Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1989 May 30 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (NATO Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: NATO Headquarters, Brussels
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Gerry Foley, TV-AM
Editorial comments: Between 1230 and 1315.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1156
Themes: Agriculture, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)

Interviewer

Can I ask you has your assessment of President Bush as a leader changed as a result of his initiative at the Summit and secondly, do you think he should have consulted the Allies more on his plan?

Prime Minister

We were consulted about it. I think it was a very well timed initiative, I think it was a very measured initiative. Now those two things are important. There is nothing rash about it. We have sooner or later to address the problem of aircraft between ourselves and the Warsaw Pact. He has addressed in a measured way, in a way which does not undermine our defence, undermine the effectiveness of it at all, and I thought therefore that it was a very good move. [end p1]

Interviewer

What are the main areas that you want to discuss with him while he is in London?

Prime Minister

We shall discuss the full East-West relations. We must almost certainly discuss too the problem of world trade, the GATT. It is absolutely vital that we get free and fair trade and bring some of the barriers down and of course we shall discuss some environmental issues as well. Our bilateral relations are very very good indeed.

Interviewer

Do you think you can develop the same type of personal relationship as you had with President Reagan?

Prime Minister

It is always so very much easier to talk and discuss with our American friends, there is no language barrier, we have similar backgrounds, you start from similar understandings, and I very much look forward to this just as I looked forward always to seeing President Reagan. [end p2]

Interviewer

On the NATO Summit itself, before it we were told that you were dead set against negotiations and yet the Alliance now seems to have agreed in principle to have negotiations on short-range weapons. Have we lost out?

Prime Minister

No, it has got very very strict conditions on those negotiations. First, we have extended the agenda for conventional negotiations. You cannot do any short range negotiations until you have reached agreement on those conventional weapons and actually started to implement the agreement which is actually to take out some of those conventional weapons.

Only then can you start on the other negotiations and then if you agree on your partial reduction, because that is the only authority the United States has, partial reduction of the short-range nuclear weapons, you cannot take a single one out until the whole of your conventional agreement has been implemented. That is a colossal programme.

Interviewer

And yet from the outset, Prime Minister, we were told that you were afraid or cautious that if you started going down the road of negotiations, there was always the possibility at some future date people might start talking about the third zero eliminating short-range weapons? [end p3]

Prime Minister

That is not possible under what we have agreed. The only authority to negotiate is to negotiate a partial reduction. Elsewhere in the document it says in several places, first, that you need the short-range nuclear weapons, it is a fundamental part of your strategy of deterrence, you must be able to deter at all levels. And it goes on in paragraph 63 to say that the reductions we shall make will not obviate the need, the continued need, for those weapons.

So there is no question of a third zero and I raised it myself in full plenary session and no-one challenged it and President Bush specifically confirmed that that was his understanding too and no-one else argued.

Interviewer

And yet the Germans are saying that they are happy with the outcome now given the gap which was between your position and the position of Chancellor Kohl and his Foreign Minister before this Summit, how can you both be happy with this Communique?

Prime Minister

Well I know what we have signed up to and I am sure they do too. They signed up to only a partial reduction and also to a document which says there will continue to be a need for these and they must be modernised and kept up-to-date. And also in another paragraph which says the reductions cannot obviate the need for these weapons to continue. [end p4]

So that is what they have signed up to.

Interviewer

So have we solved the German political problem, as it was being called?

Prime Minister

That is what they have signed up to, that is for them to consider. I cannot comment on their own internal problems.

Interviewer

How critical a NATO Summit was this, taking the whole package together?

Prime Minister

It was critical because there had been a lot of negotiations before but they had not in fact succeeded. I think that when President Bush came with a new initiative I think that that changed the atmosphere and I think when people were prepared to put very substantial and very clearly defined conditions on negotiations, I think that enabled us to get what undoubtedly is a very good result. That NATO is absolutely united on a very very comprehensive statement on defence and how arms control fits into it and on what we can negotiate on and what we cannot. [end p5]

Interviewer

I know you do not like to talk in terms of winners and losers, but do you see this as a victory for the approach which you have taken all along over the past couple of months?

Prime Minister

I see it as a victory for the NATO approach which is of strong defence and letting your arms control fit in with that strong defence but never, never, never undermining that strong defence and a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons being kept up-to-date.

Interviewer

Finally, in a speech in Brussels on Monday night, part of Mr Heath 's criticism of you was his suggestion that because of your style in negotiating approach, that sometimes you end up isolated and without friends. Was that a fair criticism?

Prime Minister

Well hardly, was it? We finished up totally agreed on a very very good document. And do not forget, I had some tough negotiations to do in Europe because of the agreement that I was left with. Nothing about fisheries, it was too tough to negotiate when we went in, we negotiated with it. The Common Agricultural Policy which was such that it built up colossal surpluses which cost an enormous amount of money and no-one could go on affording it. [end p6] We had to negotiate about that. A budget totally out of control, we had to negotiate about that.

We got the desired result—that is a fact.

Interviewer

Is it time for Mr Heath to stop complaining?

Prime Minister

We know Edward HeathTed.