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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid