Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Sep 23 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC (visiting Moscow)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Centre, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Paul Reynolds, BBC
Editorial comments: 1600-1630 or 1700 onwards: the appointment diary records two press conferences during the day, one of which was probably given over to interviews.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1094
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Interviewer

Prime Minister, the Soviet Union has made some new arms control proposals. How significant do you think these are?

Prime Minister

They made them in response to the ones which President Bush and NATO put on the table on 13 July and then Mr Gorbachev has replied to an earlier letter of Mr Bush's with some further proposals that have to be thrashed out in Vienna.

I think they have gone some way towards meeting our point on aircraft because we were counting them on a different basis before. They have added some things in about troop levels and who should be included, which we would find very difficult. But these things will have to be thrashed out in detail in Vienna. I think they will be sorted out. The things which we stand firm on we cannot move but it looks to me that there is some movement on the aircraft question. [end p1]

Interviewer

It is being said by the Americans in Jackson Hole that the Russians have formally broken the link they were holding between the American Star Wars programme and a strategic arms agreement. Did you pick anything up on this with Mr Gorbachev?

Prime Minister

I thought that in practice that link had been broken quite some time ago because although in the early days it was made we have not heard anything about it for quite some time and the START talks were set up and certainly that link was not prominent then at all. So I think we were under the impression that in practice the link then had been broken.

Interviewer

Do you think, therefore, there is a new atmosphere, a new push on for progress in arms control?

Prime Minister

Yes I do. I think some of the technical problems are at last being broken through. When you are dealing with the intercontinental ballistic missiles they are talking about of course reduction to 6,000 warheads. That is still a lot. So the whole deterrent aspect of defence is being fully maintained. [end p2]

But when you are dealing with varieties of missile and whether they are on land or mobile or on submarines, it is very difficult to verify what is happening and that is why these things have taken such a long time and it is very difficult to get the intricacy of the details sorted out.

But I think that there is a will to do it and I hope that we shall see that agreement reached next year.

Interviewer

There were some problems between Britain and the Russians early this year with mutual expulsions, is all that behind us and how did you find Mr Gorbachev today?

Prime Minister

We have not yet fully agreed the precise ceilings to numbers in each of our capitals yet but I hope that will soon be sorted out between Foreign Secretaries.

Interviewer

And Mr Gorbachev's mood in the talks?

Prime Minister

Mr Gorbachev was in a very self-assured, good mood, very easy to talk to, a very relaxed atmosphere, the customary good debate and thorough discussion that we are used to, each of us being absolutely frank with one another. He was in very good form. [end p3]

Interviewer

Do you think perestroika is failing or is it just not yet working?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it is failing. When you look at the political changes that we have had in the Soviet Union, the debate, the free debate, discussion that you have seen on the screen, the elections they have had, the way in which they have turned out some of the people they did not like, the discussions they have had both in the Party and also in the new Soviet Parliament. This was beyond our wildest dreams a few years ago and the tension in the atmosphere that there used to be in Moscow because you had to be careful what you said, that has gone. I think people are enjoying the freedom of speech that we have taken for granted for years and they have got far more newspapers, far more books, they can talk about the actual things that happened on communist history and they have been a revalation.

That is working and working very well, as indeed is the Soviet Parliament. It takes much longer to bring about economic reform, perestroika, because that cannot be done by politicians alone, making fresh laws, it can only be done by partnership with the people taking their responsibility, taking their initiative, making greater efforts and learning about how to cope with a market economy where you are not told what to do but where you have the responsibility of making things that will sell at a reasonable price and if you do not sell them then you go broke and have to start [end p4] to make something different. That is going to take longer but it will come.

Interviewer

One of the problems you talked about was nationalities. Do you think that the Baltic Republics should have full self-determination?

Prime Minister

I think a full statement was made about that in the Soviet Union last week at the Nationalities Plenum and I think President Gorbachev has made the position perfectly clear. The most important thing is to get perestroika well and truly operating so that people, all of them, in the Soviet Union, of whatever nationality, can see the economic prosperity in their own lives, a prosperity which has so far under communism totally and utterly eluded them. Communism does not bring prosperity. A freer market system can and will bring it.

Interviewer

But would Britain support independence for those states if it came to it. [end p5]

Prime Minister

I think I have made it quite clear that a full statement was made last week about the nationalities and that at the moment is a matter for the Soviet Union and a matter for the Helsinki Accord.

Interviewer

Can I ask you finally about the IRA bomb attack in Deal? The IRA indicated that it wants a change in British Government policy. Do these kind of attacks have any effect on your thinking about Northern Ireland?

Prime Minister

No, they only strengthen one's resolve. People are not bombed into having something they do not want. The people of Northern Ireland have shown time and time again that the majority of them wish to stay part of the United Kingdom and they cannot be bombed out of that. It just strengthens our resolve to try to deal with the terrorists. Terrorism is the opposite of democracy and we are on the side of democracy, liberty and for a rule of law.