Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jan 8 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Le Figaro

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Patrick Wajsman and Brigitte Ades, Politique Internationale
Editorial comments: Parts of the interview was published in Le Figaro’s magazine section on Saturday 25 January 1986.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7225
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Labour Party & socialism, Media, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Science & technology, Terrorism, Transport, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Mr. Wajsman

Do you think, personally, that the concept of detente between East and West is for the Soviets—as Clausewitz said in the past—nothing else but a kind of war by other means? I mean, do you think that the Soviets consider detente as a tactical tool to abuse, to cheat the West?

Prime Minister

I think the Soviets never give up their original objective. They never have. Their ultimate objective is a communist system throughout the world, and they will continue to pursue that objective by one means or another—whether there is detente or not.

Mr. Wajsman

This is your conviction?

Prime Minister

Oh yes. I think that if you want to influence another country, influence its future thought and have a degree of [end p1] discussion to which that kind of political system is not used, then you have got to talk to them, because I have the impression that they do see another world when they come to the West; they do get another kind of debate, another kind of argument, and they have points put to them which they have never thought of before; and sooner or later, those things get through to their people—but the system never gives up its objectives.

Mr. Wajsman

We will come back to the way to influence Soviety society, but would you go as far as saying, let us say as Lenin said in the past, that Soviet diplomacy is something only used to cheat the West? It is a kind of war, as I said before, by non-military means.

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it can be used only to cheat the West. When you have arms control agreements, it is very difficult to cheat one another when you are drawing up those agreements obviously, and we are very much aware of the need to ensure that any testing arrangements we agree must be verifiable, so that they cannot cheat on them. I think that is a little bit not suited to today's world.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree. Do you share the opinion of some experts like Pizar (phon.) or Armand Hammer in the States, who think that [end p2] East-West trade can contribute to liberalise, even in the long run, the Soviet society in particular and communist societies in general?

Prime Minister

You trade where it is to your mutual advantage, but bearing in mind that this is a country which has occupied other countries and in which military might is used not merely for defensive purposes as it is in the West, you would not sell to them weapons which would assist them in their military build-up.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree, but do you personally believe—if I can insist on that point—in that kind of virtue of commerce between East and West, because Lloyd George in 1922 said …   . change.

Prime Minister

…   . change, but you do make commerce where it is to your mutual advantage and it is to our mutual advantage to have commerce between East and West. Again, it opens up kinds of influence. If you have trade, then you have to have mutual visits and so on.

Mr. Wajsman

But you do not think it is a means to liberalise Soviet societies? [end p3]

Prime Minister

Well, where you are dealing with communist societies, you know, pretty nearly everything goes through governments. There is no trade in the sense that we understand it—that some company there orders things from some company here because it wants it and that is the best value for money it can get. You do not get trade in that sense. Most of it does go through government agencies, so it is a very different kind of concept from the concept of trade to which we are used.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree, and do you believe in sanctions?

Prime Minister

… Certainly, for example in the satellite countries, many of them are crying out to have more agreements with the European Economic Community so they can have more outlets for their trade, because they do not want to be tied too strongly just to trade in one direction with the Soviet views.

Transcription error: Soviet Union?

Mr. Wajsman

And you do not believe in economic sanctions, do you?

Prime Minister

No. They do not work. They do not work. That is the fact of the matter. [end p4]

Mr. Wajsman

But don't you think they do not work because people do not apply them?

Prime Minister

That is right. If the whole world said: “All right! These people are in fact having terrorist camps on their territory, full of weapons, and they are training people” and the whole world said: “We will not trade with you at all!” But that is not the fact of the matter. If there are terrorist camps on that territory and there are munitions, who is supplying the munitions, and will they go on supplying them? And the answer is yes, so it does not work.

We tried sanctions. We had them for years on Rhodesia. They did not work.

Mr. Wajsman

I was speaking in particular about sanctions against Russia.

Prime Minister

It would be useless.

Mr. Wajsman

Because there will always be one country that will not apply the sanctions? [end p5]

Prime Minister

No, but because I do not think it would be right to apply sanctions against the Soviet Union.

