Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Dec 22 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference after Camp David talks (the "Camp David Declaration")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Andrew's Air Force Base, Washington
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1410-1440.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 4911
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economy (general discussions), Monetary policy, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Northern Ireland

Prime Minister

As you know, we have had talks with the President this morning and there were also present: Vice-President Bush, Secretary Shultz, National Security Adviser Mr. McFarlane, Sir Oliver Wrightour respective Ambassadors, and Mr. Burt.

We discussed, mainly, East-West relations and disarmament control talks. I also briefed the President on my talks with Mr. Gorbachev. We discussed the Middle East and the Lebanon, Central America, the economy and the famine in Africa, and I also briefed the President on the state of my talks with Mr. Garret FitzGerald.

I think it might perhaps be most helpful if I gave you in more detail, before opening the meeting to questions, the kind of things that we were talking about in disarmament control talks.

President Reagan and I have had a very thorough and extensive discussion of the prospects for arms control negotiations, in the course of which we also naturally touched on the Strategic Defence Initiative. I was not surprised to discover that we see matters in very much the same light. I told the President that I have made it [end p1] absolutely clear to Mr. Gorbachev that there was no question of the Soviet Union being able to divide the United Kingdom from the United States on these matters. Wedge-driving is just not on!

I told the President of my firm conviction that the SDI research programme should go ahead. Research is, of course, permitted under existing United States/ Soviet treaties, and we, of course, know that the Russians have already their research programme and that in the United States view that programme has in some respects already gone beyond research.

We agreed on four specific points:

First, the United States and Western aim was not to achieve superiority, but to maintain balance, taking account of Soviet developments.

Second, that SDI-related deployment would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiations.

Third, the overall aim is to enhance, and not to undermine, deterrence; and

Fourth, East-West negotiation should aim to achieve security with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides.

This will be the purpose of the resumed United States/ Soviet negotiations on arms control, which I warmly welcome.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your questions, please! [end p2]

Question

Prime Minister, there seems to have been a distinction drawn by your Government between support for research of space defence systems and support for testing or eventual deployment of such systems. The Administration, through its spokes-people has made it clear, and through the Secretary of Defence, that it supports both those concepts, eventual deployment and support for testing as well as research. Do you support both, or just research?

Prime Minister

I think you will find that question is dealt with in the four points which I gave you.

First, you have to do the research as a matter of balance. I indicated that the Soviet Union has already done some research and, indeed, she has already got an anti-satellite satellite capability and, as you know, she has done a great deal of research on lasers and electronic pulse beams, and also, as you know, she appears to have some very special radars and has not, in fact, let us have the results of some of her nuclear testing, in accordance with agreement. So she has gone ahead on some of these matters and United States has to do research as a matter of balance, otherwise the Soviet Union would get ahead.

Now, research is within existing agreements. If the result of research is such that it is decided to go ahead with production and deployment, that has to be a matter for negotiation before those deployments could take place, because [end p3] the deployments would be covered by treaty obligations.

So, first the research, which can be done without infringing the treaties, and I think it best to wait for the results of that research before being able to go any further or to conjecture about what would happen then. We know that we would have to go to negotiations then.

Question

Madam Prime Minister, can you tell us what you told the President concerning your meeting with Mr. Gorbachev?

Prime Minister

I gave him (the President) a general account of my meeting with Mr. Gorbachev. With Mr. Gorbachev we discussed, obviously, East-West relations, obviously arms control. I made it quite clear to Mr. Gorbachev that there was no point in his ever—either his or the Soviet Union—ever trying to separate us from the United States. They would be on a hopeless mission if they did!

I also discussed trade matters with Mr. Gorbachev and a number of other matters, but we had a very realistic and constructive and businesslike discussion. No rose-tinted spectacles on either side, and it is best that way! Really realistic, constructive and businesslike, and friendly.

Question

Prime Minister, are you concerned that a spirited US research programme might fuel a process of competition [end p4] that would lead to the militarization of space, which you have said you are concerned about? Is there such a thing as pure research?

Prime Minister

I have already indicated that the Soviet Union was ahead on anti-satellite satellites and we believe is very advanced on lasers and electronic pulse beams, and as you know, has these very very big radars and as you know, has more experience of anti-ballistic missile systems, because she deployed one in Moscow, than we have.

It is necessary, therefore, to embark upon a process of research on these matters really in order for the United States to keep balance and not to let the Soviet Union get ahead, so if your question is do you think that is going to fuel problems, then my answer is: already there must be problems because of the way in which the Soviet Union have an anti-satellite capability greater than we have.

Question

But they are not likely to stop and wait for the United States to catch up with them. Does that concern you?

Prime Minister

In that case, you are increasing the case for the United States to go ahead with research. [end p5]

Question

Prime Minister, are you saying that as a result of today's talks there is no disagreement whatever with the Administration on the issue of SDI and Star Wars weapons?

Prime Minister

I have indicated in great detail that I fully approve—and have long before I came here—and have said so long before I came here—that I think it right to go ahead on the research programme. There were, in fact, no differences and why I have made it abundantly clear today is that I have been concerned about reports to the effect that there were. Those reports were not correct.

Question

Prime Minister, you have had an opportunity to talk to both Gorbachev and the President now on this subject. Looking ahead to Geneva, do you feel that the President's steadfast determination to go ahead with SDI, your support of him, and Gorbachev 's assignment of priority to the subject, has created an impasse before the talks even begin?

Prime Minister

No, and I think we have got to ask you, the media, to help us to get the facts right and the facts before the people, and I am sure you will. Let me say it again. Can I give the four points: [end p6]

The aim of the West is not to achieve superiority, but to maintain balance, taking account of Soviet developments. I have indicated that we need to go ahead with the research in order to attain balance. Balance is necessary to security, so you have the balance in order to get the security and in order to keep the deterrent effect upon both sides.

Question

Did you get the impression that Gorbachev was willing to walk out of the talks or would not even begin to talk if he felt the United States would not give on testing?

Prime Minister

No, we were not in that amount of detail, but I think it is absurd—if I might respectfully say so—to talk of walking out before the talks have even started and if I might turn one of the questions on you: Do you not think that such a comment might fuel trouble?

Question

(very difficult to hear) Secretary Weinberger said the other day the …   . balance of terror is outdated …   . it is disproven …   . the President called this doctrine immoral and senior White House …   . called it …   . yet some of your aides have called it a brilliant doctrine which has succeeded over the last forty years in keeping the peace. How do you …   . [end p7]

Prime Minister

Look, the fact is that we have had peace in Europe for, next year, forty years. That is a very long period of peace compared with previous periods, historically. I believe that the deterrence of nuclear weapons and the fact that their use would be so horrific has, in fact, helped to keep that peace. That kind of deterrence is the policy that we are going to have to live with for some time, because the research will take some time to complete and I think you are probably referring to Secretary Weinberger 's speech. I think, if you look, you will find three occasions in that speech when he pointed out that this was a feasibility study and it would take a long time before we could get all of the options worked out. So we are going to have to live with that same doctrine for a considerable time.

Question

What issues would need to be negotiated before any further SDI hardware would be deployed?

Prime Minister

Well, once you come into making the requisite weapons, then you are bound by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972—I think the ABM Treaty is not limited by time—and you are also bound by, I think it is the 1967 treaty on outer space and therefore you have, if there is any question of deployment, if the research indicated that deployment [end p8] should go ahead, you then have to start to negotiate with the Soviet Union on that deployment. Otherwise, you would be in breach of treaty obligations and I do not believe that it is the intention to be in breach of treaty obligations on the part of the United States in any way.

Question

Madam Prime Minister, as a result of your talks with Gorbachev and your talks now with President Reagan, would you expect a Summit between Mr. Reagan and Mr. Chernenko next year?

Prime Minister

I do not think I can predict when there would be a Summit. I would not expect one very soon. You know my view about Summits. Any such Summit would raise expectations very very high indeed and I think, therefore, that before such a Summit takes place there should be very extensive preparations for it. Now, whether that would be towards the end of the year or the following year is not for me to say and I do not think one could predict, before one knows how the disarmament talks get on.

Question

Prime Minister, have you ever debriefed or discussed with the President or Vice-President on your Peking visit? Or Hong Kong? [end p9]

Prime Minister

Yes, I am sorry. Of course, I did say something about the Chinese visit both to Ronald Reaganthe President and to George Bushthe Vice-President.

Question

…   . the view of Vice-President Bush …   .

Prime Minister

He is very familiar with China and, of course, took a special interest and knows most of the people who I spoke to.

Question

What is his view?

Prime Minister

What is his view? It is a very large subject. I think he was very interested to hear of my experiences and very interested in what is happening in China and, of course, very interested—as we are all very interested—in Chinese/ Soviet relations. As you know, they have a Soviet visitor now.

Question

Prime Minister, did you talk to President Reagan about the extradition problem with William Quinn ?Mr. ???? I believe, and also would you elaborate on what you told him about …   . [end p10]

Prime Minister

No, I did not discuss the extradition problem with the United States. I told Ronald Reaganhim what in the United Kingdom they already know, that we did have talks with Mr. Fitzgerald, bilateral talks, and that we should be continuing those talks during the New Year, so there is no question of having a gap. Those talks will continue.

Question

Did the President offer any suggestions, advice or reactions to …   .

Prime Minister

It was really rather a case of my briefing the President because I felt that he would like to know and should know on the state of relations between the Republic and the United Kingdom.

Question

Madam Prime Minister, is there anything new on the future of Hong Kong and the future of the people of Hong Kong, whether the Chinese will live up to their promise and what assurances you have for the people of Hong Kong?

Prime Minister

Well, as I indicated in a television broadcast in Hong Kong, yes, we did come back with assurances from both Chairman Deng Xiaoping and from Prime Minister Zhao [end p11] Ziyang that it was their full intention to implement those agreements. China did honour her international commitments and she would do so on this occasion and also in drafting the basic law she would solicit opinion in Hong Kong on a wide scale. So, it is our intention—both of us—firmly to carry out the agreement which we signed in the last few days.

Question

Prime Minister, on the Anglo-Irish talks, I wonder if the President agrees with your evaluation of the New Ireland Report and your three “Noes” .

Prime Minister

We were not getting into that kind of detail. I briefed Ronald Reaganthe President that the talks would, in fact, be continuing. As you know, I went to Dublin for the European Economic Summit in December and at the Press Conference afterwards I think I was cross-examined more about bilateral relationships than the European Economic Summit. I was very happy to be so, because the impression had got around that there were problems between Garret Fitzgeraldthe Taoiseach and myself. That was not so.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, given that you are a great supporter of the Star Wars research programme, does Britain have any interest or plans to participate directly in that research programme itself? [end p12]

Prime Minister

No Sir, not unless by any chance there are some of our scientists already participating in it because they are in the United States. Not as far as I know.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

We were not talking so much about the trade deficit, although that to some extent is a function of the very very strong dollar. We did talk about the interest rates which, as you know, are recently down, the discount rate, and also we did discuss the deficit and the desirability to have a smaller proportion of the national income taken in deficit, but I am sure you will be hearing a good deal more about that in the coming months or so.

Question

Given your discussions with …   . the Russians and now the President, do you personally see the SDI, the star wars project, the plan, as a key bargaining chip in this Geneva negotiation?

Prime Minister

I do not think I can go any further than what I have already said. If you look at the four points you will see that … well let me just repeat them. That research itself, as [end p13] you know, is permitted by the Treaty. The Soviet Union will be doing research, the United States is doing research. The Soviet Union appears to have done some deployment on the anti-satellite capability and possibly others. If you go to deploying any further weapons in space in connection with the Strategic Defence Initiative, you could not do so without negotiating about that. But as I understand it at the moment, not only the United States will continue with research on the Strategic Defence Initiative, but the Soviet Union will be doing a good deal of research too. It seems to me that then both are in the same boat so far as doing research is concerned. But nevertheless, it still seems to me, as you are looking at it from the viewpoint of balance and not superiority, if both are doing research it is still not only legitimate but very very desirable indeed that both should still also say that they want the nuclear weaponry balance at a lower level than now, and therefore there should be good grounds for arranging the talks to discuss that. But as you know, there are many many things under the umbrella and I think it will take some time to decide what kind of fora those discussions shall take place in.

Question

But do you see that research—that specific research—as a bargaining point for the United States, given the Soviet concern? [end p14]

Prime Minister

No, research is outside the Treaty. Research is outside the Treaty. They may well discuss it, they may well not. I imagine the question will arise, but the research is not one-sided. The United States is researching, the Soviet Union has done research.

Question

Based on those same conversations with the Soviet and American leaders, do you have the impression that both sides are comfortable with the idea that they will be making concessions to each other in order to achieve these gains?

Prime Minister

But disarmament is about making concessions in return for concessions of an equal amount and that is just exactly why you do not make concessions without getting other concessions in return. But that is exactly what negotiations are about. I must have misunderstood your question somehow!

Question

Is there a feeling of trust between the two parties now, do you have a sense, having talked to them?

Prime Minister

I have a sense that there is a feeling on the side of the Soviet Union and of course, as you know, there is on the United States, that they would both like to have balance at a [end p15] lower level of weaponry.

These things are extremely expensive. There are a very large number of them, and I believe that the Soviet Union as well as the Western countries would like to devote more of their resources to a higher standard of living of their own peoples and therefore I think that there is a new opportunity at the moment and a fresh hope.

Question

By 1988 the Soviets will deploy an anti-missile shield based on beam weapons and I am asking you what advice will you have for the United States when the Soviets act from behind their defensive shield to demand the unconditional surrender of the US and the rest of the free world.

Prime Minister

But you are actually talking about strategic defence, are you not? And I am saying that once you deploy that has to be—or once you think of deploying—that has to be a matter for negotiation under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and also under weapons in space. So once you start to deploy, that must be a matter for negotiation.

I cannot predict what the results of those negotiations would be. The important thing is to go and negotiate under those circumstances. [end p16]

Question

Prime Minister, did Mr. Reagan agree with your view of nuclear treaties for the indefinite future and if he did agree it should definitely be allowed to last and also did he agree that members of the Western Alliance would have some direct participation in the negotiations you are talking about with the Soviet Union and would be required somewhere down the road to deploy …   . in other words, would you have a veto? Would you have any kind of direct say?

Prime Minister

No, we were not discussing the specific duration of particular treaties. I am pretty sure I am right because I looked it up before I came to the States, that the anti-ballistic missile section is, I think, of indefinite duration, but that is just a question of fact.

With regard to the West having direct participation in these talks, no, we did not discuss it. They will, of course, be between the Soviet Union and the United States. And if you then go on to ask about own independent nuclear deterrent, it only amounts to something like 3%; of the strategic missile component of the Soviet Union and it really is so small in proportion to the rest that we do not in fact come into the strategic missile talks.

Question

Prime Minister, in your talks on the world economy, were you encouraged to stimulate the British economy? [end p17]

Prime Minister

Well, the British economy has plenty of demand in it. Trade in the shops is at a very very high level and the problem is to see that a greater proportion of that demand is met from home production. Alternatively, to see that we get a greater proportion of the demand of other countries. There is certainly no shortage of overall demand in the British economy.

Question

Prime Minister, did President Reagan express any concern to you that perhaps not Great Britain, but other Western allies, either France or West Germany, are not behind him even in terms of research in Star Wars …   .

Prime Minister

No, we were not discussing the reaction of other Western allies. I do stress that what is being embarked upon at the moment is research. That is permitted by treaty. I can say to you that I have been very perturbed by some of the very—to some extent—misleading accounts that have appeared and to some extent confused, which is why I have deliberately tried to set out the view which was hammered out with Ronald Reaganthe President and agreed with him on the four points. So I think you now have got something which you cannot escape from, I hope! [end p18]

Question

As you say, there have been reports that the Western Alliance is not all behind Star Wars. Did the President express any concern to you about the need for a united front going into these talks in January?

Prime Minister

What do you call Star Wars and where did the expression come from? It is not star wars, if I might say so. It is research on strategic defence. I agree with going ahead on research for strategic defence.

Question

So there would be no talk of concern on the President's part that there was not a united Western front going into the talks?

Prime Minister

I think, if you approve of the concept of balance, you will have to go ahead with research on strategic defence, because otherwise the United States may get out of balance, in view of the anti-satellite capability of the Soviet Union—anti-satellite satellite capability of the Soviet Union—and the work which she is doing and, in particular, on the big radars and on one or two other things which have been mentioned. So if you agree with the concept of balance, the United States will have to go ahead with that research and so I think if we get it across that way there should be a pretty well united front. [end p19]

Question

Madam Prime Minister, would you share your views on this problem? Analysts here in Washington seem to feel that the northern flank of NATO is sort of weak, especially as we have another Europe now than forty years ago: your oil fields, the Norwegian oil fields, and so forth. There are gentlemen's agreements between Norway and the Soviet. Some people produced the idea to station some weapons into England. Could you share your view on that?

Prime Minister

Well, this is a matter for discussion among NATO. There has just been a NATO Ministerial Conference where I have no doubt that these matters were discussed. I think there is no reason to change the broad general strategy of NATO and whether or not there should be any shift from one front to another would be a matter for discussion by all countries there and now Peter Carrington is in charge I am very happy that such matters will be discussed.

Question

Mr. Gorbachev was quoted in this country as having said in England that it would be futile to have any arms controls without including a ban on weapons in space. How did you respond to him when he said this to you? [end p20]

Prime Minister

I cannot remember that particular comment, nor can I remember that it came up with me, but the answer is just exactly as I have given it to you: we are not seeking, in the West, superiority. We are being accused by the Soviet Union of seeking superiority; we are not. We are seeking balance.

If the Soviet Union's research and what she has done so far—and appears to be doing—goes ahead, it would give her superiority unless reflected by research on the side of the United States on behalf of the West.

Now, at the moment, therefore, we are in the research phase. We do not know what the result of that research will be, so we are not at the stage even of being able to design what you call “weapons in space” , let alone go into production. There are concepts; there are things which we know work on a basis of a very few tests, one of which you have seen.

If you start to design weapons, then obviously that becomes a matter for negotiation, but I am puzzled really, because I have said it so many times now that I find difficulty with understanding why you are asking the same question again and again. It is balance, so you have to do research. Research is permitted by treaties. If you go into weaponry it has to be negotiated with the other party to the treaties. [end p21]

Question

You said that you supported research for space weapons and deployment would have to be negotiated. A lot of people in this country think President Reagan supports both, research and deployment. Did he give you any indication that he would be opposed to the deployment of weapons at some point?

Prime Minister

Look! I agreed these four points with President Reagan Point number two says strategic defence initiative-related deployment would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiation.

Question

Did he indicate that he was opposed to deployment?

Prime Minister

Look! I discussed these four points with the President and he was quite happy that I should give these four points. Now, they are pretty clear. Do not make them fuzzy by putting a gloss on them! [end p22]

Question

Madam Prime Minister, can we trust the Russians on the matter of arms control?

Prime Minister

Well you have got to have—a word which I have not spoken about—you have got to have verification. It is not a question of trust; it is a question of being able to verify, and that is always a vital part of any treaty obligation. We must be able to verify it and discussion on methods of verification takes up a very large part of arms control negotiations.

Question

Yesterday, senior Administration Officials said your trip (very soft due to clicking cameras) … here was part of a series of consultations to make sure that the United States and its allies are on the same wavelength. Did you tell the President that the United States is on the same wavelength as its European allies?

Prime Minister

I have indicated that there is no difference on what you are most interested in, and as you know, I am always ready and anxious to come to the United States and talk matters over with Ronald Reaganthe President. I think it was particularly important at the moment, the beginning of a new term of office, and I hope to have a considerable amount of time left myself before going [end p23] for re-election. So I think we are on the same wavelength.

Question

This might sound a little repetitive!

Prime Minister

Well neither you nor I would be able to do very much without repetition, would we?

Question

You see, part of the problem is the President campaigned against almost all the major …   . agreements … and this Administration has not affirmed that it would not abandon in a certain situation some of those treaties. I am clear of your position. Your position is deployment of strategic defence initiative requires negotiation and the ABM treaty bears on it.

Do you have an impression—because apparently you do not have anything explicit—from the President that he will not abandon the ABM treaty, which a lot of people think is the lynchpin of arms control?

Prime Minister

I think you have the answer in Point 2. Strategic Defence Initiative-related deployment would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiation. Would you also look at, I think, the 31st of March message to Congress, in which I think you will find something similar there.