Primary Sources

Prime Minister Thatcher addresses Mikhail Gorbachev

Description

This speech was delivered by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on June 8, 1990. In her speech, she articulated two main points: one that expressed her support for continued reform and another that affirmed her support for a unified German state (something she was initially hesitant to support). When addressing the issue of reform inside the Soviet Union, Thatcher welcomed the new Soviet constitution that established a new relationship between the republics and the central government, a relationship based on consent.

During the summer of 1990 another major event taking place in the realm of East-West relations was the Two-Plus-Four Talks in Ottawa, Canada. Among the Western leaders, Thatcher had always been the most hesitant to support immediate German unification. However, as the talks in Ottawa progressed, she and her government slowly shifted their support in favor of rapid unification. Helmut Kohl would speak of the "window of opportunity" that he feared might close if there was further unrest in the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev were to be replaced. In the course of the Ottawa talks, provisions were made for the united Germany to remain a part of NATO, a detail that, for Britain and others, secured oversight of the German military and reduced fears that Germany could once again pose a military threat in the heart of Europe. Within this context, Thatcher's support of German unification as she addressed the Soviet audience was meant to reassure the Soviet Union that their fears and security needs would be respected but that German unification was moving forward.

Source

Margaret Thatcher. "Speech at dinner given by Soviet President (Mikhail Gorbachev)," speech, Lenin Hills, Moscow, Soviet Union, June 8, 1990, Margaret Thatcher Foundation, Archive, Thatcher Foundation (accessed May 15, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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Your country has chosen an historic new path for the future: — A new constitutional relationship between the republics and the central government based on consent;[fo 3]— A new political structure, based on multi-party democracy; — A new economic policy, based on the market. Any one of these three changes would be startling, seen against the legacy of the past. Taken together they are really remarkable.

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The difficulties lie not in economics, for given time those are soluble, but in whether there is the spirit to win through. And I wonder if you know, Mr. President, how many well-wishers you have the world over, willing you and your people to succeed. Nationalities You have also accepted a major challenge in devolving more powers to the republics and creating a new relationship between them, one which more fully represents the strong national traditions of each.

As you know, Britain has never recognised de jure the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. We have always supported self-determination for them.

My understanding is that the Soviet Union also supports that principle. So, there being no difference in principle, it really should be possible to resolve the practical problems arising from the present situation in the Baltic States through discussion.

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Mr. President, the consequences of Germany's unification are very high up the international agenda, as they were at your meeting with President Bush. No country is more entitled to assurance, and re-assurance, about the future of Germany than the Soviet Union.

I recall that Mr. Shevardnadze recently said that war must never again arise from German soil. We all want to be sure of that, the German people included. And the best guarantee we can have is that the German people have chosen to unite within a framework of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

None of us dispute that there will need to be arrangements to take account of particular Soviet security concerns. But I believe we must also look at the issue in the wider perspective of Europe's future: a future based not on division into rigid blocs, but one which seeks constantly to enlarge the area of freedom and democracy.

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All this indicates the magnitude of the changes are taking place and how far we have already moved away from the atmosphere of fear, suspicion and confrontation to which we had become accustomed.[fo 10] We must now aim also to strengthen the CSCE as the body in which all thirty-five of us, including the United States and yourselves, come together to discuss Europe's future security and the way ahead.

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Mr President, this is a time of great and positive change: in your country, in the relationship between our two countries, in Europe as a whole, and in the world beyond.

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How to Cite this Source

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "Prime Minister Thatcher addresses Mikhail Gorbachev," Making the History of 1989, Item #73, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/73 (accessed April 24 2014, 8:10 am).

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