Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Apr 13 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with US President (George Bush) after Bermuda Summit

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Government House Gardens, Bermuda
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Between 1600 and 1700 MT gave a press conference and interviews to the press.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4415
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism

Prime Minister

George BushMr President, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very grateful to the President for coming to Bermuda for these talks and we have had a very full and useful discussion, lasting about four hours.

We have discussed just about everything and I think we agree on just about everything. We both attach the greatest possible importance to preserving NATO as the heart of the West's defence and to keeping American forces and their nuclear weapons in Europe.

We are both clear that a united Germany should be part of NATO. We would be happy to see NATO play a bigger political role within the Atlantic community. At the same time we want to see the CSCE developed as a forum not for defence but for wider East-West political consultation and as a framework for drawing the East European countries into the mainstream of Europe. [end p1]

On defence, we both believe NATO will continue to need a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons and they must be kept up-to-date. Whether we can make further reductions in the overall number of NATO nuclear warheads in Europe is something which will need to be considered in NATO as a whole.

With so much happening we shall need to consult particularly closely in NATO this year and the President and I agreed to keep in very close touch on that.

We also of course discussed developments over Lithuania and are very much agreed that this is a problem which must be worked out by dialogue and discussion.

We also covered a very large number of regional issues as well as matters such as the Uruguay Round, the EBRD and relations between the European Community and the United States. We would like to see Europe and the United States together trading and cooperating ever more closely in an Atlantic community.

So, very good talks conducted in a very friendly atmosphere with a very wide measure of agreement—just as you would expect. [end p2]

President Bush

Thank you, Prime Minister, and first may I thank you and the Governor General and the Premier of Bermuda for your wonderful hospitality. It is a pleasure to be here, not least because the Prime Minister and I have had this opportunity to sit down and consult frankly and freely and openly at length about recent developments and what the future holds for Europe.

Naturally we talked about the prospects of a unified Germany. We both welcome the fulfilment of the deepest aspirations of the German people to end their artificial separation. Both of our governments have supported the unification of Germany for more than forty years and we are glad that it is finally coming to pass in peace and in freedom.

The Prime Minister and I agree with Chancellor Kohl that Germany should remain a full member of NATO, including its military structures, and this is the view of the Federal Republic of Germany, the entire North Atlantic Alliance and several of the countries in Eastern Europe as well. We believe that continued full German membership of NATO is in the genuine security interest of all European states.

And in this context we also look forward to the continued development of the Two Plus Four talks on the external aspects of the establishment of German unity. These talks will focus on bringing to an end the special four-power rights and responsibilities for Berlin and Germany as a whole. [end p3]

A united Germany should have full control over all of its territory without any new discriminatory constraints on German sovereignty.

We also had a good exchange about the situation in the Soviet Union and Lithuania. We agree that these issues must be dealt with through dialogue so that the Lithuanian people's right to self-determination can be realised. And just before coming in here, in the last few minutes, we were handed a deeply disturbing wire service report. Obviously there has been no time to look into this matter in detail or determine all the facts, but we have been calling on Moscow—publicly and privately—for avoiding escalatory measures in favour of dialogue. And so I would say here, now is no time for escalation, it is time for talk.

In talking together about the future of Europe and the Atlantic community the Prime Minister and I discussed the opportunities which lie ahead for the North Atlantic Alliance, the European Community, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, that is the CSCE, to help in building a Europe that is whole and free. The Prime Minister gave me more information about her recent proposals for the future of the CSCE and I believe these ideas do hold a lot of promise. [end p4]

These talks with Prime Minister Thatcher have been especially valuable to me. Our two countries have worked together for peace and freedom for many years now and we have watched that cause prevail in many places and times, sometimes against great odds. The US/UK friendship is the kind that does not need the words to describe it, it is a special friendship that is evident from the way we share a common vision for the future of humanity.

Thank you, Prime Minister, for a very helpful and illuminating three or four hours, whatever it has been. Thank you. [end p5]

Question

President Bush, do you think that air-launched nuclear missiles should be based in a united Germany as well as in Britain?

President Bush

I think the question of the disposition of missiles is a question for the Alliance and we will be having future consultations with the Alliance and I would leave it right there.

Our position is that we need to do whatever it is that will fulfil America's role in helping keep the peace and in helping guarantee stability and security in Europe, so I would leave the details of that but I think the US position is well known and there is no change coming out of this meeting. [end p6]

Question

I would like to ask Mrs. Thatcher: what do you think of the Gorbachev ultimatum and also, I would like to ask both of you—the President and Prime Minister—what can you do about it? Not only what do you think about it but what can you do about it?

Prime Minister

First, the George BushPresident very kindly showed me the flash which he had received and we discussed the matter and we agreed the points that he had already made to you. The full facts are not yet known and I would abide by the statement the President has just made.

