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The Special Relationship: Past, Present and Future

thatcher-reagan
The history of the Special relationship, from Churchill to Thatcher and beyond

Henry A. Kissinger writes:  The challenge that we have come together to discuss is how America and the Western world can find a sense of direction at a moment when they are confronted by revolutions on many continents. And as they navigate this issue, our public needs to have a sense that its leaders are devoted to peace, and our adversaries have to know that there is a line they cannot cross except at extreme peril: To combine these two is the key challenge.

But before we make a few remarks about that, let me say a few things about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I knew both of them for many decades, and I used to brief Reagan for President Nixon every month on international development. I remember during the 1973 war, I told him we had a problem. We wanted to help Israel with resupply, but we wanted to do it on the basis of criteria that were not too provocative to those Arabs that had not yet joined the war. So Reagan said, “I have a suggestion. Tell them you will replace all the planes that the Egyptians had said they have shot down.” That would have tripled the Israeli air force, and the Egyptian air force at that time was renowned for never getting anywhere close to an Israeli target.

I had moderately frequent contact with Reagan when he was President. He was exactly the right man for those times. He knew how to navigate between the two poles that I described: defining the limits beyond which the Soviets would not be permitted to go, but, at the same time, laying down perspectives for peace around which people could rally. It was, after all, Reagan who proposed the abandonment of all nuclear weapons at the Reykjavík Summit, but the one weapon he wouldn’t give up at the Reykjavík Summit was the Strategic Defense Initiative because he wanted to be protected against Soviet violations.

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