Mr. Wajsman

For reasons of principle?

Prime Minister

It would not work. First, it would not work. Secondly, I do not think it would be desirable because, again, if you are trying to influence, you tend to open up, want to open up and not to close down. It would be an old-fashioned thing. We live in a very modern world, with very modern means of communication. We must learn to use those means really to the advantage of enlarging freedom.

Mr. Wajsman

And what is the best way to influence soviet and communist societies according to you, apart from East-West trade?

Prime Minister

I have always thought that to have far more contacts both ways …   . our people go into the Soviet Union as a matter of tourism, where they can go, I think, is very very carefully controlled. Sometimes, you know, when their young people come out, if they come out …   . there used to be school visits … if their young people come out, they see a totally [end p6] different world, a world they have never known about.

Just before the last Summit—the Gorbachev-Reagan Summit—one of my great difficulties whenever I had discussions with the Soviet Union or its top politicians was to try to convince them that NATO, and in particular President Reagan, … our alliances are defensive. We do not use force to enlarge our power on anyone. Ours is defensive. No-one in NATO is going to use NATO to cross a border to attack anyone else; and they absolutely refuse to believe that.

But then, you see, one of the great advantages of having that thing on television was that for the first time—and also for having a message from President Reagan to the Soviet Union and vice versa—they looked at this man, President Reagan, a very nice, honourable, decent person and said: “This is not the man that I have been depicted …   .” You see, it came from opening up.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree. I know. I have written on him before he was elected, in France. I like him very much. You are absolutely right.

Prime Minister

The people of the Soviet Union saw Reagan and we were able to get across by pictures and by personality, by opening up as it were. Of course, Gorbachev was also seen by the West. [end p7]

Mr. Wajsman

Mrs. Thatcher, you have said when you met Mr. Gorbachev: “We can do business with him!” or something like that—this kind of sentence. This sentence has not been well understood by everybody.

Prime Minister

No, it has not, but it has been repeated by practically everyone who has met him, because it was an accurate judgment. Very interesting!

Mr. Wajsman

But don't you think, Mrs. Thatcher, that whatever may be Mr. Gorbachev's personality, the Soviet system is much more important than the different leaders who are temporarily at the head of the state, and don't you think that the weight of the Soviet system is more important than the men who govern it, whoever may be these men?

Prime Minister

The system continues and the person who comes to the top of the system, because of the system, is most likely to continue with the system.

Now, there is one person who tried to open it up a little bit or to release it a little bit, and that was Krushchev.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree, domestically speaking. [end p8]

Prime Minister

Not only domestically speaking, but that was when we got the agreement on Austria.

Mr. Wajsman

Yes, but we had the crisis of Cuba too.

Prime Minister

Yes indeed. We had the agreement on Austria if you remember, and also of course, Solzhenitsyn 's work was published. Do not forget! That started the opening up. Of course, we had the Cuban crisis, but he started to open up and, of course, he was toppled.

Mr. Wajsman

In Budapest.

Prime Minister

Yes. Well yes, but he started other things. It was a combination, a very interesting combination, of the classic hard Soviet line, but saying all of a sudden: “All right, let us have the Austrian treaty!” and letting Solzhenitsyn's things be published and opening up what Stalin did.

He even took a hard line on some things, but because he opened up on other things he was toppled and he is one who was not buried in the Kremlin. That is what happens if they go away from the line. [end p9]

Mr. Wajsman

And you think Mikhail Gorbachev is the same kind of person?

Prime Minister

Well, one just wonders whether things in the Soviet Union have moved on. That was nearly thirty years ago.

You cannot educate a people—and you have to educate them to think if they are to think scientifically, technologically, you are to get better farming and so on—you cannot educate them just to think in one way and not think in another. You cannot jam every incoming radio. You will find people in a satellite can receive television and do. Hungarians see it from Austria, East Germans see it from West Germany. It is going to get further and further.

Something, I think, very interesting is happening. Even the Soviet Union cannot wholly ignore its public opinion, so if you get things into public opinion—and they cannot stop it wholly—and the interesting thing is how far is that going to influence. It will not change the system, but you find, I think in Hungary for example, you have still got communism, and it is communism with a little bit of difference; there is a nationalism there. There is a little bit more than communism—communism plus something else.

Mr. Wajsman

Communism plus goulash! [end p10]

Prime Minister

No! Communism plus a bit of nationalism—a bit of nationalistic pride—and each have a certain number of their own individualities, but it is basically communism. But I think you will find in Hungary, for example, they are allowing a choice of people. They both have to be communist, but two people can stand for the same office … interesting … different ways of administering communism. For the first time, public opinion is going to be able to choose between two people. Not between two political parties.

Do you see? Things are changing. This is one of the most fascinating things in politics: to decide what is the same and what will the effect of the changes be.

Now, I believe the communist system will continue during my lifetime at any rate. I am not one of the people who sees it cracking in the Soviet Union anyway. By the time you have been under a system which looks to the Government for everything—and has to—for every decision, and people dare not make their own decisions; you have had 60 years of that. If you suddenly came to have freedom, some of them would not know how …   . it is not going to crack … so you have got to live within the same world and got to do what you can. But there will be a certain number of internal changes going on because of education, because of outside influence which you cannot stop.

Mr. Wajsman

And does this mean that according to you the Soviet Empire will be less expansionist outside too? [end p11]

Prime Minister

No, I do not believe that. Look at Ethiopia. Look at Angola. Look at the number of Cubans. They are still in Afghanistan. So you have got their expansion by military force. Colossal numbers of their troops are in the satellite countries. You have got expansion by military force, Afghanistan; you have got expansion by subversion, which is everywhere.

Mr. Wajsman

And this will not stop?

Prime Minister

You have got their support for terrorism and you have got their support by proxy, through Cuba.

Mr. Wajsman

And this, according to you, will not change?

Prime Minister

And you had them going to a military government in Poland. That was a different version. I do not believe it will stop.

Mr. Wajsman

Never?

Prime Minister

I cannot see it stopping. [end p12]

Mr. Wajsman

Let us speak about West-West relations, if you agree. It has been said that if Britain has to choose between the United States—I mean the position of the United States—and a more European position on any matter, that really, if this choice exists, Britain will take the Atlantic option and not the European option, and I think de Gaulle said once: “Entre l'Europe est la gros large”. Between Europe …   . I do not how to say “gros large”. London would always choose the “gros large” [open sea?]. How do you react to such a sentence?

Prime Minister

I think it is a false question and I look forward to the time when France does not ask it, because Europe would not be free today without the United States. De Gaulle would never have got back to France but for the United States, would never have been able even to say that, and France and Britain and Europe would not be free but for the United States, and to ask that question and to perpetuate it is to try to create a division between the United States and Europe and therefore to undermine the very freedom which enables you to say such things and ask such questions, and I feel intensely strongly about it, and I hope people in France and in Europe will enlarge their ideas, that the centre of freedom is the Atlantic Community. Europe on one side in Europe and Europe on the other in the United States because that is what it is.

Mr. Wajsman

Prime Minister, you enlighten my day saying that! Excellent answer. [end p13]

Prime Minister

We are together and it is silly and fundamentally dangerous to try to separate the free world and the defence of the free world, because it is the united strength of the free world that keeps us free. There will be tyrants born throughout the ages and will continue to be so. They will continue to have military might, they will continue to have the ability to mesmerise and capture people and your only guarantee of freedom is that you say “No tyranny shall win!” and the way to do that is never to ask that question, but to say: “Now look! Let us take it for granted. The United States and Europe stands together and will continue to stand together and the future. …

Mr. Wajsman

In your view, does the American Strategic Defence Initiative, the SDI, strengthen or weaken French and British nuclear deterrence?

Prime Minister

Sometimes, questions are very limiting.

Mr. Wajsman

But you can make the answer wider. [end p14]

Prime Minister

At the moment we do not even know whether the SDI will work. We do not even know whether it is workable. What we do know is that had Hitler got the atomic weapon first, I wonder if Europe would be free today. Now you therefore, as part of your defence, have to be certain that you are right up front and have the latest technology, because that is part of your deterrence. Surely we learned that from the last War? Heaven knows, our planes had to go and bomb the heavy water installations, they had to bomb where we knew this research was going on and many men lost their lives in doing it. We got the Doodlebug, we got the V-1 rocket. Mercifully, it did not have a nuclear warhead on, but my goodness me, the race was on for the latest technology. So you look at SDI: you have got to keep right up front on your technology and that is part of your deterrence, it is part of your defence.

Mr. Wajsman

You are right. It is a better way to answer the question. Would you personally favour what we call in Europe a European defence—a purely European defence? I mean inside the Atlantic Community. A reinforcement …

Prime Minister

No, not a purely European defence. We are NATO and we must stay as NATO, we really must, and we are much stronger that way.

Mr. Wajsman

You are not against the reinforcement of a European pillar [end p15] inside NATO?

Prime Minister

No. I expect Europe fully to perform its task, fully to perform its task, fully to perform its defence task. We do.

Mr. Wajsman

Excuse me, does this mean that you are against any kind of European defence that would be cut from the Atlantic Alliance?

Prime Minister

Of course I am, because the Atlantic Alliance is our strength. Do not try to cut it up. It would only be a half-defence. A half-defence is not enough.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree, and do you believe in the existence of a European nuclear deterrent? Do you think it could exist?

Prime Minister

Don't you think the greatest delight the Soviet Union could have is if they managed to separate Europe and the United States?

Mr. Wajsman

I agree. Sure. I wanted to know if you believe in the possibility of a purely European nuclear deterrent. [end p16]

Prime Minister

There is not a European deterrent. France has her own nuclear deterrent and we have ours and I think it is much better for the Alliance as a whole that we do have more than one nuclear deterrent—much better.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree. Prime Minister, to come to the relations between France and Great Britain. A very classical question: the relations between Britain and France have been somehow strained, if not openly, by strong commercial competition, as you know.

First, beyond these differences, in which areas, in your opinion, could there be greater Franco-British cooperation in the very near future?

Prime Minister

We have just done one—Guangdong Power Station in China. You are doing one part of it and we are doing the other. We had to negotiate very closely together recently and as you know that has recently come to fruition. It was a very long negotiation and sometimes when you are negotiating with other people, what they are trying to do is to persuade one to go down further on interest rates, because as you know we have an international consensus which is not always adhered to. That is an example. We cooperated on Concorde, we cooperated on Jaguar, and many cross-European companies are getting together from two or three countries in Eureka and that is very good. It is just the framework which encourages them to get [end p17] together, but the essence of that is that when they have got together and produced the cross-country products, they have got to have access to the whole of the European market, just as the big American companies have access automatically to the whole of the American market; and it will fail if then each country says: “Oh well, we have not got very much in that consortium, therefore we will buy from our own country!” and that will be the acid test. This is often where Europe and I disagree. They do more rhetoric and I am more practical, so I say: “Just cut your rhetoric! I have heard it all before! Cut it! What do you mean in practical terms?” We saw it at the Inter-Governmental Conference. Oh yes! There were people … “We would like more but that directive does not suit us!” Very interesting. “Oh no, no, we simply cannot have majority voting on the transport directive!” It was not me who was saying it. So you just cut the cackle as we say, just cut the rhetoric, cut the flowery language, cut it out and just get down to what we are going to do in practical terms and what is more, the meetings will be shorter!

Mr. Wajsman

Would you say that Franco-British relations were more tense under Giscard than under Mitterrand or that they are better under Mitterrand than under Giscard? [end p18]

Prime Minister

Relations really are between France and Britain. I would not say that they are very different.

