Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jun 3 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN News At Ten (East/West)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN
Editorial comments: 1500-1545 MT gave interviews to BBC and ITN.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1128
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

What special new responsibility has President Reagan given you in East-West relations next year?

Prime Minister

I do not think it is quite a new responsibility. The United States will always be leader of the Free World by virtue of the birth of the United States. Its people went there for liberty. By virtue of its success, by virtue of its size and its position, so it will always be leader of the Free World, but even strong nations need friends and Europe, you know, is coming to be more and more of a unity working together on these matters and Europe will be much stronger as a factor in the future than in the past.

I shall be going over to the United States. I hope to pay tribute to the enormous things that President Reagan has achieved. No-one would have thought eight years ago he could have achieved this much. And I hope also to be able to have a word with the new President. [end p1]

I believe we shall get continuity of foreign policy. The things we have seen have been so momentous that it is in everyone's interest that they continue.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

You will want to advise the new President?

Prime Minister

No, no, no. It is not for me to advise a President of the United States! I hope that we shall discuss things and discuss things together and as often in discussions, you are influenced by what other people say. You do not necessarily set off to advise them. If you are asked questions, you answer them as clearly and as candidly as you possibly can.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

What can you do next year in relations with the East that a new American President could not do?

Prime Minister

Britain can always do something. Something by virtue of her history. Something by virtue of the character of its people which is too large to be confined within our shores. Something [end p2] because when liberty was at stake, we are the nation that just stands and says “We fight!” And if anything happened to Britain, it would be catastrophic for the future of freedom the world over. We just have that special position and we just have to try to live up to it. Other people recognise it and they are absolutely delighted now that we are strong again economically so we can be strong again overseas. We have it. We try to use it modestly. We use it in the way that Britain has used her interests across the world over the years, because we are interested in other peoples, because we are very anxious to try to extend to them the best we know.

After all, when we had an empire, we taught sound administration, sounder than some of them would ever otherwise have had, and we taught a rule of law. We really did rather a lot, and by nature we are outward-looking. That does give us just a special role by virtue of being ourselves and also by virtue of being a very powerful country in Europe.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

When you see Mr. Gorbachev next year, will you have a specific target for an agreement, say, with him, or will it be just negotiation? [end p3]

Prime Minister

No, I am very anxious to have Mr. Gorbachev return a visit on which I went to Moscow and he is willing to do it, and it is a question of choosing what is the best time—possibly the best time when we might, by talking again, take things further a little bit more. He will be very preoccupied—he and his colleagues—with the changes that are going on in the Soviet Union, and only they can bring them about at the pace and in the way in which only they know how, but they know just how changed the prospects for the world are because of what they are doing. So I will hope to see him some time next year, some time suitable to him, and I hope that it will be here.

He came in the wet weather last time. I would like him to come in the warmer weather this time.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

Are you quite pleased that the Americans and the Russians did not reach an agreement on strategic nuclear arms?

Prime Minister

“Pleased” is not quite the word. I know it was not possible, because it is a very complicated equation, because there are so many different kinds of missiles launched in different ways and more difficult when they are mobile, and there are great verification problems. [end p4]

I knew it was not possible to do it. So, I think, did Mr. Gorbachev, and you have got to remember that there are two sides to this agreement and, of course, the whole of Europe is involved as well, and not only have we got to be certain we have reached the right agreement, but the Soviet Union has got to be certain too. After all, we want our defence to be sure and they are entitled to have theirs sure, so it is not one trying to get a rushed agreement. We both want it right and I think we are learning a great deal by talking about the technicalities and I think some of the exciting things that are happening in arms control are going to be the ways of verification. Their teams are going to come over here to see that we are taking the Cruise missiles down and have taken them down. Teams across the United States. Ours across into the Soviet Union. And we are going to have an awful lot of contact and they are going to learn a great deal about us, about the way we do things. More contact. It is a great lubricator of better relations between East and West.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

Will you be happier about strategic arms if Mr. Gorbachev gives you deep cuts in conventional weapons? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Strategic arms. At the moment they are only discussing the 50 percent, as you know, between the United States and the Soviet Union. The next thing must be deep cuts in conventional as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. She has got so many more than we have. And also chemical weapons.

Now, we have been talking about chemical weapons, as you know, for a long time. It is very difficult to verify. It is much more urgent now than it was eighteen months ago because chemical weapons have been used in the Iraq-Iran war and that is very very dangerous and damaging and gives a new urgency to trying to get enormous reductions on those, particularly as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. We destroyed ours.

So, yes, conventional; yes, chemical, before we go any further with nuclear, because we need the nuclear to keep the whole balance of defence.

Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN

So it is Mr. Gorbachev in London, Spring or Summer next year?

Prime Minister

I will hope so. We obviously have to fit in with his plans. Mikhail GorbachevHe is extremely busy. But I would hope so.