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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Henry Kissinger, U.S. national security adviser from 1969 to 1973 and then secretary of state until 1977, was the dominant figure in creating the foreign policy of the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations. Kissinger’s interview conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “One Step Forward” touches on points contained in his blueprint for détente: a relaxing of tensions between the superpowers. Détente was designed to “contain” Soviet influence and power, based on a combination of pressures and inducements. He discusses the concept of “linkage”: interlocking U.S. arms-control negotiations with leveraging Soviet behavior and policy. Kissinger speaks to issues of nuclear parity, its influence on negotiations, and the breakthrough in Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) once the Soviet Union agreed to link offensive and defensive weapons. He also addresses the significance of opening relations with China; his “back channel” diplomacy with Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin independent of the SALT delegation; the controversy surrounding multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs); and the significance of the SALT I Treaty as a frame of reference for future negotiations. What followed, Kissinger recalls, was a general antagonism toward SALT II, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to link trade with improving human rights within the Soviet Union, and the problems for arms control created by MIRVs—all of which coincided with the fall of Nixon.

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



Interview with Henry Kissinger, 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

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


Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Antimissile missiles
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
United States
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Middle East
Nuclear arms control
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
International relations
Mutual assured destruction
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982
Nuclear weapons
United States. Congress
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Soviet Union
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
New York City, NY
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Kissinger, Henry, 1923- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1986,” 11/26/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1986.” 11/26/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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