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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Yuriy Lebedev was Counselor, then Counselor-Envoy, at the Soviet Embassy in Cuba from 1962-1968, and a Delegate to the SALT II talks from 1974-1979. In this interview, he discusses the strategic utility of the MX and compares it with the SS-18. He prefers mobile missiles but hastens to add the Soviets would prefer no missiles at all. He finds no value in discussing vulnerability to a first strike because “there will always be a second strike,” he declares. He offers views on a variety of American proposals and past public statements, from the stationing of missiles in Europe to President Reagan’s rejection of a Soviet-proposed nuclear-free zone on the continent. He notes the changes in Soviet policy since the 27th Party Congress of early 1986 under new General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, which took the form of much more concrete proposals for weapons reductions and verification. The interview goes on to cover his hopes for a reduction of forces in Europe, his fear that SDI will ratchet up the arms race, and his assessment of the American inclination to count on technological superiority and to try to put economic pressure on the USSR. He declares that Soviet scientists have rejected the feasibility of building an anti-ballistic missile system, offers brief insights into Soviet testing, then concludes that the current U.S.-Soviet conflict is largely about a lack of mutual trust.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Carter's New World
Program Number



Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 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 Carter comes to office determined to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to improve relations with the Soviet Union. His frustrations are as grand as his intentions.

Carter had hoped the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. He stopped production of the B-1 bomber. He believed the SALT II negotiations would be a step toward eliminating nuclear weapons. But his intentions were frustrated by Soviet actions and by a lack of consensus among his own advisors, including Chief SALT II negotiator Paul Warnke and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who was dubious about arms control). Carter balanced Soviet aggression in Africa by improving American relations with China. He withdrew SALT II treaty from Senate consideration but its terms continued to serve as general limits on strategic nuclear force levels for both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Reagan, Ronald
Soviet Union
Summit meeting--Iceland--Reykjavik
MX (Weapons system)
Strategic Defense Initiative
United States
Nuclear arms control
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Nuclear weapons
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Antimissile missiles
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Lebedev, Yuriy Vladimirovich (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1987,” 12/24/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1987.” 12/24/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Yuriy Lebedev, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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