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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Eugene Rostow, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Eugene Rostow, a Yale law professor, served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1966-1969 and Chairman of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) from 1981-1983. In the early 1980s he was chair of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD). In the interview, he discusses at length his views on the Soviet threat, focusing initially on the late 1970s, which he regards as a period of significant Soviet expansion. He describes Moscow's goals in arms control talks as being to gain acknowledgement of their right to nuclear superiority. On the other hand, the U.S. objective, in his view, should be to retain a retaliatory capacity that would allow U.S. conventional forces to defend the national interest as necessary. He asserts the U.S. has always been interested in arms control agreements. He also points up several problems he and the CPD identified in both the SALT I and II accords. The interview goes into historical episodes such as the Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, each of which holds certain lessons for Mr. Rostow, regarding the perception of power in the former instance and the nature of Soviet intentions in the latter. Iran, in his opinion, reflects at least partly the results of Soviet attempts to stir up regional troubles. Back to the topic of arms control, he explains, among other things, his objections to Paul Warnke's appointment as a negotiator, his arguments in favor of the MX and Midgetman missiles, and some of his critiques of President Carter's policies. He did, however, support Carter's Presidential Directive 59. Further topics include Soviet attitudes toward specific arms control agreements, whether Carter's late-term views of Soviet policy differed substantially from Ronald Reagan's, and the origins of the CPD.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Haves and Have-Nots
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Interview with Eugene Rostow, 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

A case study of the dynamics of nuclear proliferation: China triggers India and India triggers Pakistan in the competition to have their own nuclear weapons.

In 1953 President Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace program. This marked a total reversal of American foreign policy. Americans would give material to allow countries to build reactors. “So overnight we passed from nuclear middle age to nuclear renaissance,” recalls French atomic scientist Bertrand Goldschmidt. The Soviet Union started its own program and helped China learn to build a bomb. The first Chinese nuclear blast was in 1964. Indian defense expert K. Subrahmanyam recalls that a nuclear China prompted India to set off a “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974. “There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear explosion,” responds General A. I. Akram of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. “’74 was a watershed. It brought the shadow of the bomb to South Asia, and that shadow is still there.”



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Raw video

Media Type


Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear arms control
United States
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Vance, Cyrus R. (Cyrus Roberts), 1917-2002
Warnke, Paul C., 1920-2001
Midgetman Missile
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
MX (Weapons system)
Middle East
Soviet Union
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Committee on the Present Danger (U.S.)
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
United States. President (1977-1981 : Carter). Presidential Directive 59
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Rostow, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1913-2002 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Eugene Rostow, 1986,” 03/20/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Eugene Rostow, 1986.” 03/20/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Eugene Rostow, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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