Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Nov 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (visiting Washington)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Sheraton-Carlton Hotel, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, TV-AM
Editorial comments: Between 1330 and 1345 MT gave interviews to the British media.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1293
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, although you made a great point of how experienced Mr. Bush is, you did say before he won his election, that you think he would grow into the job and increase in stature.

Did you detect any signs of that increase in stature already?

Prime Minister

George BushHe had a pretty good stature, you know, as Vice-President. A man of total integrity, enormous hard work, very very wide international experience. I am delighted that he is going to be President. He has got all of those things and therefore he can start immediately on turning into practical policies the things which he said during the election.

He will be a very good President and a very good leader of the West. [end p1]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Do you think you will be able to build for yourself and Britain the sort of very special relationship you had with Mr. Reagan with Mr. Bush?

Prime Minister

You know, whenever I have been to Washington, I have seen Mr. and Mrs. Bush. Whenever he has been to London, we have seen him at Downing Street; sometimes they have been to Chequers, we have entertained them there and had talks with them, so it is not a new experience for me at all to be talking to George and I have the greatest admiration for Barbara Bush. She is a remarkable and rather wonderful person.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Is he a personal friend?

Prime Minister

I would like to say that he is, yes. [end p2]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Obviously, in the coming month, there is going to be a great deal of talk about East-West relations, with the Gorbachev meetings you and the Americans are having. We know that one of the goals is cuts in strategic arms. We also know there are problems with human rights.

Looking over perhaps a year, what direction would you like to see East-West relations going in?

Prime Minister

I think very much in the direction now. We very much hope that as far as the new policy within the Soviet block, that it will soon begin to show some results. You know, the difficulties always show themselves first and the good, practical results take longer.

We hope that the satellite countries of the Eastern Bloc will perhaps manage to find some new sense of direction. Obviously, some of them are not quite sure about the direction which they should take or the consequences.

Between East-West, the Arms Control Talks will continue. There are two important ones: the 50 percent reduction in strategic arms between the Soviet Union and the United States; the next one is that it is very important that we get started and we are, in the Alliance, getting an agreed statement on conventional weapons as how we shall tackle that. It is important that those get started.

We are very anxious, really, to tackle chemical weapons, particularly since they have been used in the Middle East. So that is the arms control side. [end p3]

We are already having far more contacts with the Soviet Union, more trading contacts, which is a very good thing, more cultural contacts, more visits from East to West and that is very good for schools and people who come out of the Soviet Union to see our way of life and our people who go back.

That is the way to proceed but at the same time, you have to be sure that you have always got a sound defence, just in case things go wrong—and that we are sure.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Is it going to take a Heads of Government Summit in London to get the sort of modernisation of nuclear weapons you want?

Prime Minister

We agreed that at the last Heads of Government NATO Summit in Brussels.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

In principle, but not in practice. [end p4]

Prime Minister

Agreed in principle. It is not the Heads of Government who translate it into practice, because that goes to the Nuclear Planning Group. They have to decide what the priorities are for expenditure and they do that.

But you know, the fact is that obsolete weapons do not deter and just as you modernise your guns, your tanks, so you modernise your nuclear weapons and if peace with freedom and justice really matters to you, you have got to make certain that at all times you have got the strength to deter anyone from attacking you. So modernisation matters.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

You are seen as a mediator and expert on both East and West. How would you compare Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Bush as people?

Prime Minister

They get on very well together. They are no strangers one to another. They will get on all right. They are both able to discuss and debate frankly and freely and I think that we have built up that kind of confidence between Mr. Gorbachev and leaders—certainly of Great Britain and the United States. It is a very good relationship. You do not have to agree with someone to be able to debate and discuss in a basically good and honest fashion. It is a [end p5] great mistake to think that you can only discuss things with people with whom you agree. You cannot. If you have got the right personality and the right kind of integrity, you can have a very fruitful discussion between people who do not agree, but have certain things in common, and we have in common with the Soviet Union the fact that so many of them still remember World War Two, so many of us still remember it, so it is a piece of history which is not just in the history books it is within the memory, experience and knowledge of people and while we have got people who have that experience I think we have a bounden duty to try to see that that never happens again, that we never have conflict, but at the same time each of us is certain of our security and that is why we have to be so careful in the Arms Control Talks not to try one to gain an advantage over the other, but that we keep that fundamental feeling of security which is so good for other negotiations.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Finally, you have a mandate, Mr. Bush has a democratic mandate, Mr. Gorbachev does not. In fact, he seems more popular with Conservative leaders in the West than he does at home. Is he really viable as a Soviet leader? [end p6]

Prime Minister

Do you know, I think Mikhail Gorbachevhe is doing more for freedom of speech in the Soviet Union and doing more to have open discussion than anyone has done during the whole of the Communist time.

He is. You saw the way he ran his last Party Conference. People did not just go up and read prepared statements from the floor. They went up and said what they felt. When it was suggested that Mr. Yeltsin might have a different view, he said: “Well all right, let Mr. Yeltsin come up to the platform. Let us hear what he has to say!” This is a new era.

It will not suddenly become our kind of democracy, but you will, I think, get enhanced freedom of speech and enhanced responsibility on the part of many many people and the question is how soon will they be able to accept that responsibility bearing in mind that hitherto they have been told they cannot do anything unless they are told. It is quite a change, but it is exciting and it is more in keeping with the dignity of human life that each person is said to be able to bear some responsibility for his own actions. It is much more exciting than just being a kind of cypher in a Marxist system.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

We will be watching those developments. Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed!