Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (Camp David talks)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Embassy, Washington
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Andrew Manderstam, IRN
Editorial comments: MT gave media interviews at the British Residence 1600-1645.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1174
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Northern Ireland, Terrorism


Prime Minister, on arms control, we have heard all sorts of reports as to what may or may not have been promised by President Reagan in Reykjavik.

Were you able to ascertain from him whether indeed there had been discussions on eliminating all nuclear weapons from Western Europe or from Europe generally?

Prime Minister

All nuclear weapons, no. He Ronald Reagan believes in a nuclear deterrent. There is a difference between nuclear weapons as such and ballistic missiles, as you know, and I think that the references there in the second 50%; were to ballistic missiles, but he believes in a mix of nuclear deterrent.


We have been told that the Western Europeans and yourself particularly are somewhat concerned about the possibility of Britain's deterrents and various NATO deterrents being sacrificed to an agreement with the Russians.

Are you leaving satisfied that this is not going to be the case? [end p1]

Prime Minister

I think there is a very very long way to go before any of these things are translated into armaments agreements.

There were some outline proposals at Reykjavik. Each and every one of them requires an enormous amount of negotiation.

You just think of negotiating on the Cruise and Pershings and SS20s and the short-range.

First, you have got to verify that the ones taken out are destroyed and that they could not possibly be put back. You just imagine trying to verify things in the Soviet Union as a whole—a country far bigger than the United States, an enormous country—so there are terrific problems to be worked out in detail.

There are also weapons on chemical weapons and verification and also if one goes to trying to take down the strategic missiles by 50%;.

If one gets anywhere near that over the coming years, quite a long number of years, it will be an enormous achievement, so I can see little point about going on further than that or even thinking further than that.


In your statement following the talks with President Reagan, you made clear that Mr. Reagan supports Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.

Does that mean that the Trident programme is now assured?

Prime Minister

The Trident programme will go ahead. As you know, the first submarine is already being built and the nuclear warhead—as you [end p2] know—of Trident is ours and it is the delivery mechanism that we purchase from the United States, and they also use Trident for their modernisation programme, so their modernisation programme goes ahead. That is also highly significant. The Ronald ReaganPresident always believes in negotiating from strength, so all his modernisation programmes will go ahead, including Trident, and of course, they will continue to supply us with Trident, as they had arranged to do so.


As you were arriving in Washington on Friday evening, the Americans were announcing a series of measures against Syria.

The United States has fallen short of actually breaking off diplomatic relations with Syria. Are you satisfied that the Reagan Administration has gone far enough?

Prime Minister

Yes, I think the Reagan Administration has done extremely well.

They have announced several things, as you know, against Syria, including against the airlines, and they have substantially reduced their diplomatic representation.

I think they perhaps just want to keep contact for reasons of Middle East negotiations, which I hope will really take on a renewed impetus some time in the not too distant future.


Prime Minister, on the question of the supply of US weapons [end p3] to Iran, does that not in a sense undermine those who believe that one should not negotiate, that one should not give in to terrorism?

Prime Minister

Look! I think the Ronald ReaganPresident made his position very clear on his broadcast.

He indicated that the United States never pays any ransom for hostages, because to do so would only mean that eventually more hostages would be taken.

Naturally, the United States is wanting to get her hostages back. Heaven knows, we want to get ours back, but you do not pay ransom for them, because that puts others in jeopardy.

With regard to the arms, the President indicated they were very very small amounts indeed.

We have a policy: we do not supply lethal weapons to either side, either to Iran or to Iraq.

Like the President, we wish to keep contact with Iran. We have a small diplomatic representation there, not at ambassadorial level, and they have a small diplomatic representation in London. You wish to keep contact with them and if you want to try to do anything to influence the end of a war, then you have to keep contact.

We all wish that war would come to an end.


There have been further incidents in Northern Ireland, as we had the first anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Accord.

Does that make you change your mind about anything or does that in fact increase your resolve to pursue that particular route? [end p4]

Prime Minister

I am afraid we thought that there would be demonstrations on the first anniversary.

It does not make us change our mind. We just came to that Agreement believing that we had to do something very decisive to try to bring the two communities in Northern Ireland to work and live together and for that we had to do something to try to boost the confidence of the Nationalist community, and we thought that the Unionist community would be reassured by the commitment we would have to that Unionist community and Northern Ireland as a whole, that its status would never be changed without their consent, and without the consent, of course, of the British Parliament.

So we felt that there was something for both sides, and also that it would help in cross-border security, because we all want to fight violence.

I believe it was right and I believe we must continue it.


One last question, Prime Minister.

Critics of you have said that you are too closely allied with the Reagan Administration.

How much of a domestic political liability is that?

Prime Minister

I do not think it is a domestic liability at all. I think people expect the United States and Britain to work very closely together.

Look! We have got a heritage of history; we have got a heritage of language; we have got a heritage of law; we have got a [end p5] heritage of democratic system. They expect us to be allied closely together and believe you me, if ever there any international crisis, immediately one would think Britain and America stand together.

But it is wider than that. It is America with Britain in a special relationship, but America in NATO closely consulting with Europe as a whole, and under President Reagan's administration the consultation and closeness between the United States and Europe has been enhanced and we are very grateful for it.