Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Mar 13 We
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference after meeting with President Gorbachev

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1130-2145.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2595
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have, of course, today been paying my respects to the late President Chernenko and his family and I am pleased that I was able to express my sympathy personally to Mrs. Chernenko this morning.

I have just returned from a meeting this evening with Mr. Gorbachev. It lasted just under an hour and, of course, as you know, I had longer talks with him at Chequers in December.

I congratulated him on his election to the leadership of the Soviet Union. Then I had very good and useful talks with him on the major issues confronting the world. In doing so, I was able to give him my impressions of my two meetings with President Reagan just before Christmas and last month. I sought to explain the West's and President Reagan 's deep and genuine desire to achieve security at a much lower level of weaponry and more specifically, Mr. Gorbachev and I discussed the American Strategic Defence Initiative. On this, I emphasised that President Reagan did not see the concept to the extent that it proved to be feasible as a way of achieving advantage or superiority over the Soviet Union. [end p1]

I also drew attention to the points of agreement which arose from my meeting with President Reagan at Camp David. Research into the possibility of a ballistic missile system in space is, as you know, permitted by the ABM Treaty of 1972, but if that research led to the conclusion that an effective system could be deployed, any deployment would have to be negotiated under the terms of that treaty. I told Mr. Gorbachev that that point was explicitly reaffirmed by President Reagan when I saw him in February. I stress it again: that any possible deployment would have to be negotiated under the terms of the ABM Treaty.

Overall, I stressed to Mr. Gorbachev this evening my hope—and the hope of the people of the United Kingdom—that the United States/Soviet arms control talks would be successful. I believe the whole world would dearly love to see security maintained at a lower level of armaments, based on mutual respect, mutual security, but at a lower level of weaponry.

We briefly touched upon relations between our two countries and our wish to do more business with the Soviet Union, and also the need for us to develop our contacts in a wide variety of fields: cultural, scientific, as well as trading, and at many different levels, so that our two nations can achieve a better understanding. In this context, we look forward to Mr. Gromyko 's visit to Britain this summer. It will be part of the wish of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to keep in touch and to have that dialogue which we believe is [end p2] essential to create trust and confidence which in turn is vital to reaching agreement on the wider arms control objectives.

Finally, as you are probably aware, I have had most useful bilateral discussions today with President Zia of Pakistan, President Machel of Mozambique, Vice-President Bush and Secretary Shultz of the United States, the new Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mulroney—my first meeting with him as prime minister though not as party leader—Prime Minister Gonzalez of Spain and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India whom I last saw on the sad occasion of his mother's funeral in New Delhi. The order in which I have given you their names is the order in which I saw them.

A great deal has happened—much of it tragic—in the months or so since I was in Moscow, but I now look forward to building on the basis of a good and frank relationship with Mr. Gorbachev with the aim of achieving a safer and more secure world. Thank you. [end p3] (NOTE: SOUND LEVEL OF QUESTIONS ALMOST INAUDIBLE AT TIMES)

Question

Prime Minister …   . what do you think the West can expect from Russia under his leadership? …   .

Prime Minister

It is not for me to say what will happen on the domestic front in the Soviet Union. I think you have what Mr. Gorbachev hopes to achieve in his Acceptance Speech and the way in which he will set about it. That is wholly for him to say.

I believe, from my talks with him this evening, that he is anxious that the Geneva talks on arms control should result in success.

Question

Could I ask you what the specific response was to your point that President Reagan would be willing to re-negotiate ABM after research on SDI?

Prime Minister

No-one is talking about re-negotiating ABM. The treaty insists that deployment of any new weapons should be negotiated under the treaty and, as you know, under certain articles of that treaty, it foresaw the possibility of new and later scientific and technological weapons and provided a mechanism for negotiation on deployment and testing. [end p4]

Question

Was his response positive?

Prime Minister

Mikhail GorbachevHe took the point. He took the point very firmly that deployment required negotiation under a treaty signed in 1972 by the United States and the Soviet Union, and that treaty is a treaty without terminal date.

Question

Is it also your understanding that President Reagan is willing to put this on the table at Geneva?

Prime Minister

It was in the communique that we agreed at Camp David and then, when I saw President Reagan in February after the speech in Congress, he repeated it again at a short press conference we held jointly at the end of the talks—that deployment would require negotiation under the ABM Treaty.

Question

(inaudible, but regarding a message conveyed by Mr. Bush from President Reagan)

Prime Minister

That is not a matter for me to discuss with Vice-President Bush. We discussed the arms control talks of course and then [end p5] we also discussed a number of other matters. The Lebanon is one, which you would obviously expect us to discuss.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

We did not discuss that. It is not for me to discuss with Mr. Gorbachev.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

That was the main subject discussed. We were anxious to have more political dialogue. It is very important to build trust and confidence if one is to get a successful conclusion from all the armaments talks. It was with that in mind that I had invited Mikhail Gorbachevhim to London and he came to London previously, and we had very long, frank and very good talks on that occasion, and we continued them today.

If you look at some of the speeches which Mr. Gorbachev has made, some of the speeches which President Reagan has made, and the communique from Geneva, you will find that the objectives are the same. The objectives are—and you will find them in Mr. Gorbachev 's Acceptance Speech—the elimination of nuclear weapons—not superiority over the other side on the part of either of them; and mutual respect and mutual security. So you will find a good deal in common in the objectives. That does not make the way of reaching them easy because they [end p6] are very complicated matters, and will be complicated, both on the intercontinental ballistic missiles and on the INF as well as on the space matters. But the objectives are the same and we established those, and I think the more we have political dialogue the more we will build up mutual understanding of how each of us approaches the problems.

