Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Dec 7 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (talks with Gorbachev at Brize Norton)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Michael Brunson, ITN
Editorial comments: Between 1420 and 1545.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1135
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Michael Brunson, ITN

Prime Minister, your idea for helping forward the problem which surrounds Star Wars. That was something that you put forward when you went to Moscow in March and you put forward again today. But you do not seem to have got any reply.

Prime Minister

I went further today. When I went to Moscow in March it was a new idea then which was after all very soon discussed, to extend the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. At the moment there is a six month notice clause, which frankly is a little bit uncertain. It has lasted quite a time but I think at this stage, you know, you want the certainty that it is going to last longer and therefore is you get any results from SDI, you want the certainty that there will be negotiations before deployment. Now I got that promise when we went to Washington because President Reagan gladly gave it the first meeting I had with them about this arms control. So he has given the promise and it is a case of translating it into a different clause in the ABM treaty.

Michael Brunson, ITN

So what was the new element really that you were putting forward today? [end p1]

Prime Minister

The new element I was putting forward today really arose, I thought, partly from an idea that I had had previously which then became very much more significant when Mr Gorbachev said in his recent interview that the Soviet Union is also doing research on SDI and once that is said publicly, it seems to me that both sides know the other is doing research.

Now you cannot stop research; you should not try to stop it. But both know the other is doing it. If they both know you have to negotiate before deployment then there is one uncertainty to try to resolve: what sort of research are they doing? Now that is not a matter of consultation because you can get sudden results that take you in different direction but it can be a matter of information and it comes between the two sides, it becomes one of those confidence building measures. But confidence is what is needed. And I think therefore really it was going a kind of step further which I have had one or two discussions about before we mentioned it today.

Michael Brunson, ITN

What was Mr Gorbachev 's reaction? Did he just smile and say “I take note” or …?

Prime Minister

No. I think you have not quite got it right. I think we are going into a new period of hope, a new period of history both internally in the Soviet Union and in relationships between the Soviet countries and the Western world and I think there is a real wish and resolve to sort out the problems, to get the arms control down, to get better relations. But it is a resolve by very tough [end p2] negotiations.

Michael Brunson, ITN

I was not in any way meaning to suggest that he dismissed it. I was just wondering whether you got any inkling from his first reaction to it as to whether he was interested in the idea or not?

Prime Minister

Naturally television wants instant ideas and instant answers. If you go that way on arms control or in any of these new ideas, you will not get the right answer. What you have to say is all right, that is a proposition now let us have a look at it. And you do look at these propositions because when you get together, sometimes from a quite animated conversation, the clash of ideas, new things will come forward. That is the way we work here, that is the way I have often worked. And I think that way it can work on an international level too.

Michael Brunson, ITN

It was a rather pointed reference by Mr Gorbachev in his final statement to his desire for a non-nuclear world. Now that is something you do not agree with. Did that difference come out in the talks?

Prime Minister

Yes, and I told Mikhail Gorbachevhim that I did not think you could disinvent nuclear weapons, that nuclear weapons had been the best deterrent to war the world had ever known and if you took them right down then you would risk a conventional and chemical war and if ever you enhance that risk then the moment that war started, it would be more terrible and it would be won by the first person to get nuclear [end p3] weapons.

Michael Brunson, ITN

Was his reaction to that equally forthright?

Prime Minister

No, I am not quite sure that he had wholly thought of it in that way but it is a very very valid argument but I wanted him to know why. I mean to me, it is just as immoral if you are talking about the morality of weapons—just as immoral to bomb a city with a colossal number of bombers and a colossal number of high explosives and colossal number of chemicals as it is with nuclear. What you are trying to do is to stop the war. I want a war-free Europe and if having nuclear weapons is going to get a war-free Europe, yes, I would rather have a war-free Europe by using nuclear weapons as a deterrent than risk another war in Europe. Who wouldn't? Conventional war is terrible.

Michael Brunson, ITN

Prime Minister, I take what you said earlier about us looking for instant reactions and so on, but if we added up the actual score sheet of today, which perhaps is not a right thing to do, but if we did, you did not actually get an answer on Star Wars, you did not get a promise about a reduction of conventional weapons, you did not get a promise of withdrawal from Afghanistan and you did not—as far as I can see—get any great movement on human rights. One wonders really whether you did achieve anything except having a nice conversation?

Prime Minister

That is what makes you an instant commentator and not a [end p4] far-sighted one. You see, we would not have got this far unless the atmosphere over several times now of talking both between Mr Gorbachev and myself, between Mr Reagan and Mr Gorbachev had been such that it became time really not only to talk about making the moves forward but to solve the technical details, and do not forget that is the great—not merely hope that there is going to be a treaty signed and it was not the result of lots of instant things. It was quietly building up that confidence, building up that rapport, being able to do business with one another, not by giving in—oh, no!—you do more business with a person whom you respect and hard negotiation than you ever do from this instant business.

It will not give you maybe a bright and effervescent interview but it will give the people a better deal and a better future. Happy New Year and Happy Christmas.

Michael Brunson, ITN

One to put in the bank, you might say?

Prime Minister

Yes, and bank deposits matter very much.