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Iran, North Korea, Russia: How the Nuclear Threat Re-emerged

Countries are expanding their nuclear arsenals. So why is the public so complacent about the risk of nuclear catastrophe?

NARRATION: Arms control advocates worry the stability of the past, especially between the U.S. and Russia, may be slipping away.

BRUCE BLAIR: We are about to throw away some of our nuclear arms agreements that we’re disputing, and we have one major agreement that allows us to conduct onsite inspections in each other’s country.  That’s going to expire in three years. And there are no signs that we’re going to renew it. We need to learn the lessons of the Cold War, that when the danger, the risk of nuclear war, becomes high, that we need to talk to each other and figure out together how to reduce those risks.

DONALD TRUMP:  Things have changed very radically from a few months ago, you know, the name-calling and other things….Something very dramatic could happen.

NARRATION: There is hope that the expected talks between President Trump and Kim Jong Un will reduce the risks of war, but also realism that the nuclear brinkmanship between the two men could return as quickly as it disappeared.

NARRATOR: Let us recognize the threat to our way of life.

NARRATION: During the Cold War, Americans were alert to the threat they faced.

NARRATOR: Let’s face it.

NARRATION: Today, some worry the public has become complacent, as hugs and handshakes mask the dangers of a new nuclear arms race.

ALEX WELLERSTEIN: I want people to think of them as actual things that exist in the world, actual things that might be used in their lifetimes. They’re not fictional creations, they’re not cultural metaphors. They’re real. They’re real devices and they’re waiting in silos for the signal.

WILLIAM PERRY: I have come to believe that the danger of some kind of a nuclear catastrophe today is actually greater than it was during the Cold War. Greater than the Cold War.