Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Mar 13 We
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC (visiting Moscow)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: John Osman, BBC
Editorial comments: MT was scheduled to give radio and television interviews at 2145, immediately after her Press Conference. However, the COI recording log suggests she gave only two interviews - both for radio.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1248
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

John Osman, BBC

Prime Minister, in England, in December, you said you liked Mr. Gorbachev and could do business with him. Do you still feel the same?

Prime Minister

Yes. We had very long talks in London, of course, nearly five hours, and here nearly an hour, which was a very long time in view of the number of people Mr. Gorbachev has to see. I think the impressive thing was that we both understand that we cannot convert the other to our own political beliefs. I understand that Mr. Gorbachev is the foremost exponent of communism and the communist system. It is not a system with which I agree, but I could not convert him to my beliefs in a democratic society based on freedom and justice. But it is because we have this understanding of what the other believes and because we have an understanding that nevertheless we have two things in common—one, that there will never be a conflict again between East and West and that we both want security at a lower level of expenditure on armaments—that we can do business, and that is a very good basis. [end p1]

John Osman, BBC

And you still like him?

Prime Minister

Oh yes. Yes. We discussed very frankly and in a very friendly, good way, and in considerable detail.

John Osman, BBC

Would you go so far as to say, insofar as it is possible between a capitalist conservative prime minister and a conservative communist leader, if you like, that there is a special relationship been established?

Prime Minister

I do not think the phrase “special relationship” is quite the right one to use. I get on with many people with whom I do not agree. They enjoy arguing, I enjoy arguing. When it is important that we negotiate, if you have got two people who are used to debating and discussing and have to thrash something out to come an agreement, that is a very good basis to establish. What name you attach to it, I do not know.

John Osman, BBC

Now, most of your conversation tonight, I gather, was in fact taken up with the implications of President Reagan 's Strategic Defence Initiative. What can you tell me about that? [end p2]

Prime Minister

Yes, of course we discussed that. President Reagan is doing research on a new defence against nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union has also been doing research on that. It has an anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow, permitted under treaty, and of course it has been updating it. Such a system is to stop any incoming nuclear weapons. It is also very good, the Soviet Union research on lasers and electronic pulse beams. It also has an anti-satellite capability which the United States has not got. So the Soviet Union has been doing a good deal of research and has a good deal of experience on these matters.

Now the United States has turned to research on those things as well. Now, research is permitted by treaty and everyone understands that. What is not permitted is if that research ever got to deploying new kinds of anti-ballistic missiles, then you have got to negotiate, whoever gets them, with the other side, under a treaty. That is what we have been trying to make clear. That is what we made very clear when I met President Reagan at the Camp David accord—that research was permitted and we support research—but deployment would lead to negotiation and also a third thing: that neither side seeks superiority over the other, because the essence of security is balance and mutual deterrence.

John Osman, BBC

What was Mr. Gorbachev 's reaction to this? [end p3]

Prime Minister

Well, I think that we mentioned that treaty which we fully accept and also the one against nuclear weaponry in outer space which is a treaty that is already agreed, so we are operating on the basis of treaties and trying to secure compliance with those treaties, and this is one of the things that will come up and figure prominently in the negotiations at Geneva. Now, I do not think you must expect too much too soon from those negotiations. It is not only concerned with these new defences against nuclear weapons subjects, it is also concerned with how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons of various kinds—the big intercontinental ones or the intermediate ones, they are both just as devastating.

John Osman, BBC

Was there any expression …   . by Mr. Gorbachev that you might have done what some of your critics have suggested is a U-turn since you talked to him in December and that perhaps your position on Star Wars as it has become known has changed?

Prime Minister

No. I have not done a U-turn at all. I have known since 1977, because it was published, that the Soviet Union was doing very intricate work, research work, on lasers and electronic pulse beams. Indeed, it was known and published in several documents and I was very pleased. I have known of [end p4] course also, because it is known and published, that the Soviet Union had an anti-satellite capability, and this put her way ahead of the United States and I was getting concerned that the United States was not doing sufficient research to maintain balance, so when United States started on that research I was very pleased, because I believe in balance. If you are going to deter, you have got to have balance. So far as research is concerned, I have always been behind it.

Now, when it comes to deployment, I am fully for negotiations in terms of a treaty, because otherwise we could just go on having more and more and more expensive things unless we negotiate when you get a new sort of weaponry with the other side, and that is exactly what that treaty is there to achieve.

John Osman, BBC

But there has been quite a wave of Soviet propaganda in recent months suggesting that perhaps after the initial impact of the Gorbachev visit to Britain in December, that your position has changed. Was there any inkling of that from Mr. Gorbachev?

Prime Minister

No. I made it perfectly clear that after I had seen Mr. Gorbachev we had long talks as you know with President Reagan and there was a communique there which in fact set out the position which I have set out to you and set it out very clearly and I saw Mr. Gorbachev at the beginning of the week and [end p5] then of course I went to have talks with President Reagan and it was not that my view changed in any way. We set out that view very clearly in the talks with President Reagan. We set it out for the whole world to see, and that was very similar to the view which was taken and in a joint communique by the Soviet Union and United States after Geneva. So the fact is that those talks—Mr. Gorbachev and myself and then President Reagan and myself and then Mr. Shultz and Mr. Gromyko—really set out quite a fundamental position which forms the basis of future talks which I most earnestly hope will be successful.

John Osman, BBC

So apart from the sadness of the occasion, you feel reasonably content with the talks you have had today?

Prime Minister

I feel very content and very pleased with the talks we have had today. The occasion was very very sad and obviously a very great ordeal for the family of the late Mr. Chernenko.

John Osman, BBC

Thank you very much indeed, Prime Minister.