Primary Sources

Margaret Thatcher's Views on Mikhail Gorbachev


In 1984, British journalist John Cole interviewed Great Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev. The interview took place shortly before Thatcher met with current U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Soviet observers had raised the possibility that Gorbachev might become the next head of the Communist Party and Premiere of the Soviet Union. Margaret Thatcher's assessment of Gorbachev became international news, a first opinion of this future key figure. When Margaret Thatcher stated that she "could do business together" with Gorbachev, she was attempting to influence both the United States and the Soviet Union. For the United States, it was a subtle rebuke of President Reagan's vocal attacks on the Soviet Union that had been making news in an election year. Her further comments on the possible role for Great Britain concerning the ongoing disarmament talks was another attempt to guide U.S. foreign policy. For the Soviet Union, Thatcher's praise of Gorbachev was an attempt to influence the choice of a successor for the current President, Konstantin Chernenko. This one interview demonstrates Britain's attempt to influence the potential end of Cold War hostilities.


Margaret Thatcher, interview by John Cole, Margaret Thatcher Foundation, Archive, Thatcher Foundation (accessed September 21, 2006).

Primary Source—Excerpt

John Cole

[Summary of question] Does meeting Gorbachev, make you more optimistic or less regarding detente and world peace next year?

Prime Minister

I am cautiously optimistic. I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together. We both believe in our own political systems. He firmly believes in his; I firmly believe in mine. We are never going to change one another. So that is not in doubt, but we have two great interests in common: that we should both do everything we can to see that war never starts again, and therefore we go into the disarmament talks determined to make them succeed. And secondly, I think we both believe that they are the more likely to succeed if we can build up confidence in one another and trust in one another about each other's approach, and therefore, we believe in cooperating on trade matters, on cultural matters, on quite a lot of contacts between politicians from the two sides of the divide.

John Cole

[Summary of question] Gorbachev spoken of as possible successor to Chernenko, more flexible and, in Soviet terms, liberal. Did you form that view of him?

Prime Minister

[Mikhail Gorbachev] He was very ready to enter into full, detailed discussion; not to stick to prepared statements. So we had a genuine discussion. As a matter of fact, I also had a genuine discussion with Mr. Chernenko , President Chernenko , when I visited Moscow in February last year, and I also got on very well with President Chernenko , so the two things, really, were very very well worthwhile doing and I am very pleased he is here, and I hope he has an extremely successful visit.

How to Cite this Source

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "Margaret Thatcher's Views on Mikhail Gorbachev," Making the History of 1989, Item #5, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:24 pm).

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