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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Marcus Raskin, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Marcus Raskin served as McGeorge Bundy's assistant on national security affairs and disarmament on the National Security Council staff from 1961-1962. In the interview he discusses U.S. nuclear strategy and disarmament. He explains the White House response to the first-strike proposal created during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. He is repulsed by the idea a first strike, which he considers illegal and immoral, and compares it to the Holocaust. He also describes the buildup of U.S. nuclear capabilities under Secretary of Defense McNamara. He contends that trying to control the arms race, without nuclear disarmament, is impossible because neither side will be totally satisfied that they have a stable deterrent against the other's nuclear forces. In addition, he argues against the conventional forces buildup, which he thinks will only encourage the U.S. to get into more conflicts like the Vietnam War, which could eventually evolve into nuclear engagements. He also discusses the idea of a U.S.-Soviet negotiated disengagement from Eastern and Western Europe.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
At the Brink
Program Number



Interview with Marcus Raskin, 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

In October 1962, the Soviet Union and the United States are at the brink of nuclear war, the 13 most harrowing days in the nuclear age.

“I remember leaving the White House at the end of that Saturday and thinking that might well be the last sunset I ever saw,” recalls former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara of Black Saturday, the day the Cuban missile crisis pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. Aleksandr Alexseev, Soviet ambassador to Cuba at the time, recalled, “We and the Cubans decided that, in order to avoid a United States invasion, we should supply Cuba with missiles.” The US effort to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was an expression of President Kennedy’s disbelief about the missiles in Cuba while it surprised Soviet leader Khrushchev according to his speechwriter,Feodor Burlatsky. Major General William Fairborne, speaks about how “We loaded whole blood and a hundred coffins onto the carrier Iwo Jima.” Looking back on those 13 days, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk reflects, “...we’ve got to find some way to inhabit this speck of dust in the universe at the same time.”



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Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear weapons
Zorin, V. A. (Valerian Aleksandrovich), 1902-1986
Bundy, McGeorge
Civil defense
United States. Dept. of Defense
Fallout shelters
United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Dean, Arthur H.
United States
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
McCloy, John J. (John Jay), 1895-1989
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Warsaw Treaty (1955)
Kaysen, Carl
National Security Council (U.S.)
Schelling, Thomas C., 1921-
United States. President’s Science Advisory Committee
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Wiesner, Jerome B. (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
Nuclear disarmament
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Soviet Union
Sorensen, Theodore C.
United Nations
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Raskin, Marcus G. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Marcus Raskin, 1986,” 03/26/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Marcus Raskin, 1986.” 03/26/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Marcus Raskin, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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