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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Alexei Arbatov, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Alexei Arbatov was an adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev. In the interview he describes past, current, and future Soviet-U.S. relations. He describes the evolution of President Reagan’s rhetoric on the Soviet Union, and American views on the Cold War. He describes the difficulties in Soviet-US arms negotiations, specifically negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev at Geneva and Reykjavik, which he says left everyone disappointed. He calls for a plan that incrementally reduces both US and Soviet nuclear arms by half, and then half again, and so on. He also offers his views on the superpower relationship, commenting that the Soviet Union and US should not be in competition since they have no territorial or economic conflicts, and that their relations should be demilitarized since they affect so many other nations that are not complicit in the conflict.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Reagan's Shield
Program Number



Interview with Alexei Arbatov, 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

President Reagan introduces the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative, an idea he believes will make nuclear weapons”Impotent and Obsolete.”

In 1983 President Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that could intercept and destroy Soviet strategic ballistic missiles before they reached the United States. Skeptics dubbed the idea “Star Wars.” It was hard for Reagan to accept the idea of deterrence based on mutual destruction. He believed SDI offered a solution. His science advisor George Keyworth says SDI was “thoroughly created and invented in Ronald Reagan’s own mind and experience.” According to defense scientist Ashton Carter, “The concept is fine. What is not fine is implying to the public that the solution to the nuclear puzzle is at hand.” SDI became the focus of a national debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, and a stumbling block in strategic arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The final months of the Reagan Administration brought a drastic reduction in the scope and size of SDI efforts.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Cruise missiles
Pershing (Missile)
SS-20 Missile
Antinuclear movement
Akhromeyev, Sergey Akhromeyev
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
Reagan, Ronald
Nuclear arms control
Korean Air Lines Incident, 1983
Casey, William J.
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Peace movements
SS-4 Missile
Nuclear war
Nuclear weapons
Soviet Union
United States
International relations
Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
John Paul II, Pope, 1920-2005
SS-5 Missile
Nitze, Paul H.
Moscow, Russia
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Arbatov, Aleksei Georgievich (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Alexei Arbatov, 1987,” 12/30/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Alexei Arbatov, 1987.” 12/30/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Alexei Arbatov, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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