as certain other aspects of U.S. relations with small countries are inadvisable and make the U.S. look like a bully. In his view, the effect of the missile crisis was to contribute to the arms race, and he urges American officials to pay more attention to arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union as well as try to better understand Russian psychology. He also comments on America's ideological fixation with Communism. At various points, he remarks on the thinking and personalities of key figures such as Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. He recalls the political situation in Cuba before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, and speculates on whether the U.S. in any way pushed Castro toward Communism. He also discusses the growing control exercised by the military industrial complex over the U.S. political landscape, and is shocked by the amount of money being spent on political campaigns.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with James Fulbright, 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

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Castro, Fidel, 1926-
United States
Russell, Richard B. (Richard Brevard), 1897-1971
Nuclear arms control
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Soviet Union
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Political campaigns
Arms race
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services
United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Cuba -- History -- Invasion, 1961
International relations
Military-industrial complex
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Fulbright, J. William (James William), 1905-1995 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with James Fulbright, 1986,” 02/21/1986, GBH Archives, accessed July 16, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with James Fulbright, 1986.” 02/21/1986. GBH Archives. Web. July 16, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with James Fulbright, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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