Mr. Wajsman

I do not want to push you to say they were better or not better, but globally speaking … do you feel. …

Prime Minister

The great thing about President Mitterrand, which is very unusual in a Socialist politician, is that he has been absolutely staunch on defence. So of course was Helmut Schmidt. So in a way you had, as part of the Franco-German axis, you had Helmut Schmidt who was a Social Democrat. I always said to him: “You know he is far to the right of me!” which he was in fact, but nevertheless he was staunch on defence. And you had President Giscard. So you had the Social Democrat and what I would call Conservative, Liberal Conservative, there, and now also you have got Kohl, the Liberal Conservative, and Mitterrand, the Socialist, but you have also got them both staunch on defence. So that really is what makes quite a lot of difference. It means that the same broad defence policy has continued and that has been absolutely critical, particularly during difficult times and when Socialism in this country was trying to be absolutely anti-nuclear, it really helped enormously to have a Socialist in France who was pro-nuclear and said: “This is part of our defence!” But what it means of course is that our Socialists are much further to the left than the French [end p19] Socialists.

Mr. Wajsman

As you are talking about nuclear problems, maybe we can ask you why the pacifist movement …   .

Prime Minister

…   . Channel fixed link … yes … fast you know … we must take it forward. …

Mr. Wajsman

Although the pacifist movement began in the same time in Germany and in Great Britain, it has been considerably weakened in Germany, but it remains fairly strong in Great Britain, the pacifist movement, anti-nuclear … so how do you explain this. …

Prime Minister

Pacifism is against all war of course. It is strong in the House of Commons and in the constituencies of the Labour Party. It is not a strong streak in the character of the British people, including those who vote Labour, and it was a very important thing in the last Election. This people had been through a lot and this people mostly, across the political spectrum, believes we have to be strong in defence because that is the greatest deterrent to war. That really is a fact. The greatest way to avoid war is to be strong in peace. [end p20]

Mr. Wajsman

Do you think that the pacifist movement are, at least ideologically, manipulated by the Soviets?

Prime Minister

I think that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is strongly influenced—I would not say manipulated—it is strongly influenced by Soviet thinking, yes.

Mr. Wajsman

In all countries?

Prime Minister

I think in all countries, yes.

Miss Ades

As far as the Channel Link would be privately funded, should one see that as the ultimate test to your Liberal convictions, because in England it is going to be privately funded?

Prime Minister

But it is also in France. The whole thing is going to be privately funded and I think that is the way to do it, because when you are considering the direction in which you put your tax-payers' investment, I do not think that one would say that a fixed link should be a top priority for tax-payers' money. There are many other things in which to put …   . but one would [end p21] like one … I think it would be very exciting if it could be something our generation could do which no other generation has done, and I think our young people always want something exciting. Anyway, I want something exciting too! I think it is ideal to have it privately financed. As you know there are several schemes and we are trying to sort them out—some are better worked out than others. There will of course be subsidiary expenditure for railways getting there and possibly for cars getting …   . more roads, widening of roads and some facilities, obviously. That is what will be done on land to enable people to get there. But it is exciting. I just do feel that we have got to offer something that is exciting to the younger generation.

They tend to be very international. My generation brought up war-time was denied a lot of internationalism except that we did understand that what went on halfway across the world affected us. That is the effect of living through a war: that you do not live in little islands of thought or activity; that what goes on halfway across the world does affect you. The young people are very international and part of Europe really was for young people, that they could move around, they could set up in one country or in another if they had the requisite qualifications, and that is exciting. I would like a channel link in my lifetime.

Mr. Wajsman

On the Middle East, Prime Minister, do you agree with [end p22] the concept of an independent Palestinian state?

Prime Minister

I agree with the concept of self-determination. I must say that in practical terms I think that the idea that has been mooted, which King Hussein would be ready to accept, of a kind of state that had a federal relationship with Jordan, because of course the West Bank came from Jordan as you know, it was part of Jordan territory and we recognise that territory as belonging to Jordan—would perhaps be both an acceptable solution and, I think, one which would be acceptable to the Palestinian people.

Mr. Wajsman

Do you believe, let us say, in a structure, that would be a kind of Jordano-Palestinian Confederation, as it is actually negotiated?

