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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Vitaliy Zhurkin was a Soviet foreign policy expert who served as Deputy Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada starting in 1971 and as Director of the Institute of Europe at the Academy of Sciences starting in 1987. He was a consultant to the Soviet delegations at the 1979 Vienna summit, the 1985 Geneva summit and the 1986 Reykjavik summit. He begins this second interview with the assertion that there is no “serious basis” for the U.S.-Soviet confrontation. He responds to questions about what the Soviet approach should be to the East-West relationship and how the U.S. should conduct itself. He predicts that Soviet “new thinking” will bring bolder proposals for improved ties and that if the U.S. responds with a confrontational attitude it will redound against the interests of America and its allies. The discussion turns to the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, including the motivations of Helmut Schmidt and the broader issues underlying the crisis. On the subject of Mikhail Gorbachev’s introduction of new strategic thinking, Mr. Zhurkin discusses the Soviet military’s reaction, then explains the rationale behind the shift in proposals made by Moscow at Reykjavik. He recalls that the Soviet reaction when Reagan took office was typically one of surprise followed by “other feelings of concern.” He believes Reagan’s change in attitude toward Moscow can be traced to evolving U.S. domestic conditions. After a brief discussion of mobility and survivability, and of growing Soviet concerns for stability, he closes with personal recollections from the Reykjavik and Washington summits.

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



Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 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


Nuclear arms control
Soviet Union
Reagan, Ronald
Nuclear weapons
Summit meetings--Iceland--Reykjavik
International relations
United States
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Nuclear disarmament
Moscow, Russia
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Zhurkin, V. (Vitalii) (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1987,” 12/18/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1987.” 12/18/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Vitaliy Vladimirovich Zhurkin, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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