TUE 05 DEC 1989
Democracy 'must take root for decade'
FROM PETER STOTHARD AND MICHAEL BINYON, BRUSSELS OVERSEAS NEWS
Mrs Thatcher warned Nato leaders yesterday that there should be no change in the borders of Eastern Europe until democracy had taken a firm hold for at least 10 years.
The Prime Minister, addressing the Nato Council shortly after President Bush reported on his meetings with Mr Gorbachov, agreed with the conclusion of the Malta summit that it was essential to maintain both the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact to provide a stable framework to change in Europe. Mrs Thatcher, noting the turmoil in Eastern Europe since the last Nato summit in May, said that no one could foretell how things would develop in the future. The newly emerging democracies in Eastern Europe would need time to overcome the enormous difficulties of economic and political reform. Only after 10-15 years of stable democracy there might the West ``be able to look at other possibilities''.
She made it clear that German reunification was not on the cards for a long time, and took note of the remarks to the Council by Herr Helmut Kohl, the West German Chancellor, that the German question could not be decided in isolation from the rest of Europe.
She insisted the West should do nothing to destabilize the Warsaw Pact. This would only cause huge difficulties for President Gorbachov, who was inspiring everything now happening in Eastern Europe. But she said Nato also had a vital role to play. It was a ``winning concept'', and the continued presence of US and Canadian troops in Europe was ``absolutely vital''. Nato should not cut its forces without allied consultation.
Mrs Thatcher called on her fellow leaders to do everything possible to support the changes in Eastern Europe. But she said those countries should not expect too much and, a few days after her meeting with Mr Lech Walesa, the Polish Solidarity leader, she gave a clear hint that many East Europeans had greater expectations of Western help than the West could provide.
However, she endorsed President Bush's commitment in Malta to help bring the Soviet Union into the world economy, giving her warmest support yet to the need to help the Kremlin transform the Soviet Union after 70 years of centralized control.
The West should, for example, welcome Moscow into international forums on the environment. But it should take care in changing the restrictions of Cocom (the Co-ordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls) on the sale of high technology. The West must guard its ``most cherished scientific achievements''. She said that no one should underestimate the difficulties of countries such as the Soviet Union and China in moving into a market economy.
The generally amicable session apparently did not discuss in detail the contentious issue of short-range nuclear modernization, or further conventional cuts beyond the current proposals on Conventional Forces in Europe. The Prime Minister hoped for agreements on conventional and strategic nuclear forces, but said that signing treaties was not the same as implementing them. She accused the Soviet Union of not building a promised plant for the destruction of chemical weapons.
The session also did not go into detail on Herr Kohl's proposal for eventual German reunification.