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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Michel Tatu was a French journalist who served as Moscow correspondent for Le Monde from 1957-1964. In the interview he describes Premier Khrushchev's exaggeration of Soviet ICBM forces, but notes that the USSR did have "a huge arsenal" deployed against Europe, which he would tell European visitors made them "our hostages." Khrushchev's boasting, he relates, caused the U.S. to build up its arsenal even further. Mr. Tatu also describes the impact of the shooting down of the American U-2 reconnaissance plane, which the Soviet leader delayed announcing -- perhaps, Mr. Tatu speculates, because he did not want to wreck the Paris summit or at least hoped to get an apology directly from President Eisenhower. Mr. Tatu explains that Khrushchev's Kremlin rivals used the incident to turn Soviet policy away from detente.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [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

For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.

As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Intercontinental ballistic missiles
United States
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Kozlov, F. R. (Frol Romanovich), 1908-1965
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
International relations
Soviet Union
Nuclear weapons
Berlin (Germany) -- History-- Crisis, 1961
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Paris, France
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Tatu, Michel, 1933- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [1],” 03/16/1986, GBH Archives, accessed November 29, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [1].” 03/16/1986. GBH Archives. Web. November 29, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Michel Tatu, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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