Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 May 30 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Sky TV (NATO Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: NATO Headquarters, Brussels
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, Sky TV
Editorial comments:

Between 1230 and 1315.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1125
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Civil liberties, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Defence (general), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Economic, monetary & political union, Parliament

Interviewer

Prime Minister, Britain came to Brussels not wanting to see negotiations on short-range nuclear forces. It now looks possible that they could be happening even before the next British election. What is your reaction to that?

Prime Minister

I think it will be quite a time before they are able to start those negotiations because we have built in certain very strict conditions: no negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons until there has been full agreement on all the conventional things which are on the table now, and that is a lot, and it has just been added to, not only agreement, but agreement on how to verify, not only agreement on how to verify but actually partial implementation of that agreement so that you cut down some of the conventional weapons, only then can you start the other negotiations.

And you cannot in fact, even if you agree, take out a single short-range nuclear weapon until all of the conventional programme has been implemented in full. [end p1]

And even then, after that, you cannot obviate the need for some short-range nuclear weapons.

So it is a pretty rigid threesome.

Interviewer

My reading of the Communique was also that you were asking the Warsaw Pact to make cuts in their SNF before talks start?

Prime Minister

Oh yes indeed. They have far more than we have. We have eighty-eight launchers, they have something like fourteen to fifteen hundred weapons. And it is absolutely ridiculous, we cannot start to negotiate with only that small number compared with theirs.

So we challenged them unilaterally to cut their enormous superiority until they are down to the level that we have. They can do that unilaterally just as we many years ago we ourselves reduced, indeed cut out, our chemical weapons unilaterally.

Interviewer

How important is this timetable that President Bush has set of six months to a year? [end p2]

Prime Minister

I think it is a little bit optimistic. It is not only agreeing to it but you have got to agree on how to verify that the Russians actually destroy the tanks, the armoured personnel carriers, the artillery. And of course then they would have to, if they agreed to it, take out over 300,000 members of their Armed Forces. That would take quite a lot of time.

The important thing is that we get the verification. It is no earthly good having an agreement that they take all of those things back behind the Urals and then leave them there because their aircraft in particular could fly to the Western front in only three hours. How to verify that they destroy them? And mutual verification is extremely important.

Interviewer

More generally, do you wholeheartedly welcome President Bush's “Beyond Containment” proposals?

Prime Minister

In a way we have been, if I might put it this way, beyond containment for quite some time because for many years you know we were trying to just contain and keep our liberty and justice. But you know things changed really during President Reagan's time when freedom went on the offensive, a peaceful offensive, and of course in a way the Helsinki Basket was saying that there must be freer movements of peoples and ideas. [end p3]

But it did not begin to live until the last two, three, or four years. First Mr Gorbachev came to power. But you know Hungary had been trying to free herself up, trying to get much freer movement of information, you could see far more periodicals, far more discussions in Hungary than you could in a place like Czechoslovakia.

Interviewer

Do you think that you have now put an end to the idea of a nuclear-free Europe and safeguarded Britain's own independent &dubellip;

Prime Minister

What we have agreed today says quite clearly that deterrence requires both conventional and nuclear weapons, that conventional do not deter. And that when it comes to the nuclear weapons you require a mix of them in two ways, first from the bigger ones to the smaller ones, which is the one we have been talking about, and secondly you require a mix across land, sea and air.

And that will be required for the foreseeable future and they must be kept modernised and up-to-date because obsolete weapons do not deter. All of that is absolutely clear.

Interviewer

But has NATO done enough to win back the charm offensive to, if you like, overshadow President Gorbachev yet? [end p4]

Prime Minister

I am not on a charm offensive at all, I am on a sure defence for the things I passionately believe in and to hand on that sure defence to future generations. That is the most important thing we can do. The most important thing for the lives of young people in the future is that we have a peaceful world in which they can travel and see more things than any other generation has ever seen before and that that peace is sure and strength is the way to keep the peace.

Interviewer

President Bush is coming to Downing Street on Thursday. Is your relationship with him as good as it was with Ronald Reagan?

Prime Minister

It is excellent. I have known President Bush for a long time. We knew him as Vice-President and of course he came across frequently.

Interviewer

But he seems to be listening to the Germans a bit more and perhaps a little less to you. [end p5]

Prime Minister

I think the Germans had the problems, I do not.

Interviewer

Finally, what do you say to those people in Britain or sometimes in Brussels who have said that you raise patriotic issues and issues of govereignty for your own electoral ends?

Prime Minister

Nonsense. I raise issues of sovereignty because I am answerable to the Westminster Parliament, which is the mother of Parliaments and a more active Parliament I think than almost any other in Europe.

I do not know of any other Prime Minister who goes down every Tuesday and Thursday and answers all the questions that I do. I do not know of any other one that will go and make a statement after these great international discussions and stand there for about an hour to be cross-examined on it. Ours is a very very active Parliament. It is to our Parliament that I am answerable and that is a fact and it weighs with me in everything I do.

Interviewer

And an active and successful Summit too. [end p6]

Prime Minister

An active and very successful Summit, more successful than we could ever have dreamed possible.