Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Burt briefing for Shultz (Thatcher visit) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: State Department, Washington D.C.
Source: Reagan Library: European & Soviet Directorate, NSC: Records (Thatcher Visit - Dec 84 [1] Box 90902)
Editorial comments: The memo is undated; assigned by editor to 19 December.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 815 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Transport, MT contacts with Ronald Reagan

Declassified F97-013#18
By SMF, NARA, Date 5/12/00

United States Department of State
Washington D.C.


TO: The Secretary [George Shultz]
THROUGH: P – Michael Armacost
FROM: EUR – Richard Burt
SUBJECT: Visit of Prime Minister Thatcher to Washington, December 22, 1984


The President last met with Mrs. Thatcher in June in London. You saw Mrs. Thatcher in Delhi.

Thatcher’s position on the British domestic political scene remains secure, but the scene below the top is far from calm. As one British politician warned, big majorities make for big rebellions. The Tory back benchers have revolved over a number of issues blocking Ministers’ proposals on overseas aid levels and a third international airport at Stansted. There has been substantial grumbling from all levels in the Party about what they perceive as Thatcher’s lack of action on unemployment. But Tory rebels change alliances according to issues so that no cabal is solidifying.

The Labor Party is tearing itself apart over the miners’ strike with both leftists and moderates complaining over Kinnock’s positions. Labor is sliding in the opinion polls and Kinnock has fallen worse than the party as a whole.

The Social Democrats continue to win by-elections, with David Owen their primary national figure.

None of this threatens Thatcher, who has a 140 seat majority and no obligation to call a general election before 1987. [sic] Thatcher’s government is widely although grudgingly respected for its resolution. It has recently chalked up notable foreign policy successes, but the miners’ strike, intractable unemployment rates and limp economic perfomance keep the political adrenalin flowing.

The bilateral political relationship has been relatively tranquil. Our extensive consultations on a wide variety of political and military topics, eg, Middle East, US licenses for arms sales to Argentina, terrorism, southern Africa, and GLCM [Ground-launched Cruise Missile] dispersal training, seem to be working. [end p1]

The discussions at Camp David offer a welcome opportunity for an exchange of views on the East-West relationship and arms control issues. We will want to hear Mrs. Thatcher’s read-out of her December 14 talks with Gorbachev, which dealt at length with arms control issues. For our part, we will want to inform Mrs. Thatcher of our plans for the Geneva talks. Mrs. Thatcher is generally supportive on arms control issues, but has expressed reservations on SDI, implying it will mean a new round in the arms race. London reports that press accounts of her meeting with Gorbachev exaggerated her criticism of SDI. If the Prime Minister returns in February for a longer meeting, we would have time for a more detailed discussion of the issues.

Economic issues remain the chronic irritant in the bilateral relationship. Regarding extraterritoriality, there is one bright spot. In November Secretary Baldridge and Secretary of Trade and Industry Tebbit exchanged letters on an export control agreement which was a priority goal for HMG. The “Dam Rifkind” channel seems to be working to the extent that the British feel that they have established contacts which allow them to voice their concerns on some extraterritoriality issues.

As always, civil aviation is the source of our most bitter differences. Almost two years of consultations on Laker antitrust issues culminated on November 16 in the President’s decision that the Department of Justice should close its Grand Jury investigation of alleged criminal antitrust violns in connection with the Laker Airlines bankruptcy. Since that time, the highest levels of the Department and Ambassador Price have pressed British ministers to take some positive steps to liberalize the current civil aviation regime. The British have been singularly unhelpful, refusing to move unless the USG is willing to make a commitment to seek removal of private remedies from the Clayton Act. Given the probably climate in Congress following the President’s decision on the Laker investigation, the USG could make no such commitment. The President is now politically vulnerable on the issue and British policymakers appear unwilling to take any liberalizing actions to help.


-- Stress continued close links with HMG at the beginning of the President’s second administration.
-- Exchange views on East-West relations and related arms control issues.
-- Convince the Prime Minister of the need for HMG to liberalize the civil aviation regime.
-- Review the global economic outlook.
-- Discuss possibility of HMG action on terrorism.
-- Raise US concerns about Northern Ireland.