Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Los Angeles World Affairs Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Los Angeles
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3767
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Famous statements by MT (discussions of), Defence (Gulf War, 1990-91)


Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I can think of no better place to discuss developments in global affairs than here in this great city. Whenever I come to the United States I am conscious of being at the heart of the free world.

But those who want to gain the clearest perspective on that world are well advised to come to the West Coast of America.

From here, the hugely important developments around the Pacific Rim can the more easily be watched and understood.

If there is indeed a “New World Order” it has primarily been established by the United States. And if it is to be truly a World Order it must necessarily embrace not just Europe (both West and East), North and South America and the Republics emerging from the old Soviet Union: it must also become a reality throughout Asia and of course the Middle East, and Africa too. Human rights, political and economic liberty, all so closely intertwined, are the birthright of men and women everywhere.

A New World Order?

But — again I ask the question — is there a New World Order?

I am not going to quibble about the words: but I believe that President Bush is right to talk in these terms.

A seismic change has occurred with the crumbling of Communism and the advance of democracy and free enterprise.

It will be possible to achieve greater international cooperation in upholding peace.

But we should also be cautious.

Human nature itself does not change.

This is not the first time that New Orders of a visionary kind have been conceived.

Let me remind you of what happened after the First World War — what an older generation called, and not without reason, the Great War. The League of Nations was founded.

And its experience provides us today with some lessons we should not forget.

Its constitution was faulty.

It never recovered from the fact that the United States was not a member.

General Smuts, that brilliant South African General and politician, who contributed much to the thinking behind the League's foundation, provided perhaps its most perceptive epitaph. He said:

“What was everybody's business in the end proved to be nobody's business. Each one looked to the other to take the lead, and the aggressors got away with it” .

After World War II the United Nations began with a better constitution, and with the full and active commitment of the United States.

But the history of the UN has confirmed the wisdom of Smuts' observations.

For the UN has been effective only when there has been the will to make it so.

That was, of course, dramatically demonstrated in the Gulf.

The United Nations was tested by that crisis — and it came through with an enhanced reputation.

The Permanent Members of the UN Security Council worked together for the first time since 1945 to defeat aggression — and did so not just for one resolution but for twelve.

The New Internationalism

Indeed, there is now a new determination to bring countries together to resolve problems which just a few years ago would have seemed intractable.

We are looking, as never before, to the United Nations to give international moral authority against aggression.

But we must not forget: first that the Gulf War was not fought by the UN, but by a few sovereign nations under the leadership of the United States of America, who came together to enforce its Resolutions; and second, that international moral authority does not supplant or diminish the moral authority of sovereign states or their inherent right of self-defence.

We are also considering how the CSCE [Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe] of 35 nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, and the Council of Europe of 25 nations can secure human rights in a world of new or revived nation states, each proud to express its identity.

We are reviewing NATO's strategy and scope in the light of new defence requirements.

There is no doubt that its continued existence is vital to the future in a world where the unexpected happens.

The forms of international co-operation are changing.

And those changes will continue.

But perhaps the greatest danger today is that we forget the fundamental conditions which made all this progress possible — and without which the gains we have made could still be forfeit.

I want to mention two of them.

Strong Defence

The first is the need for strong defence.

The clearest lesson of the 1980s was perhaps the oldest lesson of all — that if you wish for peace, you must be prepared for war.

It was a lesson which our leaders forgot in the 1970s, when Western armed forces were scaled down at the very time that Soviet arms stock piles were soaring.

And it was a lesson which some of our political opponents at home refused to learn in the 1980s, when strong defences were the basis for a break through in East-West relations.

You recall how when we deployed Cruise Missiles in response to the Soviet build-up in Europe of SS-20s we were told that we would destroy the chances for arms control.

But we refused to be intimidated by the then Soviet leadership.

And our determination led to the achievement of the INF Treaty — the first ever treaty to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

Only through military strength, not weakness, can satisfactory arms control agreements ever be secured.

The relationship between the United States, Britain and Europe, has, since the War, been strong enough to secure Europe's peace and freedom.

NATO has bound the United States and Western Europe in a defensive alliance for the defence of liberty, the effects of whose triumph we continue to witness.

Europe could never defend itself alone — and it never has.

There are simply too many different traditions and competing interests; and as we saw in the Gulf War there has always been too little will to make real sacrifices in the common good.

We need the United States because it provides a degree of stability in security policy which European states, individually or collectively, could never achieve.

Moreover, Europe could not alone defend the trade routes on which her supply of strategic materials — and indeed her survival — depend.

If Saddam Hussein had not stopped in Kuwait but had gone into Saudi Arabia and the other adjacent oil states, he would have had control of sixty per cent of the world's oil reserves, leaving us in a vulnerable position, open to political blackmail.

Indeed, we must now apply the lessons of the Gulf War to present policy.

First, in addition to keeping NATO, we could not have responded in the Gulf unless NATO countries had remained strong on land, sea and in the air.

It was the decisions on defence taken nine or ten years ago which enabled us to deal with the unexpected attack when it occurred.

It follows that the decisions being taken now will determine our preparedness in the future.

Second, superiority in the latest technology — for example, the stealth aircraft and Patriot Missile developed from SDI technology — played a crucial role.

We owe that to President Reagan's decision — criticised as he was by some commentators at the time.

We must keep up our scientific and technological programmes.

Third, although individual NATO countries responded to the crisis in the Gulf, NATO itself is limited to action within a specified geographical area.

There is a strong argument for extending that area so that it can defend the strategic supply routes of the West.

We and the Dutch government proposed a European Rapid Reaction Force for use out of area.

Fourth, those nations which do not send forces, but rely on others to do so, should expect to pay their fair share of the cost of a military operation as many of them did after the Gulf War — as Japan for example has done.

Fifth we do not know where the next threat will come from.

But history has not lacked new tyrants.

Our defence must stay strong enough to deter their ambitions.

Sound Economies

And the second fundamental condition which enabled this improved situation to come about is economic strength.

A vital component of national power and influence.

America's military success in the Gulf War was possible because she had a strong economy — able to turn out vast quantities of advanced miliary equipment which was ahead in science and technology — for example the Stealth Aircraft, and the Patriot missile.

She also had highly professional Armed Forces.

It was the fundamental rightness of democracy coupled with the superior performance of free enterprise which ultimately convinced the Communists that they could neither fulfil their people's expectations nor beat us militarily.

If we now weaken the capitalist system which made victory in the Cold War possible we will never be able to fulfil the ambitious international goals we have set ourselves.

As we all should have learned from experience, we weaken the free market economy by turning aside, for whatever reason, from basic financial and economic orthodoxy.

If governments fail to keep a close control on monetary growth;

if they allow public spending over a period of years to increase as a share of their national income;

if they continue to borrow to finance large budget deficits and so build up a huge burden of debt;

if they do these things, they cannot reasonably be surprised if the world economy weakens. There is no philosopher's stone that will turn imprudent policies into long term prosperity.

At a time when there are huge demands for capital to invest in rebuilding the former Communist countries, spendthrift policies in the West would be worse than self-destructive — they would destroy the prospects of millions struggling to have a better life in freedom.

East/West Relations

As a result of keeping our Western military defences strong and our economies sound we were able to achieve a great moral and real victory over totalitarianism.

I am sometimes asked would you still say of Mr Gorbachev — this is a man I can do business with? My reply is unhesitatingly yes.

Look what his reforms have already achieved:—

— Communism has crumbled in the Soviet Union and is totally discredited as a political system.

— Political freedoms have been established and popular elections have taken place

— Large scale emigration from the Soviet Union has been made possible

— The Eastern European countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary are free

— The Warsaw Pact is finished

— Further afield problems whose solution required the co-operation of the Soviet Union, previously withheld, are now being resolved: in Africa Namibia is independent, the Cubans have left Angola, the A.N.C is hopefully soon to enter into negotiations with the South African government for a non-racial democracy

— Free elections have been held in Nicaragua.

In Cambodia a new government has just been established

— The Middle East peace conference has had its first meeting with the blessing of President Bush and President Gorbachev

This is remarkable progress which has already change the world.

