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Veteran Diplomat and Arms Control Adviser Paul Nitze Dies at Age 97

October 20, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, we recall a few words from diplomat and arms control negotiator Paul Nitze, who died last night. He served eight presidents during the Cold War.

Along with George Kennan, Nitze was considered an architect of the policies of containing the Soviet Union.

I talked with him in 1989, just two weeks before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

JIM LEHRER (Oct. 26, 1989): You talked about the changes in the Soviet Union, that the Soviet Union is changing.

Do you think that a new, a really new Soviet Union, a really new Eastern Europe, is going to emerge from all of this?

PAUL NITZE, Diplomat ((Oct. 26, 1989): I think it may, and certainly we want to do what we can to foster that kind of emergence of a new order. It is not to our interest, I believe, to have chaos in the Soviet Union, and I think there is a substantial danger of that coming about.

The Soviet Union appears to be rather coming undone at the seams and you can’t tell what’s going to happen, and we’ve got to be ready for, you know, any one of a number of contingencies that are going to arise there.

So I’d make two propositions: The first is the Soviet Union is bound to be different than it has been, and the Cold War as we’ve seen it for the last 50 years has finally succumbed to what George Kennan and I hoped would occur: That they’d begin to look inward and see what their expansionist policies have done to themselves internally.

They’ve done that and they won’t… they can’t avoid that in the future, so there isn’t going to be the same kind of a threat, but still there are enormous uncertainties and we’ve got to be ready for a lot of different contingencies.

JIM LEHRER: So if there was in fact a Cold War, we won it, is that what you’re saying?

PAUL NITZE: That’s exactly what I’m saying.

JIM LEHRER: Paul Nitze was 97 years old.