Question (Same Lady)

It is equally disturbing to you also?

Prime Minister

I abide by the statement the President has just made. Yes, of course we want a reduction of tension so that discussion can start. I have nothing further to add to that.

Question

What can you do about it? [end p7]

President Bush

It is purely hypothetical. She just said neither of us know that much about what it is and I learned long ago not to go into answering a lot of hypothetical questions but what we have done about it—and I speak for the United States, not this particular incident—but to have crystal clear publicly and privately to Mr. Gorbachev that coercion, escalation is not the way to go. The way to go is dialogue and I will repeat it here—and that is what we are doing about it right at this point—calling on them to heed these words.

Alistair Stewart (ITN)

May I ask both of you, when the Prime Minister says that nuclear weapons need to be kept up-to-date, does that include all nuclear weapons, including short-range ones and can we expect more of them to be based in the United Kingdom?

Prime Minister

That phrase, of course, comes from the Comprehensive Concept which we agreed last at NATO, as you know, and a previous meeting. We agreed that all weapons, including nuclear, need to be kept up-to-date if they are to be effective. That does, of course, include short-range nuclear weapons as well. [end p8]

Question

Mr. President, earlier you said that you thought that President Gorbachev 's willingness to initial a START treaty at the Summit was a positive statement. What have you seen has happened since last Friday when the negotiations were termed “disappointing” by both sides? Can you share with us any insight you might have of what has happened to make this encouraging?

President Bush

Only that the preliminary reports from Senator Mitchell and that delegation I would say was upbeat. I have not talked to them yet, though, Tom and I want to do that as soon as they get back—but there was a rather thorough discussion, I am told, and I think Gorbachev made the statement that he wanted to push his negotiators so that there would be an agreement. That is a little different slant than when Mr. Shevardnadze left town.

Question

Is it time now to phone Mr. Gorbachev and ask him about this treaty as well as the Lithuania situation?

President Bush

I do not know about the telephone; I use it once in a while, as you read today, and I might, I might not, but it certainly is time to stay in close contact and we have many ways of doing that. [end p9]

Question

Madam Prime Minister, have you and President Bush discussed at all about sanctions against the apartheid government in South Africa?

Prime Minister

Yes, we discussed the situation in South Africa and the situation on sanctions. I described my point of view to the George BushPresident which is that insofar as we are bound by law on sanctions, for example through the United Nations or through Orders which we have made through our Parliament in agreement with the European Community or the Commonwealth, those stand; that I took the view that as President de Klerk had, I thought, been very bold and courageous in the things which he is now doing, he should have some encouragement and that voluntary sanctions which are not subject to Orders should therefore be taken off and that is why we took off the voluntary ban on investment.

Question

May I ask both of you if you are somewhat puzzled by this report from Tass that Gorbachev is threatening to cut off raw materials to Lithuania because your Foreign Secretary, Prime Minister, Douglas Hurd, said on Wednesday that Gorbachev told him on Tuesday, I believe, that there would be no such economic blockade of Lithuania. Was that your understanding or are you surprised and is the President surprised? [end p10]

President Bush

How can we comment on this when we have just seen about a four-line wire service report?

Comment (Same Man)

It is a Tass report.

President Bush

Tass report! I have not seen the Tass report—I have told you what I have seen—and I do not think I can make conclusive judgements based on four sentences. However, I have expressed a real concern and I do think that this, if it proves to be accurate, is somewhat different than certainly what I would like to see coming out of it, as I have tried to make clear.

Question

Prime Minister, did you discuss what the Foreign Secretary was told?

Prime Minister

I understood that the undertaking given was that essential supplies would not be cut off. That, of course, is very much more limited than the expression which you gave. I have not the precise words but I have given you my understanding. [end p11]

With regard to this particular flash, it is not precisely clear what is meant by it and therefore I think it inadvisable to comment further except in the general terms that we have, namely, that it is a reduction of tension that we now need in order to get fundamental discussions going.

Mr. Ingham

Any British questioner?

Question

Could I ask both of you, Mr. President and Prime Minister, whether you had any discussion on the Vietnamese boat people and whether the President is any closer to you, Prime Minister, on that issue?

Prime Minister

Yes, we did discuss the Vietnamese boat people because it is quite possible that there may be further attempts from non-refugee Vietnamese people to get into Hong Kong and that would be deeply embarrassing and very very difficult because Hong Kong is already full—but we have nothing further to report. [end p12]

Question

Mr. President, I understand that there was some discussion of what is called “the Iraqi gun” . Is it your stance—and I would like to ask you both—that you need stronger controls on exports of this kind of equipment, that there needs to be something more done internationally to keep those kind of things, whether they be guns or chemicals or what-have-you, out of the hands of terrorist nations?

