This interview is excerpted from Commanding Heights
, a companion Website to the PBS documentary of the same name. Here, Shultz discusses British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s role in ending the Cold War.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
The Special Relationship
“The special relationship between America and Britain was going to be stronger than ever, I felt, because it was flanked by the Reagan -Thatcher personal relationship, which was as close as any imaginable between two major leaders. As for me, I felt that the best way to get along with this indomitable leader was to know what I was talking about, to talk up, and to talk back. Thatcher's best points were often made in the course of vigorous debate. I enjoyed and admired her and looked forward to productive work together.” – George Shultz
Read more on the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States at the Thatcher Foundation Website.
Interviewer: President Reagan is correctly credited in a way with "ending the Cold War." How much credit does Mrs. Thatcher get in the 1980s, helping to end the Cold War?
George Shultz: Winning the Cold War, bringing it to a successful conclusion was the result of a lot of effort sustained over a long period, and Ronald Reagan played an important part. But the policy of containment and the realization that there was a Cold War that had to be fought, happened in [the time of] Truman and Churchill and people of that era. The doctrine of containment evolved, NATO was created, and the Berlin airlift was one of the magnificent moments in this history. So there was a long history and I think it's not proper to say that Reagan won the Cold War, but he was very much a part of this process. And I think he was probably the most articulate enthusiastic advocate on the idea level and in his time implemented the strategy of strength to contain, probably more effectively than ever.
Interviewer: And how much credit would you give Mrs. Thatcher for that?
George Shultz: Well, she was right there with him on the ideological level. She led Britain to its contribution, and that contribution was strength. She deployed cruise missiles and it was a controversial issue there.
And I think there was also the impact of the Falklands, in a kind of interesting way, beyond the significance of the immediate battle. What it must have showed to the Soviets as they scratched their heads and they saw that here was a democracy that went to war to protect the freedom of people who lived 1,000 miles away on a little island. Now what does that tell you? There's some spirit there. There's something there that goes beyond just pursuing self-interest, something broader.
So I think in her successful conduct of the Falklands War she made a big point that went beyond the Falklands itself.