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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Richard Pipes, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Richard Pipes was a history professor at Harvard University who took part in the 1976 Team B study of the Soviet military threat and later served as Director of East European and Soviet Affairs on the National Security Council staff from 1981-1982. He describes the Reagan administration’s thinking about the Soviet Union, discussing along the way such topics as Moscow’s prior military buildup, President Carter’s approach toward nuclear strategy, the Reagan team’s strong ideological position on defense, and the “enormous hostility” felt from the State Department. The Reagan administration, he relates, came to the conclusion that Moscow did not consider human life to be “so precious” compared with its priority of preserving military capabilities and the security of the political leadership. As a consequence, American strategists adjusted their focus to counterforce targets. In his view there is no doubt that the administration assumes that a nuclear war can be won. He asserts that the nuclear freeze movement was known to be backed by Soviet front organizations and was not taken seriously by the administration. The subject turns to the Strategic Defense Initiative, which is discussed in some detail. He comments on how he believes the Reagan era will be seen in the future, and discusses Reagan’s change in attitude on disarmament.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Richard Pipes, 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

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



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Media Type


Gorbachev, Mikhail
United States
Nitze, Paul H.
Soviet Union
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
United States. President (1977-1981 : Carter). Presidential Directive 59
Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
Reagan, Ronald
United States. Dept. of State
MX (Weapons system)
National Security Council (U.S.)
Committee on the Present Danger (U.S.)
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Strategic Defense Initiative
Antinuclear movement
Ikle, Fred Charles
Nuclear weapons
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Haig, Alexander Meigs, 1924-2010
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Pipes, Richard (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Richard Pipes, 1987,” 11/09/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Richard Pipes, 1987.” 11/09/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Richard Pipes, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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