President Bush

Anything we can do to keep guns or chemicals out of the hands of terrorist nations, we should be doing, so if this disclosure proves to be a gun and proves to be that it was being illegally shipped, I would encourage and would offer our cooperation to guarantee total banning and firming-up the ban of weapons or potential weapons to countries that are illegally getting them, but I would defer to the Prime Minister because we were talking about this and I think there still is some question but the Prime Minister might …   .

Prime Minister

The experts are still considering and conferring as to whether it is or it is not part of a gun or whether it large steel piping. They have not yet made up their minds.

If it were to prove to be part of a gun, it would require an export permit which it has not got and therefore that is why it is being held up, pending consideration of precisely what it is.

It is our purpose to keep such things out of the hands of the Iraqi Government. [end p13]

Question

If I could follow, this is the second incident in the last couple of weeks of weapons or parts of some sort being dealt with by the Iraqis. Is there some stronger effort needed in general to deal with the Iraqis specifically or anyone else?

Prime Minister

But this was a pretty strong effort. It was caught before it was loaded to see whether or not it was the kind of export that would have required an export permit because it does not have one. In the meantime, they are conferring as to precisely what it is and not altogether agreeing, so I think it is a pretty good rule: first find the facts before you make any further comment but the point is that even though we do not quite know, it was apprehended and not allowed to be loaded pending a decision. [end p14]

President Bush

There has been superb cooperation between the UK and the United States in trying to avert such breaches in the law and it is not easy and they have got laws on their books, we have got laws on our books, and if people are determined to break the law then you have to resort to law enforcement and to intelligence to see that these bad things do not happen. And I think that great credit should be given to those in law enforcement and intelligence, in the UK and the United States, for stopping that shipment of these alleged nuclear devices.

And so we ought to look at that half of the glass while saying if there is a way that we can tighten up export controls, certainly we ought to be doing it and I think our people look at that all the time. [end p15]

Question (Financial Times)

Mr President, did you and the Prime Minister have any discussion about ways to encourage France to rejoin the military structure in NATO and will you be raising this subject in your talks with President Mitterrand next week?

President Bush

No, we did not specifically talk about that but I will be raising with President Mitterrand the whole question of European security, a question in which he is keenly interested. And one of the reasons that the Prime Minister and I have determined that we do not want to go out on a lot of new initiatives coming out of this important meeting is that we understand fully that we have got to consult with our NATO partners and our European partners.

So that subject specifically did not come up, that I recall, but I think our determination to work with France is well known but I would simply repeat it here, they are very important players in Europe and clearly I will be interested in discussing the broad security concerns of Europe with Francois Mitterrand.

Question

Do you consider the latest move by the Soviets a violation of their pledge not to use force in Lithuana; and secondly, if President Gorbachev carries out his threat to impose economic sanctions in two days if they do not rescind their call for independence, will that affect the Summit? [end p16]

President Bush

I have learned not to answer hypothetical questions and I have told you that I cannot give you more, not that I want to avoid your question but I simply do not know enough. I might know enough to answer a hypothetical question but I do not think that is a prudent thing to do and I just cannot help you on that.

Question (Robin Oakley)

Prime Minister, did you discuss Secretary Baker 's call for a more formal treaty relationship between the USA and the European Community and how do his ideas for a more political role for NATO fit with your ideas for the development of CSCE?

Prime Minister

We did not discuss the first part of your question. The second we did speak about and I had hoped I had made it clear in my opening statement. I am very very much in favour of increased dialogue and an increased close relationship between both sides of the Atlantic community. Therefore, giving an increased political role to NATO meets very much with my approval because I think the centre of freedom and the defence of freedom is the whole Atlantic community. I have no difficulty in that.

When it comes to the wider discussion, including Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, it seems to me that the CSCE group of nations is just made for that wider political discussion. I think it is a forum in which we could draw in some of the East European nations to discussion with the United States and with the rest of [end p17] Europe in a more formal and a more regular way than happens now and I think that would be very useful for us all.

So the one is the defence of the freedom nations having greater political contacts; the other is a bridge across the divide. Both have their purpose and they do not interfere with one another, they are complementary to one another.

President Bush

May I just add that I agree wholly with what the Prime Minister has just said?

Question

But this news report out of Moscow today comes a day after Senator Mitchell was reportedly told by Mr Gorbachev that further lectures from American officials on the need for peaceful dialogue were not welcome, and I wonder if you or Prime Minister Thatcher are beginning to see here the emergence of a pattern in Soviet conduct which might suggest that the policy of simply calling for restraint in not recognising the Lithuanian government, as it is requested, may not have been the right thing to do?

