Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Jul 11 We
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the European Atlantic Group

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Old Library, Guildhall, City of London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT spoke at a dinner, arriving at 2000. A section of the speech has been checked against BBC Radio News Report 2400 11 July 1984 (see editorial notes in text).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2611
Themes: Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

My Lord Chairman, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Europe-Atlantic Group commemorates one of the great, great friendships of history.

Looking round, I see many who have done outstanding service to that friendship.

I know they are proud and privileged to have had the opportunity.

The forty years since the Normandy landings which we have just so movingly commemorated, have at times been a period of turmoil and crisis—Berlin, Korea, Hungary, The Cuba missile crisis, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Poland. [end p1]

But they have also been a period of extraordinary achievement and creativeness.

We all have memories of great events, memories of personal experiences which bring alive our European-Atlantic collaboration.

Some will recall the declaration of principles signed aboard HMS PRINCE OF WALES in August 1941 which became known as the Atlantic Charter.

Others will reflect that two of our Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, had the good sense to have American mothers: a most civilised tradition duly maintained by our present Lord HailshamLord Chancellor. [end p2]

Still others will remember how, in the war, Jean Monnet, the father of the European Community, laboured long and effectively for that Atlantic economic co-operation which was to be our salvation.

It has been a time of many great and far-sighted men.

One in particular I should like to mention tonight in this 100th Anniversary year of his birth: the 32nd President of the United States, Harry Truman.

Mr. Truman never came to Britain before he was President. He visited Europe only once before he reached the White House. [end p3]

But despite his inexperience of international affairs, he had the capacity both to go straight to the root of the world problems of the time, and to see the essentials of the threat.

He more than anyone made possible Western Europe's recovery from the devastation of war.

With the foresight and generosity which implemented the Marshall Plan; the sheer guts which broke the Berlin Blockade; the tenacity which helped launch the Atlantic Alliance, he opened up our future.

He also taught us a lesson. [end p4]

If you want to be free, you have to be strong.

Strong in your beliefs, strong in your defence, strong in co-operation with those who share your values.

That Western Europe nearly forty years after World War II remains free, secure, prosperous and democratic is a tribute to the Truman vision of what could be achieved through European American co-operation.

That's not the only one of Harry Truman 's views I share.

He also said that his was “an all day and nearly all night job. Between you, me and the gatepost, I like it” .

My Lord Chairman, so do I. [end p5]

But tonight I do not want to dwell on the past. The tasks ahead are too important to allow us to linger over a backward look.

We have to see how the Great Atlantic partnership can be adapted to new challenges: how it can be strengthened to carry us into the next century.

Importance of Shared values

Let me start with the very core of that partnership: the shared values of its members.

At the London Economic Summit a month ago, the world's seven major industrial democracies issued a solemn Declaration of Democratic Values. [end p6]

There were commentators who questioned the need.

Some, even, who thought it corny.

My Lord Chairman, there is nothing corny about our commitment to the rule of law. Nothing trite about repeating our attachment to free expression and to genuine democracy in a world in which such values are so often distorted, ignored or trampled on.

The Atlantic partnership is strong because we hold these values as articles of faith.

It is up to us, the countries which do not merely proclaim but actually practise real democracy, constantly to restate our commitment and to define its true meaning. [end p7] Otherwise hollow repetition of the word by countries who use it to describe the election of a single candidate with a 99 per cent vote, or who use the word ‘freedom’ although they suppress all views which dissent from the single party line, will drain the words of their very essence. But those, of course, are the tactics of men who manipulate the language of freedom and democracy in order to destroy both.

I'm sure I do not need to remind you at this time, we do not have to travel abroad to find them.

I will add just this: wherever they are they must not prevail. [end p8]

Role of the Community in Transatlantic Partnership

At the European Council at Fontainebleau two weeks ago, we settled the grating controversy over Britain's budget contribution.

After years of standstill, we now have an opportunity to realise a larger vision of the Community's role.

At Fontainebleau I put forward to my fellow Heads of Government some ideas on the future of Europe and on how the Community should develop in the years ahead.

My aim is to strengthen Atlantic partnership by enabling Europe to make a more effect contribution to it.

