Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Apr 7 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC (Gorbachev visit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: ?Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Charles Wheeler, BBC
Editorial comments:

Between 1620 and 1820.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1464
Themes: Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Monarchy

Interviewer

Prime Minister, after the formal speeches at the Guildhall, microphones picked up a remark you made to Mr Gorbachev about his speech: "You have provided us with an occasion we will never forget and which is the start of something very big and a new destiny";. Now it seems to me that implies a new departure which a lot of us, reading the speech, watching, did not grasp. What was there in there that was new and important?

Prime Minister

I do not think it was only the content of the speech, I think it was the occasion itself and the timing. It came after the elections in the Soviet Union which to me were, oh, a very significant event, not the event itself but 90 percent of the people came out to vote and the way in which they voted. It was a combination of those things. [end p1]

I also thought the measured delivery was very impressive as well. So it was not one thing, he did talk about perestroika and then he talked about armaments and about a new feeling in international affairs, we have to solve things by negotiations. It was the summation of the things, altogether.

Interviewer

But you have been in the thick of that for two years have you not? Now the Soviet advance party have been talking to us for the whole of the week telling us to expect a major move, probably on Europe, and your speech, if I may say so, implied that you too, you mentioned the European common home, he did not, that you too were expecting some tangible new departure like the one we had at the United Nations speech.

Prime Minister

No, I was not. I did not think that there would be a tangible new departure. I think the new thing in recent months has been a kind of acceptance that perestroika is here to stay. That makes, and you are the first to know this, all kinds of things possible, that before that were conjectural. That is quite a big conclusion to reach, and quite a significant one. And somehow coming to Guildhall, that historic Guildhall, following after Ron Reagan's speech after he had seen Mr Gorbachev in Moscow, all of those came together and I think meant something very special, which I indicated. I do think he is a man of destiny. [end p2]

Interviewer

Do you not calculate though, when you are looking ahead, in charge of foreign policy, a major player on the European stage, that this man may come unstuck and that all the things that he is trying to do simply may not happen in two years?

Prime Minister

I think some of the things that he has done now could not be put into reverse. I think the greater political freedom could not be put into reverse. I think the greater relationships on human rights, more people allowed to come out, the greater flow of ideas, I do not think he could reverse that now.

Now you will say there is a long way to go, that is also what I indicated in my speech. But I think there is a feeling now that they are on their way.

Yes of course anything can be unstuck or anything can happen, people become ill and so on, I still think that what he has started, that is new and fresh, cannot be snuffed out.

Interviewer

Let me ask you about Europe. You are interested in Poland, you have been there, you have seen what is happening, suppose democracy really takes root in Poland, they have elections this year, they have political parties, and this ends as it nearly ended in Czechoslovakia years ago with a demand to leave the Warsaw Pact. [end p3]

Would you regard that as a development that would be dangerous for the West because it would create instability or would it go in the direction you think it ought to go and what would it do to Gorbachev?

Prime Minister

I think you are jumping ahead much too fast and I do not think you can jump this fast when you are doing movements of enormous significance. Each stage of the movement has to nature. You see it is four years, as you know, since I met Mr Gorbachev and soon after that he became General Secretary and now for the first time we are saying that we think perestroika is set for a future. I think things have to mature and if you try to make instant judgments you will not get it right. You have to deliberate.

If you are in politics it is strange, you cannot be more than about three years ahead of public opinion and people are not ready for certain things until they can see them coming. And they are a bit frightened of change so you have to take it slowly and in a measured way. But they do like certain changes to come and when they can see them coming there is a new kind of optimism and a new spirit.

So I cannot see that far. If things go gradually better and better then I hope, as I said this morning, it is not hands across the divide, it is the divide gradually coming down. But that is quite a way ahead. [end p4]

Interviewer

Can I ask you about the bomber sales to Libya? You said you are deeply concerned about this, you brought it up with Mr Gorbachev, what did he say to you about that?

Prime Minister

Well, Mikhail Gorbachevhe did not respond to what I said. I made our concern very plain. We are concerned and we would be concerned if they were sold to other states who have harboured terrorist organisations.

Interviewer

He did not deny it?

Prime Minister

No.

Interviewer

And he did not respond? Did he change the subject, how does this happen?

Prime Minister

It comes up in several things, at a time, and if a politician has not anything to say then he does not say anything. If he cannot deny it then we just went on to other aspects. [end p5]

Interviewer

There is a major difference between you and Mr Gorbachev on nuclear weapons. You are passionate about this. We have heard you so many times. And he is as adamant as you are. Is that not a total roadblock that is going to, in the end, keep East-West relations from developing further?

Prime Minister

I do not see it as a total roadblock. I find it difficult to see why Mikhail Gorbachevhe cannot see the argument. His theory is get rid of nuclear weapons, keep conventional weapons, conventional weapons can deter war. The fact is conventional weapons have not deterred war.

Interviewer

But he does not understand your argument either.

Prime Minister

No, but it is so easy and I do not understand why he does not understand. We had a terrible world war in 1914&en;18 with conventional weapons on all sides. On 3 September 1939 we went into another even more terrible war, conventional weapons on both sides. So the idea that conventional weapons deter war is ridiculous.

Interviewer

But have you converted him to your point of view? [end p6]

Prime Minister

Not yet, but I have not given up. And so, you can have conventional weapons with a third world war starting, and what then would happen? The same as in 1939, the race would be on as to who could get the first nuclear weapon and deliver it, or who had stowed a few away.

You cannot disinvent the knowledge of that weapon any more than you could have disinvented dynamite. So if you wish to be sure of peace, yes you need your conventional weapons, they frequently, I am afraid, have to be used in other parts of the world where there are other conflicts and you must have enough in any event.

But also the biggest deterrent for forty years has been the nuclear weapon. That is a fact of life and I think people will struggle after this nuclear-free world, struggle after an ideal. When you no longer have evil men, with evil intentions, barbaric and ruthless methods, then perhaps you can do without nuclear weapons. I do not see the requisite change in human nature coming.

Interviewer

From nuclear weapons to the question of The Queen. Buckingham Palace says they hope it will be possible to arrange a visit. You I think are saying The Queen has accepted. Is that constitutional mumbo-jumbo or is there a difference? [end p7]

Prime Minister

The two are not different. If you hope it will be possible to arrange a visit you have accepted the visit in principle. The Queen, as you know, is in enormous demand the world over for a State Visit and they are, if I might use a phrase, booked up quite a long time in advance. So of course we have to go through quite a stage before such a visit can be arranged.

But you can only hope such a visit will be possible if you have accepted in principle.

Interviewer

So how far down the road is in due course?

Prime Minister

Well, certainly I would think for some two years at least the visits will already have been arranged. But I know she is in very great demand and we are very lucky.