President Bush

No, I think we are on the right track. I obviously am concerned about the report but I did note what you reported that he said to Mitchell in that Senatorial delegation. And so I need to know a great deal more. [end p18]

But look, if the question is am I concerned about the report if it proves to be accurate, the answer is yes because it goes against the policy of dialogue and a no-coercion dialogue that will result in the peaceful evolution of democracy and in self-determination. So I am concerned about the report, I am concerned about the timing but I just do not want to comment any further.

Prime Minister

We do not lecture anyone but we are entitled to express a view. We frequently expressed it, that this is not a problem that should be solved by force and which cannot be solved by force. It therefore must be solved by discussion. We had a duty to say what we think, we still think that way and we still think that is the only way to go.

We have come a long way in relations between the Soviet Union and the free world and we wish that improvement to continue. But it could not continue if the Soviet Union were to resolve this by force.

Question (Martin Walker)

Mr President, you said that you had a full discussion on the situation in the Soviet Union. Mr William Webster has just given a speech talking about a prolonged and deepening crisis in the Soviet Union. Did the two of you agree in your assessment about the political situation in the Soviet Union at the moment and would you agree with Mr Webster 's characterisation that this a crisis for Gorbachev? [end p19]

President Bush

Lithuania being a crisis for Gorbachev?

Question

The political situation in the Soviet Union being a crisis for Gorbachev?

President Bush

Those are his words. I would say there are some very difficult problems facing him and I would say that listening very carefully to the Prime Minister and then giving her my views, I think we are very close together in terms of our assessment of the problems inside the Soviet Union right now, be they economic or be they as they relate to the Baltic States or other ethnic problems. The problems are enormous and I expect both of us wish we had a little more information because in dealing with a question of this nature well you never have all the facts you need.

But I feel very comfortable that I am in accord with the assessment by Prime Minister Thatcher of the situation there and I think we have general agreement as to what the problems are and I think we have a solid agreement that we want to see a peaceful resolution to the problems as they relate to the outside world. There are enormous problems inside the Soviet Union and you can start and talk about the economy and the need for restructuring and reform and market incentives and the whole wide array of problems that are facing Mr Gorbachev and it is there that I think we need more information. [end p20]

Question

Mr President, you have been talking and calling for restraint for several weeks now, but Mr Gorbachev does not appear to be listening. On Lithuania, is there anything more you can do without sacrificing East-West relations, is Lithuania being sacrificed to better relations or maintaining relations with the Soviets?

President Bush

I do not think so. I am troubled by it and we have made our position very clear to Mr Gorbachev. I know there is a great desire on the part of Americans to know what we might do, what can be done, what can the President of the United States do to force change upon somebody and it is not that clear. If I had responses in mind I am not sure I would share them with you because I do not want to get into hypothetical situations. As one of these reporters pointed out, it was only twenty-four hours ago that there was quite a different tone and report coming out of the Soviet Union.

All I would keep repeating is that it is highly complex, highly complicated and the answer in terms of smooth on-going relations that have no adverse effects on other things is dialogue and peaceful change.

Question

Would you allow an economic blockade of Lithuania? [end p21]

President Bush

Too hypothetical. May I add one word, and I would not dare to speak for the Prime Minister, but a flyer was called to my attention here about the victims of Pan American flight 103. First, I want to say that the cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States has been good in trying to track down the culprits, those who were guilty. Secondly, we were called upon by two grieving parents, Mr Bert Amerand and Dr Swire of Bromsgrove, England, who obviously have suffered and been hurt by the loss of loved ones and they asked us at the conclusion of the talks to put out a joint communique condemning the terrorist attack on 103 and a renewed joint avowal to bring the perpetrators and their sponsoring nations to justice, of putting terrorists on notice, etc.

Of course we are glad to do that, I am, and I just hope that we can bring to justice those who caused this act. And certainly when we are asked to speak out against terrorism I think the record of the United Kingdom and the record of the United States are very clear, but I do not think it hurts to reiterate our conviction that these dastardly terrorist acts must stop.

So we have formed a commission and I know a great inquiry has gone on in the UK, Prime Minister Thatcher showing her own special brand of concern by being at the site, etc. And so I would simply say to these people who appealed to us through this petition, in terms of the United States we understand and we do care and we will continue to do everything we can in cooperation with the UK and other countries to get to the bottom of this cowardly, dastardly incident. [end p22]

Prime Minister

No-one wants to solve that terrible tragedy more than we do. We have got quite a long way but we have not yet completed the investigations, I wish we had. But we understand the feelings of all the relatives and understand why some of them are here. We too want it solved, we too wish there was far less terrorism in the world. We spend a great deal of our time and effort on trying to counter it but we simply cannot pull solutions out of the hat. It is a question of patient, continuous work on that investigation and patient continuous determination to try to defeat terrorism.