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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Henry Genrikh Aleksandrovich Trofimenko, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Scholar and former journalist for the Russian news agency TASS Genrikh "Henry" Aleksandrovich Trofimenko was chief analyst at the Institute for the U.S. and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Science. The interview Trofimenko conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age provides a sweep of Soviet views on everything from the Baruch Plan to regulate the spread of nuclear technology to counterforce strategy that would target military forces instead of cities. He describes Moscow's reactions to the Truman Doctrine and containment policy, the Marshall Plan, and the threat American nuclear strategy posed to a pre-nuclear Soviet Union. He captures the state of mind of a nation that had just lost 20 million people. Its priorities were to rebuild its economy, secure its borders, and gain sufficient military strength to resist the pressure of what Trofimenko calls "one-sided American solutions." The United States was the only nation to emerge prosperous from the war, and it worked to dictate post-war international arrangements. Trofimenko describes the Baruch Plan's aim to maintain the U.S. monopoly over nuclear weapons, and the United States' rejection of the Soviet Union's proposal to ban atomic weaponry altogether. Throughout his interview, Trofimenko lashes out against the United States' drive to stay ahead, which he believes initiated new spirals in "this crazy arms race that leads nowhere." He recalls the relief of his country people when the Soviets detonated the atomic bomb and matched Washington's development of a hydrogen bomb. After Sputnik, he says, they understood that, for the first time, Soviet weapons could strike American soil. In his interview, Trofimenko admires Robert McNamara for his intellect and for the soul-searching that led the defense secretary to rethink the military doctrine he initially advocated. He also credits McNamara with educating the Soviet leadership about how the nuclear age breaks down the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons. The defense secretary's greatest contribution, in Trofimenko's opinion, was to promote a second-strike retaliatory force, which implies renouncing a first strike. Finally, Trofimenko explains that today, Russians have acquiesced to mutual assured destruction only as a means and first step toward deep nuclear reductions that would ultimately guarantee "mutual assured survival."

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Education of Robert McNamara, The
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Interview with Henry Genrikh Aleksandrovich Trofimenko, 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 the 1960’s Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara confronts the possibility of nuclear war and changes his views on questions of strategy and survival.

McNamara was Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968. By the 1960’s the Soviets’ increased nuclear capabilities raised disturbing questions. What would the United States do if attacked? American strategy had been “massive retaliation.” But, as McNamara explains, it became increasingly apparent to the Soviets that the US was unlikely to respond. If the United States did launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, the remaining Soviet forces would destroy the US. McNamara’s Defense Department developed a new strategy. “Flexible response” was based on a “ladder of escalation” from conventional to nuclear options. But by 1967, McNamara, who tried to create rules for limited nuclear war, concluded, “The blunt fact is that neither... can attack the other without being destroyed in retaliation. And it is precisely this ... that provides us both with the strongest possible motives to avoid a nuclear war.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Edicia Sputnik
Nuclear weapons
McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
World War II
International relations
Nuclear warfare
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Counterforce (Nuclear strategy)
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Nuclear arms control
Hydrogen bomb
Reagan, Ronald
Middle East
Massive retaliation (Nuclear strategy)
United States
Baruch Plan (1946)
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Korean War, 1950-1953
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Soviet Union
Nuclear warfare
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
Soviet Union
First strike (Nuclear strategy)
Strategic Defense Initiative
World War II
Deterrence (Strategy)
Moscow, Russia
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Trofimenko, G. A. (Genrikh Aleksandrovich) (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Henry Genrikh Aleksandrovich Trofimenko, 1986,” 04/01/1986, GBH Archives, accessed June 19, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Henry Genrikh Aleksandrovich Trofimenko, 1986.” 04/01/1986. GBH Archives. Web. June 19, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Henry Genrikh Aleksandrovich Trofimenko, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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