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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora