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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Joseph Nye, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Joseph Nye was Deputy to the Undersecretary of State for Security Assistant, Science and Technology, and chaired the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1977 to 1979). (In the 1990s, he served as chair of the National Intelligence Council, and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.) The interview begins with his views on the Atoms for Peace program and the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Much of the interview deals with his work on the nonproliferation issue under President Carter. He is asked about the Indian test, the oil embargo and its effects on proliferation, including administration worries about international pressures to reprocess plutonium. As a result, the U.S. decided to pressure other countries against reprocessing, and to forego it as well as an example. Dr. Nye then discusses the mostly negative impact this had on allies such as the French and Germans who had arranged supply deals with the likes of South Korea and Pakistan. The Japanese, he recalls, were also unhappy. He describes the purposes and impact of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, and the Carter administration’s unilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, which also met with negative international reactions. Most of the rest of the interview deals with specific countries – Pakistan, Libya, India, Israel and South Africa. He asserts that the U.S. had less information available about Israel’s program than was desired, including whether it was assisting Pretoria’s program. He also reacts to the Israeli attack on Osirak, and discusses various current problem areas for nonproliferation. He closes with a comment on the London Suppliers Group.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Visions of War and Peace
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Interview with Joseph Nye, 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

Even in the best international atmosphere, the superpowers face continuing differences about hot to reduce the risk of nuclear war. This final episode analyzes the continuing themes of the nuclear age.

- American attitudes toward nuclear weapons are intertwined with American anxieties about the nature of the Soviet State. - NATO relies on a threat of first use of nuclear weapons in response to an attack even by conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact. - To date, there is no defense against nuclear missiles. - More and more nations are acquiring nuclear technology. - Many people confuse arms control with disarmament.

The challenge of the Nuclear Age is to find a new way for nations to resolve disputes so they will no longer resort to force.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Soviet Union
Nuclear nonproliferation
Vance, Cyrus R. (Cyrus Roberts), 1917-2002
Nuclear weapons
United States
Nuclear energy
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Nuclear arms control
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
South Africa
Great Britain
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Pickering, Thomas Reeve, 1931-
Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006
Korea (South)
Nuclear power plants -- Accidents -- Pennsylvania -- Three Mile Island
United States. Congress
Saudi Arabia
United States. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978
Nuclear Suppliers Group
International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation
Deterrence (Strategy)
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Nye, Joseph S. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Joseph Nye, 1987,” 05/28/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Joseph Nye, 1987.” 05/28/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Visions of War and Peace; Interview with Joseph Nye, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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