Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship
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An iconic friendship, an uneasy alliance—a revisionist account of the couple who ended the Cold War.
For decades historians have perpetuated the myth of a "Churchillian" relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, citing their longtime alliance as an example of the "special" bond between the United States and Britain. But, as Richard Aldous argues in this penetrating dual biography, Reagan and Thatcher clashed repeatedly—over the Falklands war, Grenada, and the SDI and nuclear weapons—while carefully cultivating a harmonious image for the public and the press. With the stakes enormously high, these political titans struggled to work together to confront the greatest threat of their time: the USSR.
Brilliantly reconstructing some of their most dramatic encounters, Aldous draws on recently declassified documents and extensive oral history to dismantle the popular conception of Reagan-Thatcher diplomacy. His startling conclusion—that the weakest link in the Atlantic Alliance of the 1980s was the association between the two principal actors—will mark an important contribution to our understanding of the twentieth century. 8 pages of black-and-white photographs
Minister official visit Dec. 1984, Box 91440, VIP visits, NSC Executive Secretariat, Ronald Reagan Library. 48 Sommer to Kimmitt, Dec. 3, 1984: Folder, UK Prime Minister official visit Dec. 1984, Box 91440, VIP visits, NSC Executive Secretariat, Ronald Reagan Library. 49 Meeting with Prime Minister Thatcher, Camp David, Dec. 22, 1984: MTF, docid=109185 (accessed Aug. 31, 2007). 50 Thatcher, Downing Street Years, p. 462. 51 Anderson and Anderson, Reagan’s Secret War, p. 193. 52 Barrass, Great
miles,” Thatcher retorted. She then launched into a tirade against the president, asking if he would like any Americans to live under a brutal dictatorship such as the Argentine junta, pointing out how long many of the families in the Falklands had lived there, and playing up the strategic importance of the islands. “What if the Panama canal were ever closed?” she asked. Then America would understand the value of this “bunch of land” in South Atlantic.7 Afterwards, Thatcher expressed herself
our slight surprise,” said Howe—word came from Charles Powell at No. 10 that the prime minister “had seen and approved” the text. All of which makes it difficult to explain why afterwards she was reported to be furious with her foreign secretary, and even phoned the White House to apologize to the president. Thatcher told Reagan that she had not been given sight of the speech before it was delivered—a statement of fact contradicted by Powell’s letter to Howe. Gossip flashed around Whitehall
leader must be worth talking to. But, McFarlane warned, if Thatcher now chose to say that the president’s nuclear strategy was a sell-out, the results would be disastrous for the president, and in turn for the Anglo-American relationship. “It was very good of you to come up to the embassy . . . for a talk,” Thatcher wrote to McFarlane afterwards, “and I found it extremely useful. I shall of course treat what you said with the greatest possible discretion.” McFarlane replied that he had given
indeed into our defense requirements more generally,” he told her. “We will look for ways to share our technological assets with you within the constraints of special bilateral agreements on sensitive technologies that we both hope will allow the UK to assume more rapidly a position of technological leadership in its various European cooperative development programs. We will be in contact with you in regard to both approaches in the near future.”7 This letter of November 4, 1985, coincided with