My objective has always been a more out-ward looking Community. A Community which can raise its eyes above trivial day-to-day problems and look to the far horizons. [end p9]

What else would you expect of the British character whose genius since Tudor times could not be bounded by our shores? “We sailed wherever ship could sail, We founded many a might state Pray God our greatness may not fail Through craven fear of being great.”

That is why I want to see the Community play a more active role not just in the handling of the problems of the world economy. But also in matters of European security, in managing East/West relations, in relations with the developing countries, and as a clear and shining example of what democracies can accomplish. [end p10]

I want to see the Ten act with more vigour and greater purpose in political co-operation. Common declarations are not enough.

We do not want, in that favourite Brussels word, a “harmonised” foreign policy.

For harmony is too often achieved by the facile phrase composed to conceal differences.

We must not shirk the rigorous analysis and debate which is the way to clarity and a common sense of purpose—and which leads us on to take action together on the great issues of the day.

I shall never accept that Europe can find a role in world affairs only by distancing itself from the United States. [end p11]

Nor that a European identity can be discovered only by opposition to American policies.

Developing the Community can never be an alternative to partnership between Europe and the United States. Indeed it strengthens our contribution to it.

Of course there are issues on which we disagree with the United States.

There are important areas where we see our interests differently or where we believe that the policies of our American partners are not always helpful.

For example, unilateral action on exports of high technology, applying American laws beyond American shores, unitary taxation, protection of American industries—all these risk impairing the wider objectives which we share. [end p12]

But we must also understand American concerns.

If we cannot deny our geography, she cannot deny hers.

She faces not only East across the Atlantic, but South to Central America and West across the Pacific.

In many areas, her interests are more heavily engaged than ours.

Indeed, her responsibilities are manifold. No nation in history has ever shouldered a greater burden, nor shouldered it more willingly, more generously. [end p13]

Defence

We understand only too well the heavy weight she bears.

Many times during our discussions of our budget problems with the Community, I had to remind my colleagues of what Britain contributes, not just to the Community budget but to Europe's security, above all through our forces in Germany.

Now we have to ensure that the progress of the Community is matched by improved European defence within the Alliance.

We have lived under the guarantee of this Alliance for so long that some people take it for granted. [end p14]

We must not forget that, by joining NATO, the United States changed a whole political tradition.

We must never overlook just how great an achievement it was for Harry Truman, George Marshall and Dean Acheson to steer their country to a quite new policy of international commitment; nor that within a very short time they and Eisenhower gave that commitment the intellectual weight which made it seem the conventional wisdom. America no longer went to Europe just to conclude wars. She came here to prevent wars.

As Eisenhower said in his inaugural address: The unity of all who dwell in freedom is their only sure defence. [end p15]

Over the past year, the Atlantic Alliance has been tried and tested many times, in many ways.

Those who seek to drive wedges between us have worked overtime.

To no avail.

NATO has held to its resolve. We have resisted Soviet attempts to deflect and divide us. We have faced up to the dangerous imbalance which the Russians sought to preserve through their intermediate-range missiles. We have carried through our first INF deployments on schedule. We have engaged the so-called peace movements in the battle of ideas, and we are winning. [end p16]

We have shown that peace comes not just from a righteous cause.

It comes from strength and from resolution, for the threat we face is unremitting.

East/West

But, My Lord Chairman, our sights are set further ahead. We look to a future for East and West that holds out much more than ever-increasing costs of defence.

If each side of the Iron Curtain goes on to the next stage of research, the next stage of weaponry, the other will surely follow. [end p17]

Within but a short time we shall have the same military balance, but at a higher level and at a higher cost.

Surely it is better to seek our security at a lower level of weapons, at lower cost—providing always that we remember the two cornerstones of disarmament: balance and verification.

We in the West know that you don't further the cause of peace by talking only to people with whom you agree.

You have to meet and talk to those with whom you disagree, and see if there is a way of working out our differences, and coming to a better understanding. [end p18]

That is what Geoffrey Howe was seeking in Moscow only a week ago. Even if Soviet attitudes at present are unforthcoming, it is essential to keep open the lines of communication. Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2400 11 July 1984

And there's plenty to talk about.

Arms control negotiations at Stockholm, Vienna, Geneva where the West is doing all it can for an effective breakthrough.

Elsewhere our gravest concern is the absence of negotiations. Nuclear arms control talks must start again; and the United States has said it will talk any time, anywhere. [end p19]

Let us at least start talking: This is no time for empty chairs. End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2400 11 July 1984.

We must also address ourselves to the new and urgent challenge of arms control in outer space.

Otherwise we may see our own, peaceful uses of space endangered.

We may see space turned into a new and terrible theatre of war.

There is a way out. It is the way of negotiation and mutual restraint.

The technical problems are formidable. But President Reagan earnestly wants to work for a solution. [end p20] We welcome his prompt and positive response to the Soviet invitation to discuss these matters.

We must now hope that the Soviet Union will join its invited guest at the table.

Meanwhile, we shall maintain and strengthen the security of the Alliance.

And in this, let us not undervalue each other's contributions.

Of course, the American share of the world-wide burden is predominant. American's massive contribution to Europe's freedom and security is something for which we are all passionately grateful. We could never replace what America does to defend our way of life. [end p21]

But we can make sure that we shoulder a fair share of the burden. That is why this Government has increased defence spending in real terms every year since 1979.

That is why our contribution to NATO is bigger in absolute terms than any save the United States; why our defence spending represents the largest proportion of GDP of any of the major European allies.

We are the only country apart from the United States to make a major contribution on land in Europe, at sea and to the Alliance's nuclear deterrent forces.

And what a high quality contribution it is.

Every man and woman a professional whose standards and standing are second to none. [end p22]

The Global Dimension

And that is why we are willing to act when necessary beyond the NATO area.

For we recognise that the challenges we face are not confined to Europe. Nature draws no imaginary line across the Atlantic. Commerce with the wider world is part of our very life-blood. The great trade routes round the Capes, in and out of the Gulf, across the Atlantic are arteries which we cannot afford to see cut or clogged. [end p23]

That is why—even though NATO draws an arbitrary line—many of her individual members are ready to rise to the challenge of problems beyond the NATO area.

Force of arms, threat of arms, proxy forces, subversion, intimidation—all are used by the enemies of democracy.

It is no accident that the Russians have 25,000 military advisers in the Third World—in addition to their army, up to 115,000 strong, in Afghanistan.

Their arms sales abroad are estimated to be equivalent to some six-and-a-half billion dollars every year.

Tackling this kind of threat is a psychological and political, not just a military, task. [end p24]

We cannot sit snug in the conviction that truth will somehow prevail.

We cannot just sit back and watch these losses to freedom. For the door once closed does not open again.

But how do we meet the challenge, when we believe in respect for national boundaries, self-determination and the use of force only in self-defence?

The strength of the West in facing this dilemma is precisely that we do not rely on military strength alone. Defence is one arm of our foreign policy, one way of furthering what we believe in. It is far from being the only way. [end p25]

We have more, much more, to offer to the developing world: Aid to build up their own prosperity; political partnership; cultural links; economic relations based on mutual advantage.

The Soviet Union's efforts overseas are negative and cynical by comparison. In the past few years there has actually been a net cash flow from the developing world to Moscow—except in the case of a handful of client states such as Cuba and Vietnam.

We must help our friends abroad, in practical ways, to help and defend themselves. [end p26]

Today, My Lord Chairman, British servicemen and women are serving in many points of the globe from Belize to Zimbabwe. From the Falklands to Gibraltar.

In garrisons, in peace-keeping forces, as advisers and trainers, they are working not only for Britain but also for the well-being and security of those around them, indeed for the whole of the Western world.

They symbolise our determination in Britain to stand up for what we believe in; to defend everything we hold dear when we say: “This is a free country” ; to help others enjoy that freedom and to keep a light in our windows “to them that sit in darkness” . [end p27]

Europe and America have the desire to help and the will to stand together.

There was a time when the new world said to the old: Have the elder races halted? Do they droop and end their lesson Wearied there beyond the seas? We take up the task eternal And the burden, and the lesson: Pioneers! O Pioneers!

No, Walt Whitman, if by chance you are listening: We have not halted. We have not drooped. We still take up “the task eternal” . Forever. Together.