Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Mar 31 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (visiting Moscow)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Centre, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, TV-AM
Editorial comments: 1815-1845 MT gave individual interviews after her Press Conference.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1628
Themes: Civil liberties, Conservatism, Defence (arms control), General Elections, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Leadership

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, this has not really been a summit with specific proposals on the agenda, but it has been keenly anticipated in Britain.

How would you summarise what you have achieved here?

Prime Minister

I think that to have a seven-hour conversation with the Mikhail GorbachevSecretary-General of the Soviet Union is remarkable in itself and that has not been all. We had dinner afterwards which was another two hours and dinner again this evening.

Obviously, during that time we have discussed almost every question: on regional conflicts, on arms control, on political ideology, on internal Soviet Union matters and on human rights and one has got to know [end p1] how he thinks, how he expresses his views, how he argues, what are his great plans and what his great vision for the future. I think that is tremendously helpful for the whole future relationship between East and West as well as between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

If we could look at some of the specifics first.

On nuclear arms cuts, where do you see the negotiations going from here? Is there going to be, do you think, a cut in intermediate range missiles in Europe soon, within the next twelve months?

Prime Minister

I believe that is the priority area because we are mostly agreed on what to do on that, save with the one thing that is still to be decided—how the shorter-range missiles are to be treated because the Soviet Union has a great preponderance of them. That will have to be hammered out at Geneva and the verification will have to be agreed and that is not going to be easy. It would have been easier if we had world zero of these weapons. But that is the most likely one.

We put some proposals for challenge inspection on chemical weapons—we have no chemical weapons, as you know, but others have—which the Soviet Union have accepted, but that will have to be taken up with the [end p2] rest of the Alliance who are not yet fully converted to those particular proposals.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

On shorter-range missiles, of which the Russians have a great many—the West at the moment have none—the Soviet argument as I understand it is that the West does have forward base systems and aeroplanes and so on which are equivalent. Do you accept that?

Prime Minister

No. If we are going to negotiate on aircraft and what can come out of aircraft in the way of nuclear weapons, then we will have Western aircraft and Soviet Union aircraft, but you cannot just haul in one aircraft on one side of the argument and not on the other and we are negotiating on land-based missiles at the moment. If they go to air-based then we have to negotiate on all air-based, taking theirs into account.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

But in the meantime, what happens while we negotiate on intermediate-range missiles with short-range missiles?

Prime Minister

We have to decide whether we stick to what we want which is equal limits on both sides, which would be very [end p3] much the fairest arrangement and whether the Soviet Union will hold out. We will just have to see how we go.

I do not think that they will let that hold up the whole negotiation. I think that both sides want some success.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

If we could turn to another issue, human rights. You have quite clearly demonstrated your solidarity with certain dissidents in this country, Mr. Sakharov, Mr. Begun you are hoping to see tomorrow. But do you think you have changed anything about Mr. Gorbachev 's approach?

Prime Minister

Mr. Gorbachev let more people out of prison and out of the Soviet Union than has happened for a very very long time. We hope that will continue.

I always tackle it under the Helsinki Accords which the Soviet Union signed in 1975 for freer movement of people and ideas, and so when they say that I am interfering in their internal problems if I raise human rights, I say: “No, I am not. I am raising something which we have a right to raise!” because they put their signature to a certain treaty.

He has taken a different line, a more liberal line. When I tackle him about personal cases, he says [end p4] that he will consider them one by one and hope to have a positive view. I believe he will try to be more liberal. I believe it is part of a more open society, but there is nevertheless quite some way to go yet.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Room for hope then perhaps on human rights and arms control.

You said here that you thought you had put money in the bank with Mr. Gorbachev.

Can I ask you what you think of him? Do you trust him to pay the interest?

Prime Minister

I think if Mikhail Gorbachevhe agrees personally with me that he will do certain things he will do them and he would not tell me if he were not going to do them.

He is, as I am, combative in argument. He likes arguing. He regards it, I think, in the same way as I do, as a way of getting the issues analysed and deciding what one is going to do. He does not shrink from it, so we argue in a very direct way. There is no jargon about it and there is no ill feeling at all. We are good friends at the end of it. It is a style which we both have. It is fortuitous and very good that we both like the same way of doing work and getting to the heart of the matter. [end p5]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

You get on together, but your ideological differences are still as wide apart as ever, judging by last night's speeches.

Prime Minister

Yes, they are.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Would you accept that this mission really has been a public relations exercise for yourself and Mr. Gorbachev rather than a policy-making meeting?

Prime Minister

Oh no. It has been much much much deeper than that and I knew for a long time before I came that this was a really important visit. I knew because I wanted to have some influence on arms control and realised that I could have some influence on arms control by being able to meet with both sides in a very direct way and also because equally, the close relationship with President Reagan as well.

I knew it was very important because Russia has reached a turning point. She has tremendous courage under Mr. Gorbachev. He has had the courage to know that this economy, this society, is not performing as it should. He has had the courage to say that and he has had the courage to suggest a way in which it should go [end p6] forward, first by being much more open in discussion and secondly, by what he calls restructuring, which means giving far more incentives to people in office and factory so that they are paid according to how hard they work, and also, instead of every single thing being planned for every single factory, they are going to get about 50%; of their orders from government and they have to search around for the other 50%;. That is quite different from anything they have ever known before. It comes naturally to us. That is the way we work. But it is quite a change for them. It is quite an extra responsibility. It is quite an extra burden for management, and it will be very interesting to see how they perform. Some will really rise to the challenge and love it; others will find it more difficult, but it is a different direction to get a more open society and a higher standard of living, and I most earnestly wish them well.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Perhaps you succeed a little in exporting Thatcherism to the USSR?

Prime Minister

Well, it is universally true, you know, Thatcherism. [end p7]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

It is said by many journalists, including myself on occasions, that this visit will boost your general election chances. How has it changed your thinking about when to call the poll?

Prime Minister

It has not changed my thinking at all. This is a visit I should have come on near an election, far away from an election, just after an election; it is extremely important, extremely important for my country, it is extremely important for the West—that is why I went to see President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl before I came, so that we were able to discuss the approach I should take as well.

There will be an election some time in the next eighteen months, but this has nothing to do with that, save that I hope to be here after the election to continue the good work one started.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

The Russians many say were the first to call you the Iron Lady. Today, their Foreign Affairs Spokesman suggested that an alternative might be The Blue-Eyed Lady.

From the Soviets, which do you prefer? [end p8]

Prime Minister

The two are compatible!

You know, you need to be very firm about some things, when you are arguing with other people who are very skilled you need to be able to keep your end up—just a touch of iron now and then!

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Finally, Prime Minister, there is in London today a vote on capital punishment which you will not be able to make. Can I ask you how you would vote if you were there?

Prime Minister

I personally have always believed that capital punishment should be a punishment available to a judge when he comes across terrible cases about which there is no possible doubt who did it, and I myself should vote for capital punishment.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed.