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A Letter From The Publisher: Mar. 29, 1982

2 minute read

The dismal swamp of escalation scenarios and counterforce strategies is familiar territory to Diplomatic Correspondent Strobe Talbott, who wrote a major segment of this week’s cover package on the specter of nuclear war. Talbott covered the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and subsequently turned his reportage into a 1979 book, Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT 11. His fascination with Soviet affairs and Soviet-American relations goes back to his first Russian-language studies at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. A student of Russian literature at Yale, and then at Oxford, he worked as a 1969 summer trainee at TIME’s Moscow bureau and has returned to the Soviet Union nearly a dozen times on reporting assignments. In 1970 and 1974 he translated and edited the two volumes of Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs. His interests also led to a concern about arms control. Says Talbott: “At the most basic level, avoiding nuclear war is what Soviet-American relations are all about.”

Washington Correspondent Bruce Nelan shares Talbott’s absorption in strategy and the Soviets. Since 1976 he has interposed a three-year stint as Moscow bureau chief between two tours as TIME’s defense correspondent. For this story, he interviewed civilian and military experts, and found, surprisingly, that “the glittery-eyed spinners of strategic schemes are in mufti. The officers who have custody of nuclear weapons are cautious and undramatic.”

Staff Writer Jim Kelly wrote the other main cover story, on the growing awareness and concern among Americans about the threat of nuclear holocaust. He was assisted by Reporter-Researcher Eileen Chiu, while Brigid O’Hara-Forster and JoAnn Lum worked with Talbott. Presiding over the entire package was National Editor John T. Elson, who was struck by the antinuclear movement’s broad base. “The early opposition to the Viet Nam War,” he says, “was by political radicals, and only later became a popular movement. Today’s antinuclear leaders include Roman Catholic archbishops and Harvard law professors.” Adds Elson: “TIME’s correspondents turned up local initiatives all over the country. It is a populist, popular movement that has really sneaked up on us.”

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