Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech visiting SDI National Test Facility

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Around 1400. MT spoke after Ambassador Cooper.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 970
Themes: Defence (general), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Ambassador Cooper

Prime Minister Thatcher, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Fifty years ago, conflict of heroic proportions was raised in the skies over Great Britain. From June 1940 until April 1941, day after day, mission after mission, out-manned and out-gunned, RAF fighter pilots fought valiantly to defend their homeland against an invasion or the threat of invasion from a totalitarian force and they were successful thanks to radars, to superior fighter aircrafts, the unflinching resolve of the Royal Air Force and the stubborn spirit of the British people. The Battle of Britain was won, a major threat of totalitarian rule was eventually defeated and the wider freedom was preserved.

Today, those who work day and night to perfect an SDI system are inspired by those who had visions and championed the defensive system over half a century ago when they were faced with the same scepticism SDI encounters today. Many then believed that developing any defensive system was a waste of time and money because the bomber would always get through. [end p1]

Thank God for Sir Winston Churchill and the dedicated band of technical wizards who did not share that belief. Churchill 's spirit and his challenge to Great Britain not to neglect the scientific side of purely defensive action and the technical teams delivered in response to that challenge and all who love freedom are forever in his debt.

I believe that Sir Winston Churchill surely would have been a supporter of the SDI programme and I am so very pleased that we have in his death [sic] the same spirit and wisdom and understanding and long-standing support of our programme in you, Mrs Thatcher, and I want to thank you for your support and visit today and in the name of the international SDI men and women's team, I would like to present you with this momento. It is a hand-crafted copper plaque, there are only three others, one recipient of which is your good and great friend, Ronald Reagan. [end p2]

Prime Minister

Ambassador Cooper, Ladies and Gentlemen.

May I think you very much for that presentation, I shall cherish it. I remember the day when SDI was announced, I remember thinking exactly as you have indicated how important it is always for the nations who have espoused the cause of freedom to keep ahead in technology.

You referred to the lessons of history during the last war. We have to learn from that experience so that we never have to repeat it. I remember it very well and I remember then that had we not been ahead in knowledge of atomic weapons and had our enemies got that knowledge first, the whole history of the world would have been changed and freedom would have gone into the dark ages for a very long time.

We were ahead in technology, it was astonishing that the atomic fission which I remember Rutherford said could not be put to practical use for many years, was not only put to use in the weapons of war but in much peace-time use as well. So there was spin-off even in those days from the latest atomic work.

I have watched the work on laser beams very carefully going on and some of us thought that the Soviet Union was well ahead in some of that work. And I was therefore very pleased when Ronald Reagan had the advice and accepted the advice and the courage to set out on the Strategic Defence Initiative because I could see that as well as having a sure defence, highly trained people full of the most wonderful morale and spirit and the nation resolved to be behind them, we also needed the supreme deterrence of the very latest technology that other people should know that whatever their research, our resolve, and the money allocated to the programme, [end p3] was sufficient to keep us all ahead.

I firmly believe that it was the determination to embark upon that SDI programme and to continue with it that eventually convinced the Soviet Union that they could never, never, never achieve their aim by military might because they would never succeed.

I believe that led, too, to an assessment of the poverty of their own system and to require them to admit that it produced neither prosperity nor human dignity and therefore led to the reassessment and the enormous change in East-West relations that we are seeing now.

But Ladies and Gentlemen, there is always and will always be evil in human nature and we never know where the next threat may come from. Indeed in the last two days we have had vivid evidence of that. So we must always keep our defences sure and we must always keep our technology well ahead.

I therefore remain firmly behind this programme. I am very pleased and proud that we have a few people from our country associated with it.

I should like to congratulate all of you who are involved in it and all of you who in particular have given us such vivid demonstrations and such clear demonstrations of precisely what each of you is doing. It is remarkable how far it has come since 1983 when it was first initiated.

Of course it has acquired a new kind of vocabulary of its own. What is it—the direct energy technology, the sensor technology, the interceptor technology, as well as brilliant pebbles?

May I say that as a politician who has to answer questions in our House of Commons twice a week, I feel a great fellow feeling with some of the vocabulary because I feel that every Tuesday and [end p4] Thursday I use directed energy to intercept questions which I had already sensed and which have given me enough warning to fire the button to fire the brilliant pebbles to defeat the questions.

Thank you very much for what you are doing. I hope that with your work and the resolve of politicians and peoples of countries which believe in freedom that we shall be able to have a very long period of peace so long as we are always ready, so long as we are always sure and so long, as Winston Churchill put it, as your country and mine stand together the world will always be free.