Commentary (Sunday Times)

Cold War: "Thatcher wins Reagan pledge to sell Trident" (Camp David meeting)

Document type: Press
Source: Sunday Times , 16 November 1986
Journalist: Jon Connell, Sunday Times
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 441 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Edition 1
SUN 16 NOV 1986

Thatcher wins Reagan pledge to sell Trident


IN THREE hours of talks with Mrs Thatcher yesterday President Reagan strongly reaffirmed America's intention to sell Britain the sophisticated new Trident submarine-based missile system as a replacement for Britain's existing Polaris deterrent.

During their meeting at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland, the two leaders also agreed that priority should now be given to negotiating a Euromissile agreement with the Russians. Such a deal would have to include restraints on short range nuclear weapons as well as on medium range ones such as cruise, Pershing-2 and the Soviet SS20.

The meeting between the two leaders was dominated by East-West issues, principally arms control. In a short communique issued before Mrs Thatcher left to return to London, the president and prime minister set out three arms control goals.

The first was a Euromissile accord. The second was 'a 50% cut over five years in US and Soviet offensive strategic weapons'. The third was a ban on chemical weapons. In all three cases, they said proper verification would be essential.

Significantly, the communique also made clear that Nato's strategy of flexible response would continue to require effective nuclear deterrents 'based on a mix of systems' and that at the same time reductions in nuclear weapons 'would increase the importance of eliminating conventional disparties (between Nato and the Warsaw pact). 'Nuclear weapons cannot be dealt with in isolation,' it said, 'given the need for a stable overall balance at all times. '

Pointedly absent from the communique was any reference to Reagan 's proposal - made at his summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, in Iceland last month - that all ballistic missiles should be scrapped within 10 years. Thatcher is known to be unhappy this proposal.

An important reason for her unhappiness is the doubt it had appeared to cast on the US commitment to sell the Trident system to Britain. Neil Kinnock, the leader of the opposition, has suggested that in view of Reagan 's proposal to scrap ballistic missiles, the British government should rethink its commitment to Trident.

The communique also implied Mrs Thatcher 's continuing support for Reagan 's star wars programme, suggesting that America should continue research under the terms of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Other subjects appear to have taken up little time during the meeting, however Thatcher welcomed the American decision to impose sanctions on Syria for its involvement in terrorism.