News / Europe

Among Experts, Thatcher a Towering Cold War Figure

Mikhail Gorbachev, then Soviet Politburo member, with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, Buckinghamshire, England, March 11, 1985.Mikhail Gorbachev, then Soviet Politburo member, with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, Buckinghamshire, England, March 11, 1985.
x
Mikhail Gorbachev, then Soviet Politburo member, with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, Buckinghamshire, England, March 11, 1985.
Mikhail Gorbachev, then Soviet Politburo member, with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, Buckinghamshire, England, March 11, 1985.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, experts say, will best be remembered for the tough free-market economic measures she undertook during her 11 years in office [1979-90] — measures that can only be described as bringing an economic revolution in Britain.
 
But Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, also played an important role on the international stage, especially at a time of Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the West.
 
Tim Bale, a British historian of the Conservative Party, said Thatcher was the first Western leader to realize that Mikhail Gorbachev might be a different kind of Soviet politician.
 
Greeting Gorbachev
 
“When she first came in in 1979, she took a very, very strong anti-communist attitude and really didn’t want anything to do with the Soviet leadership,” said Bale. “But she recognized very early on that Mikhail Gorbachev was something different. And to her credit, she pursued the relationship with him, even when some people thought she was perhaps being naively taken in.”
 
In December 1984 — three months before Gorbachev became the Soviet leader — he was in London as the head of a parliamentary delegation. He was invited to meet Margaret Thatcher, who later said “this is a man we can do business with.”
 
Stephen Jones, a Russia expert at Mount Holyoke College, says those words were critical.
 
“I just actually was reviewing an article that Gorbachev wrote, an obituary of Margaret Thatcher, in which he said that phrase actually helped him in terms of getting some greater credibility with Western leaders,” said Bale. “If Margaret Thatcher could deal with him, then the rest of the European leadership, and of course the American leadership, could deal with him too. So that was quite an important step in preparing the world for Mikhail Gorbachev.”
 
A bond with Reagan
 
Thatcher also had a very close relationship with President Ronald Reagan. They were, as some experts described them “politically kindred spirits.”

  • Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took a moment for thought during a press conference in central London, June 10, 1987.
  • Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand posed for the media after a meeting about nuclear arms control at the Chateau de Benouville in Normandy, western France, March 23, 1987.
  • Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pointed a finger as she answers questions at a news conference in London, June 8, 1987.
  • Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met with President Ronald Reagan during a visit to the White House, Feb. 20, 1985
  • Then President Ronald Reagan chatted with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during State Arrival Ceremonies at the White House, Feb. 26, 1981.
  • Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher left the Castle lane, Westminster, London polling station with her husband, Dennis, after casting their votes in the general election, June 9, 1983.
  • Margaret Thatcher made a statement to reporters as Denis Thatcher listens, as she left No. 10 Downing Street, Westminster for Buckingham Palace to resign as prime minister, Nov. 28, 1990.
  • Britain's Baroness Thatcher read the order of service surrounded by empty seats as she waited for Queen Elizabeth to deliver her speech at the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, Nov. 13, 2002.
  • Then Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto met with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 24, 1996.
  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Falklands veterans took part in a march in London, during a service to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands conflict, June 17, 2007.
  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gestured to members of the media as she stands on her house doorstep, following her return home from hospital, in central London, June 29, 2009.
  • Former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher waits to greet then Pope Benedict at Westminster Hall in London, Sept. 17, 2010.

Richard Allen, former National Security Adviser under President Reagan, met her numerous times.
 
“I consider her to be one of the most remarkable people of the century. She was a thoroughly dedicated, highly intelligent, principled person whom most Americans admired greatly. She was cordial, serious — always serious. And those were reasons that Ronald Reagan was attracted, across the board, to her domestic thinking as well as her foreign policy thinking.”
 
“Hand in hand with Ronald Reagan," said historian Bale, "she was very instrumental in upping the spending on arms that eventually bankrupted the Soviet Union and forced it to withdraw from its empire in Central and Eastern Europe and then eventually, of course, implode itself.”
 
German reunification
 
While seeing eye to eye with Reagan on how to deal with the Soviet Union, Thatcher disagreed with President George H.W. Bush on German reunification.
 
Retired General Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s National Security Adviser, said, “We and [West German Chancellor] Helmut Kohl and most of the Germans were the only ones who really wanted German reunification. The Soviet Union didn’t want it. The French didn’t want it. And the British, Margaret Thatcher said: ‘I like Germany so much I think there ought to be two of them.’ This was a balancing act to manage the process, ending up in German reunification where most of the world’s powers were not in favor of it.”
 
Robert Legvold of Columbia University says Thatcher had concerns about how powerful Germany could become within Europe.
 
“The Germans knew that both the British and the French were nervous about the prospect of German reunification, but she wasn’t digging in her heels in on that,” said Legvold. “And when the process moved almost of its own speed and course, she’s not somebody who tried to stick a stick in the spokes of that wheel.”
 
Experts agree that Thatcher was a towering leader of the 20th century — and, as the Financial Times said, she “remains the figure against whom all subsequent British politicians should be measured.”

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
April 11, 2013 3:47 PM
How about investigating reports received of her slush fund - keep your money in there for 5 years and you don't pay any tax on it. Also mentioned was 3 million pounds she salted away in Lichtenstein and when found out she said that if she is not supposed to have that money she will pay it back.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More