Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1983 Sep 29 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC Radio 2 Jimmy Young Programme (visiting Washington)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: British Embassy, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: BBC transcript
Journalist: Jimmy Young, BBC
Editorial comments: MT probably gave interviews to ITN and IRN but no others have been traced. The programme was broadcast in Britain on 1000-1200 3 October 1983.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1351
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Young

Introduction. Now last week the Prime Minister spent much of her time here in Washington discussing East/West relations and the Geneva Disarmament Talks, and in this area she claims to be in complete accord with President Reagan who restated American policy in his address at the beginning of last week to the United Nations Assembly. Now in his reply to that address, Soviet leader Mr. Andropov accused Mr. Reagan of being a warmonger who doesn't take disarmament seriously. And it was, as you will know by now, an angry, unyielding speech and it certainly did nothing to warm the new deep frozen East/West relations, so that's where I began when I talked with the Prime Minister in the British Embassy only five hours after I landed here in Washington.

Interview begins

Young

I know that you've been talking to President Reagan this morning, I just wondered whether you and the President are thinking as closely as you traditionally have done on the main elements of defence policy and arms limitation?

Thatcher

Oh very much so. It's not surprising, we're both members of NATO, we both believe that our way of life is worth defending. We're both determined that it shall be secure, but at the same time we really would like it to be secure at a lower level of expenditure on weaponry and materials. That means we've got to negotiate with the Soviet Union, and we've got to persist in negotiating even though the Soviet Union is turning out to be rather elusive at the negotiating table. [end p1]

Young

Well indeed, in a speech accepting the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States Award you said, we live on the same planet and we have to go on sharing it, and we stand ready therefore to talk to the Soviet leadership if and when the circumstances are right. What would you need to happen to make you think the circumstances were right?

Thatcher

Well let me put it this way. Clearly they're not right at the moment in the wake of the Korean Airliner, and of course still Afghanistan, but I made that speech feeling quite strongly, you can't determine other countries' policies. You may wish they're different, but they are as they are, their system is as it is, it's very rigid, and their leaders are as they are. Nevertheless, they're an important force in the world, and they affect our lives, and really we would wish to have discussions with them to try …   . I think … I suppose to try to influence them more into our way of thinking, if one puts it that way, because we believe that our way is best. But if we've got to live on the same planet and we have to, while the Americans continue with their grain agreements, we continue with trade, it would seem sensible at some stage, and it's difficult to define when, that we do have more talks at all levels.

Young

Yes. May I ask you Prime Minister, Mr. Andropov in a lengthy statement devoted to East/West relations, seems …   . this is if one's to believe the report in today's New York Times, almost to be suggesting that Moscow's given up trying to work with the Reagan administration because of what he sees as intense hostility. Do you get any feeling of that? Because if so is it …   . I would have thought it immensely worrying.

Thatcher

Intense hostility, no. What I find and what we should do and what I said in the Winston Churchill Award speech, is you really must make an assessment of the Soviet Union and its leaders, of their system, of their record, of their attitudes now. That is not hostility. That is carrying out your normal duty to your own citizens. To know the person you're facing, know how they will react. If you're going to do that, you've got to take into account their record, and Hungary, Czechoslavakia, Poland, [end p2] Afghanistan, the Korean airliner, and negotiate accordingly, otherwise you'll get it wrong. Otherwise you might give in to some particular request and in doing so weaken your own stance and your own security. We mustn't do that. That's not hostility. I expect the Soviet Union to take the full measure of us.

Young

Right. Again, according to the New York Times, some American officials are saying … and they quote Secretary of State George Shultz actually, that America may have pressed its attacks against the Soviet Union too far, and went on …   . they said, and be in danger of bringing about unintended consequences. Do you get that feeling at all in America?

Thatcher

No, I don't. I get the feeling that America, as part of NATO, is determined that our defence shall be sure, and hope to goodness it is, Jimmy, otherwise you and I wouldn't be sitting here discussing like this would we? Determined that our defence shall be sure against that background of determination of capacity and will. The second thing is we must negotiate with the Soviet Union to get the armaments down. We have to live in the same world and we must negotiate with them, and there is a persistent desire and a persistent intention to negotiate, and we're really hoping for is that the Soviet Union will do it at the negotiating table. Perhaps if we had a quiet period where we weren't always asking questions every day, they could carry on with the negotiations there, we might get some further results.

Young

You said in Canada, Prime Minister, that our nerve is being tested. Is the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe part of that test, do you think, the test of our nerve and resolve …   .?

Thatcher

Oh yes, because the Soviet Union has been trying to bring pressure to bear on our public opinion, to persuade our public opinion to persuade the leaders not to deploy. Our public opinion is too canny, but there's no way, Jimmy, in which we in the West could bring our point of view to bear on Soviet public opinion, because there's no way which our view can be freely disseminated in Soviet society.

Young

And you don't think, do you, that perhaps postponing deployment might give the Geneva Disarmament Talks a little better [end p3] chance of succeeding?

Thatcher

Certainly not. They've had four years. Four years since this NATO decision. Four years in which we could negotiate down. And I think that those Geneva Talks will not make progress until they know that they cannot influence us by threats or by trying to influence public opinion by force or plausible half-

Young

Prime Minister, I know you've got a very busy day, I wonder if I could just end with one last question. It actually is a quote from Mr. Andropov 's speech which perhaps you'd like to comment on. He said, “responsible statesmen have only one choice, to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, any other position is short-sighted, even more it is suicidal”. I mean, I'm sure you would agree with all of that?

Thatcher

The logic of what he says is that he will go to the negotiating table and he will do what he did not do in that speech, consider the new proposals in detail, or his representatives will, that he'll also consider the other proposals that have been made on the other even bigger strategic weapons. President Reagan 's suggested that the United States and the Soviet Union reduce them by a third. Now that proposal's been on the table for some time. The United States is genuinely wanting to reduce it, democracies are you know. We have other things to do than spend our money on weapons, we'd like to spend it on other things, but equally, we must see that our way of life and defence is sure. I hope Mr. Andropov will follow the logic of that and say to his representatives, now you negotiate sincerely and hard at the negotiating table in Geneva, and the West will be there.

Young

Prime Minister, congratulations on your Award, and thank you very much for spending a little time on what I know is a very very busy day …   .

Thatcher

Thank you very much.