Prime Minister

A “loose federation” is the phrase that has been used. Do not forget that the West Bank and the people of the West Bank was part of Jordan and therefore was within the Jordanian nation. I am not going further than that. I am not inclined to impose solutions on people. Solutions have to be negotiated. Self-determination is in the United Nations Charter and I do say to Israel: “You cannot demand for yourself what you deny to others!” We demand self-determination, each of us for our own people, Israel for her own people. You cannot [end p23] then deny it to the Palestinian people. If you look back, you see, the whole of the United Nations Resolutions were: “Yes we recognise the State of Israel but of course we recognise also the Palestinian people have rights and those must not be prejudiced!” You will find that right from the beginning.

Mr. Wajsman

In theory, the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state, seems acceptable to you?

Prime Minister

I am not dealing with theory. These things have to be negotiated and you cannot say that you will come to one particular conclusion before the negotiations have even started.

Mr. Wajsman

Yes, but this is an answer. Personally, are you favourable to the Jordanian proposals?

Prime Minister

I think King Hussein has worked extremely hard and got very near to getting negotiations started but it does need some international framework within which those negotiations can take place, because that is necessary for them ultimately to be accepted and I believe that is very wise of him and, as you know, discussions are going on now on what kind of international [end p24] support and framework to get, and I believe that President Reagan also accepts that you have got to have some kind of international framework for those negotiations to take place. Otherwise they will not stick, they will not last.

Mr. Wajsman

When Alexander Haig was Secretary of State a few years ago, he proposed a strategic consensus as he called it, between the moderate Arab States, Israel and the United States. What do you think of this concept? I mean a preferential alliance between them. How do you react to such a proposal?

Prime Minister

I am not quite sure what a “strategic consensus” means. What I do know is that through the years it has been very very difficult to find a solution to that Middle Eastern problem. It started before the War, to some extent during the First World War. It has been very very difficult and a solution is not going to come easily. One has to go on working steadily, I am not with concepts, but I do think that the present proposal that you can only get negotiations started by King Hussein, Arabs and Palestinian representatives, negotiating with Israel with the support of the Arab people and within an international framework, and I think that is the current concept and that is the one I think we must work at. But we have been disappointed so very often you know. Whatever we have got we must work at, [end p25] and it is possible you know. Just think what a different world it would be if we could get the Arab-Israel problem solved and the South African one solved. It would be an enormous step forward and we really must continue to work at both. I get a little bit worried sometimes that that fundamental Arab-Israeli problem is not commanding as much attention as I believe it should, because we must never give up.

Mr. Wajsman

Do you think that the PLO could be considered as the sole representative of the Palestinian people?

Prime Minister

We have never accepted the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Wajsman

As one of them?

Prime Minister

As you know, we do not accept the PLO. We will not until they reject violence as a way of pursuing their problems and until they also … remember I said before, Israel you cannot accept self-determination for yourself, which we all do, and then deny self-determination to other people. Equally, you would say to the Palestinians: you cannot demand self-determination for [end p26] yourself and then deny it to other people. You must recognise Israel's right to exist. Life is a two-way business.

Mr. Wajsman

That is very important.

Prime Minister

Life is a two-way business and wherever we are in the world and everyone knows it, I say: “Look! If you have got a legitimate grievance we will help, we will help to get negotiations going always, but a condition of negotiations is that you drop violence!” Do not forget when we had Rhodesia, we said: “Right! You must agree to give up the bullet for the ballot!” and they did. They did not give it up right at the beginning of the negotiations, but that was the whole understanding and that is why I say in the Middle East and that is exactly what we managed to get in the communique at the Commonwealth Conference—that negotiations, dialogue, must be accompanied by the suspension of violence on all sides. But if you are going to take that view, then if there is a legitimate grievance you have got internationally to attend to it.

In Northern Ireland, of course, they have all the civil rights, all the right to vote. It is just that the IRA does not like the result of the ballot and therefore it turns to the bullet.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree. Does this mean that Israel should accept or [end p27] should not accept, according to you, to negotiate with the PLO before the PLO renounces its …   .

