Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech replying to Soviet President (Mikhail Gorbachev)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Guildhall, City of London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments:

Between 1030 and 1145.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 898
Themes: Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Prime Minister:

My Lord Mayor, Your Excellency, Your Grace, Your Excellencies, My Lord Aldermen, Sheriffs, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Mikhail GorbachevMr President, may I first support The Lord Mayor in saying how much we welcome you, Mrs Gorbachev, the members of your distinguished delegation, as honoured guests in our country.

You are very widely admired and respected in Britain, Mr President, as the leader of a great country. We recognise in you one of those rare people who has the vision, the boldness and the sheer power of personality to change the whole future of his country and to have a profound effect on the wider world as well.

May I also thank you on behalf of everyone present for your remarkable and fascinating speech which we have just been privileged to hear. We are very pleased that you have chosen this occasion, and this place, for such an important statement. [end p1]

It was here, from this same platform, that President Reagan spoke to us on his return from his historic Summit meeting with you in Moscow last summer, a speech which all of those who heard it will forever remember for the simple human touch which is his genious.

Within the walls of this ancient Guildhall, and the City of London which surrounds it, much history has been made over the centuries. Our rights and freedoms were forged here, and in Parliament, not far distant, and our rule of law in the Courts which stand nearby. To that history has now been added two major addresses: yours and that of former President Reagan, both of which have pointed the way to a more peaceful world.

Today you told us, Mr President, of the great changes which are taking place in the Soviet Union. We have followed them closely, indeed eagerly. We want you to succeed in your task, first because we believe that in your vision lies a better life for the Soviet people, but also because every step towards greater democracy, human rights and freedom of choice in your country, brings us closer together. They are the foundation on which trust and confidence between our countries can be built.

We are ready to help in practical ways too, where our help is sought and desired. Here, in the heart of the City of London, which has had so large a part in this country's trade and prosperity, there is an unrivalled concentration of experience of markets and economies. [end p2]

You will find here an intense interest in your economic reforms and a great readiness to be involved, shown for example by the initiative announced yesterday to train senior Soviet managers in Britain.

And it is here in the City that the great outward-looking tradition of this country in trade and commerce has its origin, for instance, in the Muskovie (phon) company, established in 1555 in the Reign of the first Queen Elizabeth IQueen Elizabeth to trade with Russia.

There is a passionate belief in freer trade between nations and a determination to see that the European Community remains open to the world, including to our neighbours in the East. Trade Agreements have recently been signed with Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and others I am sure will follow.

You referred, Mr President, to some difficulties with perestroika. Of course there are difficulties, there always are with any great endeavour. We believe they will be overcome and the recent elections sustain us in that view.

You have also set out for us today your wider vision of the future. We too want to see fewer weapons, always providing that our security and defence are assured against whatever may befall. We too prefer to settle the world's problems by negotiation and not by force or violence. We too want to work together on the great global problems which affect all of us. [end p3]

Mr President, we also have a vision of the world. It is a vision based on our perspective as a part of a Western Europe which has been the cradle of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Our vision is of a Europe in which we do not merely cooperate across the barriers between East and West, but one in which the barriers themselves come down.

Our vision is of a Europe which no longer lives in the shadow of overwhelming military forces, but has only such defences as are sufficient to ensure the sovereignty of its country and its security.

You have spoke, Mr President, of a common European home. We both need to feel safe in that home. So above all our vision is of a Europe in which no-one feels threatened; in which the goals of our various nations, though different, are fundamentally compatible; in which we achieve our political aims, not at the expense of one another, but in cooperation with each other.

Of course we are still far short of achieving that vision. The deep and legitimate anxieties of Western Europe have been diminished but we have a long way to go before they are removed. But the great and significant change of recent years is that we are beginning to move towards that vision. [end p4]

Mr President, our future is not governed by an inevitable fate. We can build and shape our future if we have the will, the imagination, and the perseverence to do so. You have shown us, in your truly remarkable speech today, Mr President, that you are ready to take up that challenge. We look forward to the day when the intentions which you have so vividly described in your speech will be well and truly accomplished.

May we once again thank and congratulate you. We shall study your speech with the greatest possible care and we wish you and Mrs Gorbachev, whom we are so delighted to have with us, and your people every success, prosperity and a sense of fulfilment in the future.