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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Laurence Lynn, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Laurence Lynn served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of Program Analysis at the National Security Council during the Nixon administration. He begins by noting the chief concerns and tasks laid out in 1969 and discusses the strategic posture review and the determination, among others, to abandon the two-and-one-half war strategy. On nuclear issues, he recalls the President’s objective not to pursue superiority but “strategic sufficiency.” There follows a lengthy discussion about ABM issues, including the change from Sentinel to Safeguard. He touches on the question of whether the administration subscribed to MAD or whether it was simply “inevitable.” Switching to arms control issues, he comments on Nixon’s attitude toward negotiations and what his objectives were (including going into the SALT process), U.S. assumptions about Soviet goals, the concerns of the verification panel, and the origins of the NCA proposal. Other topics include Kissinger’s consultations with independent scientists, whether to impose moratoria on MIRV testing, Dr. Lynn’s own change of views about the ABM, and some of the differences of opinion that existed within the administration.

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



Interview with Laurence Lynn, 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

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


United States
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Nuclear weapons
Smith, Gerard C.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Nitze, Paul H.
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
United States. Congress
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Nuclear arms control
Soviet Union
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Antimissile missiles
National Security Council (U.S.)
Chicago, IL
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Lynn, Laurence E., 1937- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Laurence Lynn, 1987,” 01/11/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Laurence Lynn, 1987.” 01/11/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Laurence Lynn, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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