INT: Thank you that explains it very clearly. Where we had the sound problem before can you tell us more about the reaction to Khrushchev's speech in the summer of '61 when he's talking about bombing Italy, bombing the orange groves, wiping out the Acropolis. What did people think at the time of his seriousness of that?
MB: Well, I don't remember any very large reaction to that speech at that time within the Kennedy Administration. It sounded to us more like huffing and puffing than it did real threats of real action. I don't have any recollection of what the public reaction to the speech was but I honestly don't remember Khrushchev's verbal noises as having had great weight, public verbal noises as having....
INT: In the White House, how much did the people take into account that there was a lot of huffing and puffing by Khrushchev? How much was Khrushchev's tactics dependent largely onbluff?
MB: Khrushchev's bluster, and that was a part of his public persona, was not weighed heavily in the Kennedy Administration as I remember it.
INT: I wanted to ask you to reflect on the difference between nuclear superiority over an issue like Berlin and the issue of nuclear danger. Could you distinguish between the two for us?
MB: I myself distinguish sharply between superiority and danger in the following sense that once both sides have nuclear weapons in numbers that can survive a first attack, once nobody can win in the sense of knocking out the other guy's nuclear strength, you have a situation in which any nuclear exchange is a disaster for both sides and that is the situation that we had long since reached in Soviet-American nuclear competition by the time of the Kennedy Administration. So the right way to think about the nuclear problem was to think of it as a danger that threatened both sides and in which neither side could make a very believable threat of one-sided nuclear warfare. So that declining credibility on nuclear action necessarily led to the question, what will deter and that led to the belief that increased, and visibly increased, conventional capability was of great importance.
INT: Here are three philosophical questions on the Cold War. What do you think the Cold War achieved?
MB: (laugh) Off camera I hope! (laugh)
INT: What did it achieve?
MB: We came through it. The most important thing about the Cold War is that it did not go on.
INT: What was the most dangerous moment?
MB: I don't know. I think it's a good question what the most dangerous moment in the Cold War was. I think probably one ought to say that it is most dangerous when the territories are least familiar and for that reason I would put the Missile Crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis first. Both players were in unknown territory: "What did he do this for?" on our side about him; "What will the Americans do wittheir blockade?" on Khrushchev's side? Blundering in a jungle in terms of not having had any parallel experience before. Very dangerous.
INT: Over the whole course of the Cold War if you take it from say '45, or even earlier, to 1990, was there ever in Europe, you've studied this, any chance of nuclear war?
MB: A real chance, there was at a number of points but how big the chance was, is a quite different question. You don't really havethat as.. that isn't an answer.
INT: That's going to be too long an answer, so my final question would be...
MB: I think neither side lost and I think that's... the most you can really say for it. On particular questions of particular encounters you can say.. in the Missile Crisis, for example, the Americans got the result they wanted, Khrushchev did not get the result that he wanted, whatever it was. In the less direct encounter, much less direct, in the Vietnam War the Americans plainly lost but they didn't lose to the Russians, they lost to Hanoi. And you know... it's not a black and white answer and it's not the same answer when look at different cases. It's an enormous long mixed-up contest that eventually wore itself out. And if you have to say overall who won and who lost, you have to say, I think, that the collapse of Soviet power is the most important single event in the Cold War.
INT: Thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW