Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Written interview for Politica Exterior (Spanish magazine)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments:

Date of publication 14 July; listed by date of despatch. The editor was later photographed apparently chatting with MT on a sofa, but it was indeed a written interview.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2825
Themes: Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, Monetary policy, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Asia), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Media, Science & technology, Defence (general), Defence (Falklands), Terrorism

1. Q.

Prime Minister, a change in the Parliamentary majority in Great Britain or Germany would currently affect European Defence as a whole. Both the British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats are committed to the withdrawal of the nuclear defence missiles. Would this historical change occur if the Conservatives were to lose the next elections? Is not the possibility of another Conservative victory increased by Labour's plans?


The result of the elections was a clear endorsement of the Government's policy of maintaining Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, while seeking balanced and verifiable reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons. Our nuclear deterrent will continue to be committed to NATO, and will thus contribute to the defence of Europe as a whole.

2. Q.

Is there any danger of the withdrawal of the American forces currently deployed in Europe within the framework of the bilateral agreements between a number of European countries and the United States of America?

3. Q.

What would be the position of European defence if this withdrawal did take place?


There are over 325,000 US troops in Europe. They are here to join us in defending freedom and prosperity. The present US Administration have consistently rejected proposals for troop withdrawals. Western Europe on its own could not hope to defence itself against the Soviet Union's military might. Since the Marshall Plan in 1947, the United States and Western Europe have built unparalleled prosperity together. We defend it together.

4. Q.

Would Europe on her own be able to establish a deterrent force giving equal protection to that currently provided by NATO to the free countries?


No. British and French nuclear forces are only a tiny fraction of the Soviet nuclear arsenal.

5. Q.

Is there any possibility, at least in theory, of establishing an Anglo-French nuclear force, without American assistance, capable of fulfilling the deterrent role of NATO's current apparatus?


The United Kingdom and France each intend to maintain their own independent nuclear deterrent. Of course, we enjoy a close dialogue on a wide range of defence matters, including nuclear matters. That will continue.

6. Q.

In such a case, what contribution could the European countries make to the “European pillar” of Western defence in order to strengthen the Continent's conventional defence measures? [end p1]


Western Europe already makes a very great contribution to NATO: we provide 90% of the manpower, 85% of the tanks, 95% of the artillery, 80% of the combat aircraft, not to mention 70% of the fighting ships in European waters and the Atlantic. Yet even with American help added to all this, the Soviet Union and its allies enjoy an enormous conventional superiority in Europe. This is why the nuclear deterrent is vital - it deters not just nuclear war but all war. We must never forget how devastating the last conventional war was.

7. Q.

Has Great Britain received reasonable support from other European countries, and in particular from France and the Federal Republic of Germany, for her fight to combat international terrorism?


Co-operation between the countries of the European Community is now good - we have seen real progress in our joint efforts to combat terrorism. For example, when we broke relations with Syria following the clear involvement of the Syrian authorities in the appalling crime planned by Nezar Hindawi last year, we were very encouraged indeed by our partners' support and understanding. At the European Council in London in December 1986, we all agreed that we should not make concessions to terrorists. The Venice Summit has now agreed that too. In this of all areas, weakness by governments simply spells disaster.

8. Q.

Do you consider the intentions of certain political groups within the British Labour movement and German Socialism to dismantle NATO to be a serious threat to the security in freedom of Western Europe?


Yes. NATO is essential to our security and our freedom. Anything which led to its unravelling would put at risk all that we have built since the last War.

9. Q.

Do you think that these initiatives are part of a general plan aimed at weakening the West inspired by the current leaders of the Socialist International?


I cannot answer that directly. But we must always be on our guard against those who weaken the institutions on which Europe's freedom and prosperity depend.

10. Q.

If Spain at last establishes, in a satisfactory manner for Western security, her contribution to the NATO military effort, within the charter being prepared by the Spanish and allied negotiators: would it then be possible to contemplate the disappearance of the NATO allied command “Gibmed” subordinate to AF South Command in Naples?


If and when Spain were to join NATO's integrated military structure, any questions affecting individual NATO commands would be for agreement by the Allies as a whole.

11. Q.

You once said on a much commented occasion that Mikhail Gorbachev was “a man you can do business with”. Do you think your first impression is still valid? [end p2]


Yes. I spent eleven hours with Mr Gorbachev during my recent visit to Moscow and we discussed very frankly a wide range of topics: arms control, regional and bilateral issues, human rights and the changes Mr Gorbachev is trying to bring about in Soviet society. You cannot spend that long with someone without getting a much better idea of what he wants and believes in. I think we achieved a very good relationship. I hope to continue our dialogue in future.

12. Q.

Do you think that Gorbachev constitutes a new phenomenon in Soviet society more open to discussion than Khrushchev was? Could he suffer the same fate as Khrushchev?


Comparisons are not always helpful, but I think that there is a difference. Under Mr Gorbachev's leadership, the Soviet Union seems more ready to deal with the West not as an inevitable implacable enemy, but as a potential partner. Khrushchev once said that the Soviet Union would “bury” us. We do not hear that kind of language from Mr Gorbachev. He has embarked on an ambitious effort to restructure and reform the Soviet economy and society. I welcome this process: in the long run it ought to lead to greater contacts between East and West at all levels - and this reduces tensions. But let us not forget that Mr Gorbachev is a dedicated communist. He does not believe in democracy but in one-party rule. He does not intend to change the system, only to try to make it work more efficiently. We cannot ignore this - nor the vast military might which, for all its talk of peace, the Soviet Union still keeps.

13. Q.

As Prime Minister you have deal with both centre and Socialist Party Spanish Governments. Has discussion been easier with the Government of Felipe Gonzales than it was with that of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo?


Britain has had good contacts with successive Spanish governments. But since Spain joined the European Community and decided to remain in NATO, Anglo/Spanish relations have been better than they have been for many years, as the warmth of last year's State Visit showed. Of course there are still difficulties. But we approach these in a spirit of co-operation, which was not always the case in the past. We now have a very great deal in common - that is what we want to build on.

14. Q.

From where we are in 1987 do you believe in the possibility of deploying part of the United States Strategic Defence Initiative in the next decade? Do you still believe in an anti-missiles defence programme in space?


The aim of the SDI research programme is to assess the feasibility of strategic defences. Commonsense suggests taking this research to the point where it is clear whether systems will work or not. That is a technical judgement. Beyond that, there will have to be a political and military assessment of the desirability of strategic defence itself. But we have not reached that point yet: not by a long way. [end p3]

15. Q.

Do you still have hopes that a European defence community may be possible in the future? To what extent do you think that the attack by terrorists on the democracies of Western Europe should be a matter to be dealt with by the Atlantic Alliance.


We must remember that NATO is primarily a defence organisation. There are other bilateral and multilateral arrangements for countering terrorism.

16. Q.

Do you consider that the negotiations on the future of Gibraltar that are regularly being held by British and Spanish delegations are currently in a period of stagnation?


No. As Sr Fernandez Ordonez himself has recognised, problems dating back over 280 years cannot be resolved overnight. We want to see closer links between the two communities on either side of the frontier. This is the way to break down the barriers of mistrust.

17. Q.

Can you explain what benefits Spain has obtained or could obtain from the United Kingdom in return for the gesture of goodwill implicit in the authorisation of freedom of movement overland between Gibraltar and La Linea de la Conception, when the Treaty of Utrecht does not oblige Spain to endure this legal obligation?


This move by Spain was, of course, welcome. But the Spanish restrictions on the movement of people and goods up to February 1985 were contrary to the Treaty of Rome and would have had to be lifted as part of Spain's accession to the European Community. Spain has already obtained considerable benefit from this. Many Spanish companies are now doing business in Gibraltar and over 1000 Spaniards work there. Many Gibraltarians are buying or renting property in Spain and spending holidays there. This is as it should be between two EC members.

18. Q.

Spain is a denuclearised country by Parliamentary decision. Could Great Britain adopt a similar statute for the territory of Gibraltar, thereby placing the entire geographic area of Spain and Gibraltar under the same statute?


I believe that nuclear deterrence maintains the security of NATO. I do not, therefore, share Spain's views on the merits of denuclearised areas.

19. Q.

On what principles has the British Government based their approach to the decolonisaton of Hong Kong, which is the opposite theory they are seeking to apply to Gibraltar.


The situations of Hong Kong and Gibraltar are historically, legally, and constitutionally different. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain without a time limit, whereas the New Territories were bound to revert to China in 1997. The British and Chinese Governments began negotiations on Hong Kong in 1982 with the agreed common aim of ensuring Hong Kong's social stability and economic prosperity. But the [end p4] British Government stood firmly on the position that any agreement with the Chinese should be acceptable to the people of Hong Kong. The great majority of people in Hong Kong did support the agreement that was eventually reached.

20. Q.

To what extent can the decision to extend the economic waters of the Falkland Islands be interpreted as a means to strengthen the Islands' economy? Won't this arrangement give rise to an inconvenient increase in tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina?


Between 1984 and 1986 there was a rapid increase in fishing in the Falklands area. The fish stocks were running down fast. We tried very hard, without success, to negotiate a multilateral arrangement to protect these fish stocks. We would still prefer to reach such an arrangement. In the meantime, the Falkland Islands Government were perfectly entitled under international law to take the measures they did. We see no reason why the measures should increase tension in the region.

21. Q.

In spite of the difficulties of the last decade, Great Britain has maintained her R&D policy as a major national priority. How do you think that the Europe of the Twelve can maintain her position in the face of the technological policy of the USA and Japan?


Western Europe must target its R&D resources effectively, to improve the competitiveness of European industry. Otherwise, we simply waste money. We favour gradual growth in the proportion of the EC budget devoted to priority R&D. But the major responsibility for R&D and all the other measures necessary to match the technological challenge from the US and Japan lies with European industry. This is what it is all about - making products which we want to buy and the rest of the world wants to buy.

28. Q.

Do you think that the economic construction of Europe can progress without a certain integration of the different currencies in a much stricter and rigorous European Monetary system than the present one?


First, we are now seeing greater monetary and currency stability both in Europe and in the industrialised world as a whole. 1987 will bring a further boost to economic activity. This has been achieved by economic policies which do not lead to soaring economic policies based on honest money. But Europe also needs to stop choking itself - it needs to be one large market with goods, services, capital and people circulating freely. It needs to get rid of the rules and regulations which tie business down.

29. Q.

To what extent do you consider imaginable the construction of a European supra-national entity in the not too distant future?


I prefer facts to dreams. After thirty years, the Treaty of Rome remains a very good base. It lets the member States of [end p5] the Community work together and get results they could not reach on their own. That is where we place our emphasis: building a genuine common market; helping business to create new jobs; tackling the scourge of terrorism and drugs which ignore frontiers. Practical co-operation is the way to unite Europe.

30. Q.

Italy believes her GNP will be greater than that of Great Britain this year. In 1960, the British GNP was double the Italian. Do you think this is cause for alarm?


Different statistics produce different results, and the picture can change daily as exchange rates move. The important point is that both economies are doing well.

31. Q.

One of your Government's priorities is the promotion of the English language and British culture throughout the world. What resources are assigned to this through the British Council and other bodies? Is it in fact a policy against the danger of massification and culture uniformity?


This year we are providing resources worth more than £200 million through the British Council. Also £115 million a year is spent on the BBC External Services, who broadcast in thirty-seven languages for over 700 hours a week to a regular worldwide audience estimated at 120 million. The main aim of our policy is to enhance Britain's reputation abroad. But we are firmly convinced too that democracies everywhere are strengthened by the free flow of information and ideas.

32. Q.

In what way is Great Britain going to participate in the celebration of the V Centenary of the Discovery of America? What political and cultural significance do you think this anniversary has on the eve of the 21st century?


The Quincentenary is some way ahead and we cannot claim any direct connection with Colombus as our Spanish friends can. But I know that individuals and organisations in Britain are already making plans for joining the celebrations. This anniversary marks the first significant contact between Europe and North America - a contact which changed the course of history in both continents. Of course, the greatest transformation has taken place this century. A hundred years ago, Europeans were travelling to America by boat - it was still an adventure. Now they can fly there and back in a day or talk across the Atlantic directly by telephone and computer. In the 21st century, we shall grow even closer as new technology opens up whole new possibilities. Americans and Europeans will need to keep on working together, as they have learned to do this century to maintain peace to sustain shared democratic values and to help manage the global economy sensibly.