Prime Minister

We have always said that they have to renounce violence and they have to accept Israel's right to exist, and that has to accompany negotiations, and we do not recognise the PLO unless they will renounce the violence, and as you know, there were going to be some who were prepared both to renounce violence and recognise 242, the famous resolution. For so many years it has been there. But we were not quite successful, but we tried, and the thing about this is you have to go on trying. If something does not work you must go on trying.

Mr. Wajsman

You spoke about South Africa a minute ago, Prime Minister. What do you think of the states who advocate sanctions against the South African regime?

Prime Minister

It will not work. When I came in as Prime Minister, sanctions had been on in Rhodesia for 12 to 14 years. They had not worked. As a matter of fact, Rhodesia had a stronger industry than she had at the beginning, and people had been supplying her, not only through South Africa. Goods had been getting through. They do not work, and do you really think they would work against South Africa? Rhodesia was landlocked. [end p28] Look at South Africa with her fantastic. … Many many raw materials; good agriculture. Do you think they would work there? No. Some people might be prepared to operate them. Some of the states in Africa could not exist unless their goods went through South Africa. It just would never work and it is silly to start to turn your attention to things which do not work. You have got to start to turn your attention to the problem.

Apartheid is something comparatively modern. It did not exist before. When South Africa had freedom, the Cape Coloured had a vote. Apartheid is a modern post-war conception. It is wrong, but do not think that it is ancient. It is wrong and we have to start to deal with that. Sanctions will not help. If you add to the fantastic troubles you have got there, economic chaos, whom do you help except those who want chaos in order to impose their own particular doctrine?

Mr. Wajsman

And precisely what attitude should the Western Powers adopt towards Pretoria to make the apartheid regime devolve without giving up South Africa to destabilising forces?

Prime Minister

What I think we have adopted and managed to persuade the Commonwealth to adopt—do not put on sanctions. They will not work and anyway we could not agree to them. But do everything possible. What is the way forward? The way forward is to get [end p29] a proper role for the black South Africans in the government of their country. It is not that they are not educated. 100,000 black South African women have professional qualifications. The numbers who are going to have matriculation, the black South Africans will soon exceed the white South Africans. They have professional people, they have graduate degrees, they are able, they are talented, they run their own businesses. It is not that they have not got these things. They have. It is that having got all those things, they are not allowed a proper role in government, and that is what you have to address your mind to, because apartheid cannot continue.

All right, how do we get a dialogue going? President Botha has accepted that we have to have a dialogue. He says that you simply must drop violence and so we have sent what is called an “Eminent Persons” group and they will be going at the end of January, beginning of February now, under the General Olesegvn Obasanjochairmanship of Obasanjo of Nigeria and Malcolm Fraser of Australia, and I have seen them all here, Nigeria, Australia. There is a religious man representing Canada, Lord Barber is representing us, a very charming woman representing the Bahamas and a former Foreign Secretary representing India and a former Foreign Secretary representing Tanzania. They are all going to take a very constructive line saying: “It is not for us to dictate to South Africa. It is for us to try to facilitate a dialogue between the present government and the black South Africans, to try to facilitate a dialogue” and then of course, there will [end p30] sooner or later, in my view, have to be a constitutional convention, because there are so many different groupings in South Africa—the white people, the Cape Coloured people, the Indians—they are all minorities. The Zulus are the biggest and I do not think they are giving anything like enough attention to …   . who of course is King of the Zulus, who rejects violence, who is a very moderate person. There are the South African Swazis I saw M'busa (phon.), a very charming man who does not like violence either. The South African Swazis wish to stay in South Africa. They do not like violence.

Now there is a fantastic amount of people there who do not like violence, who reject the violent way, who could go ahead together and get some kind of arrangement, and our role is to try to facilitate this. But they are going, that group, in a wholly constructive way to try to break down barriers.

Mr. Wajsman

And do you think that one man, one vote is the rule that could be applied to the South African …   .

Prime Minister

The difference is the ANC want one man, one vote in a unitary state; the others want one man, one vote in a kind of federal state and on this they have to negotiate.