Question

Prime Minister, did the question of Britain's own independent nuclear deterrent come up in your conversations since the Russians have asked for it to be included in the NATO count?

Prime Minister

No, it did not come up specifically today, but you know our view upon it.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

Yes.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

It is a fact that there is an ABM treaty. It was signed in 1972. It permits research. If new weapons are developed and they get to the deployment stage, it requires [end p7] negotiation. For observance of the treaty as such, it set up a consultative standing committee. Under one of the articles, it foresaw the possibility of new technological developments and therefore provided a mechanism for negotiation. All of that is there. That treaty is a treaty which continues. It has not got a terminal date. It is reviewed, and has been reviewed, every five years, and it is on the basis of that that President Reagan and I, when we met at Camp David, said in a communique that deployment would require negotiation and then when it appeared that some doubt had been cast upon that statement—not by either President Reagan or myself but some people suggested that the statement was perhaps not wholly agreed—we again went back to it when I visited Washington in February and it was repeated again at the press conference at the conclusion of our talks. And so I think it is now clearly understood that, were the research to result in possible deployment, the deployment would have to be negotiated under the terms of the treaty.

As you know, that treaty sets out what can be done in respect of anti-ballistic missiles; what can be done in respect of radars and so on, and how many systems you can have and anything else is for negotiation.

I have got a copy of the treaty if you would like to have a look at it.

Question

(inaudible) [end p8]

Prime Minister

I do not know what will happen to the propaganda campaign. I do know that research is permitted under the treaty; that there is no way of verifying how much research either side is doing beyond all doubt. One may have a good idea of what is going on and the United States, I think, will indicate that the Soviet Union has been doing a good deal of research on lasers. Very good on lasers and it has been published. On electronic pulse beams. It is known for a fact that the Soviet Union has an anti-satellite capability which the United States has not got. The Soviet Union is good on lasers, good on electronic pulse beams, has an anti-satellite capability and also has the experience of a deployed ABM system around Moscow, which has been deployed for some time now and of updating it.

So a good deal of research has been going on and is now going on on both sides, but if you were to try to have a research agreement there is no way of verifying it, and if you cannot verify an agreement, then it does not enhance trust, and that is probably why the actual treaty permits research. So then you have to go on and say: Well supposing that research results in—it has actually both testing and deployment …   . now there are certain limits within which you can do testing but once you have got beyond those, any further testing comes in the treaty and deployment. If you look at it, and we have spent quite a lot of time studying it, it really explains both the statements and why research is permitted and what would happen if the research came to result in possible systems. [end p9]

Question

When you say Mr. Gorbachev took the point, do you think he accepted it?

Prime Minister

When I say Mikhail Gorbachevhe took the point, I mean he fully understands it.

Question

Did he accept your argument?

Prime Minister

But they are both signatories to the treaty. It is not a question of accepting my argument. I do not quite understand your question, because research is outside the treaty, and you are asking me about research.

Question

(inaudible but regarding convincing Mr. Gorbachev of the West's way of dealing with Star Wars)

Prime Minister

Star Wars is not one of my phrases. What they are researching upon is defence against nuclear weapons. That is not a bad thing to be researching upon. If you want the elimination of nuclear weapons, you will find the phrase “the elimination of nuclear weapons” in the first Geneva communique, in many of President Reagan 's speeches, in Mr. [end p10] Gorbachev 's Acceptance Speech. If you want the elimination of nuclear weapons, a defence way of eliminating them is not a bad way to do research upon.

Question (Inaudible)

Does Mr. Gorbachev share that feeling?

Prime Minister

I believe that the Soviet Union has been doing a good deal of research, as I have indicated, on lasers, on electronic pulse beams, it has an anti-satellite capability. It already has an anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow and has been updating it. An anti-ballistic missile system is to stop incoming nuclear missiles. I trust I make myself clear.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

Each leader has his own way of conducting business. Each person develops their own style. Someone else might ask the same question of myself compared with my predecessor. We each of us have our own style and each of us has to develop it.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

I have no such plans to do so at the moment. Here we are and we have had quite long talks because Mr. Gorbachev had [end p11] a lot of people to see and fifty-five minutes was long and, of course, was much easier because of the previous five to six hours that we had had in December. Those talks in London with both myself and Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary were very very important talks indeed.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

Which question are you asking me about, the time. Could you just define the three?

Of course it is the appropriate time to come. We came to pay our respects to Mr. Chernenko.

Of course it is the time therefore to see Mr. Gorbachev, especially in view of the previous meetings.

We do not agree with a freeze, because a freezes-in [sic] an imbalance and what we agree with is a balance of weaponry, because it is a balance that gives deterrence. It is mutual deterrence that gives mutual security. It is balance and mutual deterrence that gives mutual security, and if you expect security yourself then you must expect that others have a right to the same security and you get that from balance and mutual deterrence and not through freezing-in an imbalance.

That would be my reply to that one.

Question

(inaudible) [end p12]

Prime Minister

I think Mikhail Gorbachevhe will do his very best to raise economic standards in the Soviet Union in accordance with his Acceptance Speech and you saw exactly what he said about it, and I do not wish to put a gloss upon that at all. It is not for me to make any comment about domestic matters within the Soviet Union as far as the future is concerned.