The advance of democracy and free enterprise has made it possible therefore to look afresh at global and regional problems.

Global and Regional Issues

A: Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

We should also be acutely aware of the dangers which could arise if the new democracies of Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union are not able to make better progress than at present towards entrenching democracy and building free enterprise economies.

The West can hardly be blameless if the Russian people who so courageously stood up to the tanks and the KGB in August go hungry this winter and begin to be thoroughly disillusioned with a market economy.

They may not realise that it is in fact Communism which caused their present plight and that free enterprise has not yet been given a chance.

It is our job to help get them through that transition, to the future they seek.

When great reforms are embarked upon to bring justice and liberty where there was none, they take on a momentum of their own and people want the changes to go faster and the improvements to come along quickly.

But it is always the difficulties that come first, the benefits take longer to appear.

The failed coup accelerated the demands of the separate Republics for power to be dispersed.

The agreement between the nine republics which has just been signed, sets out some agreed principles but the practical consequences have still to be clarified —

They have agreed to divide up the assets and apportion foreign debt.

— how will the gold and foreign currency reserves be divided up?

— how will the debts by apportioned?

— will there be more than one currency?

— what resources will the central government have to meet its defence commitments — and so on.

They have agreed to have freedom of contract, private property and competition but the legislation has yet to go through their Parliaments.

The whole country is in a kind of no man's land in which the old system has collapsed but the new one has yet to be constructed.

Winter is coming and the large towns will be short of food.

The West has rightly promised to take measures to help get them through the tough times ahead.

The debts of the USSR are enormous and will require concessionary arrangements.

The situation is of increasing seriousness and uncertainty.

For recovery, clear firm action is required.

Let us recall for a moment that this is the century which has seen the rise and fall of Communism, and the rise and defeat of fascism, in Germany and Japan.

In the case of Germany and Japan, defeat followed brutal wars with many casualties, but the West acting on Churchill's advice of magnaminity in victory, set out to rebuild these countries on democratic and free market lines and succeeded brilliantly.

Surely we have ever more reason to help the Soviet Union.

There the collapse of Communism was accomplished peacefully, without great sacrifice on our part.

Of course assistance can't be given in quite the same way, but with positive and active help decisions could be taken, implemented and the desired recovery would no doubt be much faster.

We must constantly keep in mind the countries of Eastern Europe also facing difficulties with their reform programmes.

In this context, the results of the recent elections in Poland should be carefully studied in the West.

Of course, their system of proportional representation and the lack of properly established parties (64 of them contested the election) were partly to blame for the outcome under which it will be very difficult to form an effective government.

But equally nobody should ignore the fact that very large numbers of Poles showed that they had little faith in the necessary reform programme.

Under President Walesa's strong leadership I believe that all will ultimately be well.

But this should serve as a warning to those in the West who imagine that we can simply expect those who have lived under communism for more than forty years — in the case of the Soviet Union more than seventy years — to become successful entrepreneurs over-night.

We must open our markets to their produce: we must open our purses to meet some of their requirements: we must open our hearts to their predicament.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, there are more than enough challenges to meet and problems to resolve: we must be strong and vigilant to do so.

And by “we” I mean, in particular, the United States and Britain and the other countries of the G7.

B: Armaments

We also have to maintain the security of our world.

And so we are increasingly determined to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons and other means of mass destruction. You will observe now international concern about nuclear power in North Korea and the way nations are coming together to counter that threat.

When unstable, aggressive states — particularly dictatorships — acquire such weapons, local or regional disputes suddenly take on potentially catastrophic significance.

It will not be easy to limit the access to advanced military technology — but we have to try, by joint effort — as well as maintaining our own military technology at the very highest level as a deterrent.

C: The Middle East

Still more on our minds today must be the future of the Middle East.

The fact that the Middle East Peace Conference has taken place at all is a great tribute to the skill and persistence of Secretary of State James Baker.

But it also reflects the changed atmosphere in the Middle East since Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War.

On the one hand, nobody could fail to appreciate the maturity and self-restraint which Israel showed when she was under extreme provocation to retaliate.

