In 2010, Sting explained that the song was inspired by watching Soviet TV via inventor Ken Schaffer’s satellite receiver at Columbia University:
“I had a friend at university who invented a way to steal the satellite signal from Russian TV. We’d have a few beers and climb this tiny staircase to watch Russian television… At that time of night we’d only get children’s Russian television, like their ‘Sesame Street’. I was impressed with the care and attention they gave to their children’s programmes. I regret our current enemies haven’t got the same ethics.”
Sting performed the song at the 1986 Grammy Awards. His performance of the song was released on the 1994 album Grammy’s Greatest Moments Volume I.
The accompanying music video for the single was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and was shot in a similar black-and-white, French New Wave-influenced style to his previous video for Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer”. The video also prominently featured child actor Felix Howard, who was later featured Mondino’s promotional video for Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” in 1986.
The song uses the Romance theme from the Lieutenant Kijé Suite by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, and its lead-in includes a snippet from the Soviet news program Vremya in which the famed Soviet news broadcaster Igor Kirillov says in Russian: “…The British Prime Minister described the talks with the head of the delegation, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, as a constructive, realistic, practical and friendly exchange of opinions…”, referring to the meeting of Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher in 1984. The Soviet leader at the time was Konstantin Chernenko.
Also in the background, communications from the Apollo–Soyuz mission can be heard.
In a 2021 interview, James Cameron, the co-writer, director and producer of Terminator 2, said that the song inspired him to create the character of John Connor, the 10-year-old boy who would be the central character of the plot: “I remember sitting there once, high on E, writing notes for Terminator, and I was struck by Sting’s song, that “I hope the Russians love their children too.” And I thought, “You know what? The idea of a nuclear war is just so antithetical to life itself.” That’s where the kid came from.”