Mr. Wajsman

Do you have a preference? [end p31]

Prime Minister

As you saw recently at Christmas-time, there are traditional hatreds between some of the black South African tribes. They will not be dropped in certain parts of the country and they are a factor you have to take into account. You want a structure which they can all live within and which they can all accept and you can never, as we know from many countries in Africa, disregard the tribal structure. This is why I think gradually one is learning that you cannot disregard a nation's history, you cannot disregard its customs, and that is part of the constitutional arrangement which you must reach. You must not think that democracy is just one person, one vote. Democracy is a whole history of people coming to know and recognise responsibilities of the one person, one vote that it carries and without that responsibility, without its comprehension, it is difficult for it work, but you have also got to understand the customs and conventions and the history of the people.

Who could ever have foreseen for example that the Swiss people would come together as a country with their diverse languages, some of their ancient enmities and feuds? But they did. No-one could have imposed that solution upon them. They came to it because it suited them all.

Mr. Wajsman

I agree, and do you think that some lessons could be drawn from the experience of Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, that could be applied to South Africa? [end p32]

Prime Minister

Yes, but again, it is not quite the same. In general terms, yes, we got through with Zimbabwe, but you have still got two fundamental tribes there as you know, the Shona and the Ndebele and you cannot ignore that, because if you do you will not get the right answers.

When the boundaries were drawn in Africa of course, they were drawn across certain tribes. The Swazis of course are a case in point and they were drawn across certain tribes in many places. There were also in Asia straight across certain tribes, and I think that the Organisation for African Unity was quite right to say: “Look! Keep the existing boundaries. If we start to quarrel about them, there will be no end!”

Mr. Wajsman

What are the concrete measures that Western leaders should adopt to counteract terrorism, concrete according to you?

Prime Minister

A lot of the measures, obviously, in trying to counteract terrorism, you do as much as you can behind the scenes and it will stay that way.

Mr. Wajsman

Do you think that the Western Powers should retaliate even militarily against any state or that approves officially a terrorist act? [end p33]

Prime Minister

I think if you try to retaliate in a military way, there will cease to be any order or international law in the world. You have to be extremely careful. There is no right of pursuit over a border, as you know. I should know. It is one of the things that causes us enormous problems, but do not forget we have suffered from terrorism. We have upheld international law religiously and we tried to tackle it by getting closer to cooperation with the Republic of Ireland, because we reckon it is in both our interests to defeat terrorism because terrorism ultimately wants to defeat democracy. Terrorism force is the negation of democracy.

Mr. Wajsman

But do you share the view that countries who play a part officially in destabilising other countries should themselves be destabilised or do you reject that idea?

Prime Minister

Destabilised by what? I think once you say you have a right to go in and bomb someone else without …   . and just like that … I see no order in the world at all, because you would find all sorts of trumped up reasons why they would come across your border and do it to you, and you really must start to uphold international law and try to deal with it in other ways. You see, if these people were denied supplies of armaments, that would be … I mean in the new detente between East and West, one would think that that is something on which we should say: [end p34] “Right! Let us agree that none of us will supply arms to people who support terrorism!”

Mr. Wajsman

Would you say that the Anglo-Irish Agreement—recent agreement—could be considered as the first step, even a very remote step, towards a reunited Ireland?

Prime Minister

That is not its purpose and it would not work if it were. Its purpose is to try to get peace and stability in Northern Ireland and to eliminate terrorism, recognising there is a majority in Northern Ireland which wishes to stay part of the United Kingdom, and majorities have their rights. That is what self-determination is about. But you also have a very active minority there who felt that they were not having proper rights and you simply cannot go on without trying to get some kind of reconciliation between the minority and the majority, and for that you needed a closer relationship with the Republic of Ireland, but one which nevertheless leaves all decisions south of the border with the Republic and all decisions north of the border with us, but closer cooperation and working together. It is as much in the interests of the Republic of Ireland to defeat terrorism south of the border as it is in our interest to defeat it north of the border and to get people working together. It is no step towards reunification in any way. It is a recognition that the majority north of the border wish [end p35] to stay with the United Kingdom and so long as that is the view of the majority, it is the majority's wishes that prevail.