On the other, it was clear that most Arab countries had almost as much to lose as Israel from aggression by a fellow Arab state; this brought a new sense of realism and perspective to the Arab world.

The historical background to the present disputes in the Middle East cannot simply be ignored or forgotten.

This is the most fought over land in the history of the world.

It is the centre of the three great religions based on belief in God: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Israel has good reason to be concerned for her security and to distrust merely verbal assurances.

Palestinians also have reason to fear Israel's intention while a policy of Jewish settlement continues on the West Bank.

Both sides — Israeli and Arab — will find compromise difficult.

But compromise will be necessary.

All the peoples of the Middle East have a real common interest in peace and security.

It is they — rather than we — who have to work out the terms on which they can live together.

Agreements can and should, on occasion, be brokered by outsiders — but they cannot be imposed by them.

The peace process now has to move into its second and crucial phase of detailed bi-lateral talks between the main parties in dispute.

I believe that the best hope for peace is that everyone will realise that the weapons of modern warfare recognise no boundaries.

Therefore, the only hope for the younger generation in all the countries concerned is to reach an agreement which, while it will not give any country everything it wants, will enable them all to live in peace and security, each in their own land.

In the Middle East and in Indo-China, the international community is demonstrating that persistent and determined action can bring new hope.

In Croatia however the prospects are grim.

D: Croatia

The United States has expected the European Community to take the lead in seeking to bring an end to the bloodshed and destruction of property resulting from war in Yugoslavia.

But the Community has not succeeded and the war continues with terrible loss of life and distruction.

Yugoslavia is an artificial country put together after World War One from nations of very different backgrounds with little in common. Serbia had traditionally looked to Russia and the East.

The Croats and Slovenians had looked to the West.

Croatia and Slovenia have voted overwhelmingly to exercise their democratic right to independence.

And now in the heart of Europe a hardline Communist regime in Serbia and an army which is acting without constitutional or democratic sanction are waging a war of extraordinary ferocity against them.

Well over a thousand Croatians have been killed — four times as many people as Britain lost in recovering the Falklands and almost twice as many as the allies lost in the Gulf War. Civilians, hospitals, churches, ancient cities and buildings — all now seem to be considered as legitimate targets by the Serbian and Communist controlled army.

This is what can result from putting together artificial states.

Whether in Asia, Africa or Europe — whether you call them federations, empires or unions of Soviet Socialist Republics — they do not endure. Their break up, particularly when Communism is at hand, is painful and dangerous.

But there is no advantage to be gained from insisting on keeping them together — and indeed we have no right to do so.

Sanctions are to be applied against the aggressors in Yugoslavia.

But this is only the start of the international action which will be required.

The “Special Relationship”

Fifty years ago the peoples of the United States and Great Britain joined together in what Winston Churchill called “the Grand Alliance” . That alliance, forged in the heat and intensity of war, has lasted through the trials of peace.

And when — as in the Falklands, and most recently in the Gulf — we have been back in partnership, aggressors have been defeated.

I believe that it must continue to be the primary objective of British foreign policy to seek to preserve and strengthen not only the special relationship between Britain and America but also the Atlantic Alliance as a whole.

Similarly, those in the United States such as President Bush, who place special emphasis on the importance of the alliance with Britain and Europe do so not out of sentiment, but from a hard-headed analysis of the continuing security interests of their nation.

For they know that even America cannot be truly safe and secure in isolation.

America prospers when Europe and the wider world prosper.

And the United States will continue to be secure only so long as the boundaries of freedom lie not on the East Coast of North America but ever further to the East.

Beyond national interest and beyond even the ties of shared language, history and culture, there is another force which binds us.

It is the force of a shared ideal — our common belief in freedom, based on traditional and democratic institutions.

Winston Churchill put it so well in that famous speech of 1946 in Fulton, Missouri:

” …we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, Trial by Jury and the English Common Law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”

He went on:

“All this means that the people of any country have the right and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character of the form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, un-biased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should be in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind” .

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is still our message of truth and freedom.

Let us live it: let us proclaim it: and let us make it prevail.

And let us do all this — in the future as in years gone by — together.