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1982 Jun 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC (Lebanon & Falklands)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Bonn
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: After the Press Conference concluded at 1815?
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 927
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East)

I

Prime Minister may I ask you first of all how you see—I realise you have been in a very hectic negotiations today—I wonder how you see the situation in the Lebanon—how serious you believe it is?

PM

We are all deeply concerned about it. Everyone at the Summit was. Of course, the Lebanon is an independent country, her territory is being fought over. She used to be such a prosperous country and had such a wonderful future ahead of her, and then she has been torn by various factions and now there are great battles on her territory, even extending to Beirut. And of course, as you know, I felt a great similarity with the Falklands which too was invaded and therefore it did not surprise you that I both supported vigorously the resolution in the Security Council and the resolution of the EEC. There must not only be a cease-fire but it must be linked to withdrawal.

I

And the effect of that resolution on Israeli action—they don't appear to be taking a great deal of notice of it so far.

PM

No, indeed, they seem somehow to have their own objectives and I think the country that is likely to be able to bring most influence on them is the United States, who is of course with us today.

I

What about the wider problems—I know you made quite a calculated reference … in your statement to NATO about the organisation should look further out beyond its boundaries. Now here is a classic case of the Middle East in a terrible situation. You of course were dealing with the Falklands at the same time. How could NATO possibly have dealt with this?

PM

Well the point I was trying to make is that as NATO countries together we cannot take military action outside our boundaries except that we do exercise outside the boundaries, but individual nations in NATO can take action outside the boundaries, just as we are taking action in the Falklands, with [end p1] some of the ships which in fact are NATO ships—we credit them—what is the appropriate word in military terms?—that they are assigned—that's the word I am seeking …   . they are part of the NATO commitment. We withdraw them to deal with the Falklands. Now there are other countries which if hostilities broke out elsewhere for where they have a special responsibility might withdraw some of their forces from NATO temporarily or they might have some others and deal with those. But you see what happens, what goes on in NATO is affected by things outside. Our supply lines are very very extended and we have to defend those. Now we in the European Economic Community most of which, indeed, all of which are in NATO although France not on the military side of it, we made a statement about the Lebanon, but NATO as such has not felt able to make one today, although we are all concerned. I think we feel it is moving very very quickly and of course the United States was there and she is likely to have most influence.

I

Somewhat disappointing perhaps though that NATO couldn't come to grips with these two, obviously two of the worst crises we have faced for a decade.

PM

Well in a way we all supported the Security Council resolution 508 and 509 which said look there must be a ceasefire and there must be withdrawal and that territorial boundaries of the Lebanon must be respected. So we had said it all.

I

What about the … I notice that the final communique is a carefully balanced document. It sends harsh-ish signals to the East to be very careful but also soft ones that you are willing to negotiate, and you backed President Reagan 's START talk proposals for instance. Was this carefully calculated?

PM

No, it was not carefully calculated. It really is a very positive document. There hasn't been a summit like this since 1978 and that's a long time, and there are eleven of us as Heads of Government who have never attended such a summit before. We were anxious to put a very positive case—let me say positive in three ways. First, we expressed why we have got a NATO Alliance, because we believe in the Western way of life [end p2] of Western civilised values. They are marvellous values so good that we sometimes take them for granted. We mustn't. We reaffirmed those values and then we said we believe—we have got to be able to protect and defend them. And we have got to have enough defences both in conventional and in nuclear weapons. But we realise that those weapons are costing a very great deal and they get more and more sophisticated and they do for the potential aggressor, which is the Soviet Union, therefore point number three, can we not ensure our defence at a lower level of armaments? And that means we have to talk to the Soviet Union at both the nuclear level and the conventional level and whatever we agree we have to be certain it can be enforced, because the point of arms control is not to jeopardise our liberties or jeopardise our security. It is to ensure our security but at a lower level of armaments, and this really, if you look what we are talking about, is not only peace, you know so many talk about peace, we are talking about peace with freedom and justice, and there is what I might call a five or six point programme to see exactly how we can obtain that. So it is very positive, very constructive and very realistic, but totally united.

I

By the way you have answered that question, is it too pessimistic then to say that NATO is not able to come to grips with the issues of the day?

PM

It's not being too pessimistic. It is wrong.

I

Thank you very much indeed.