The second thing Thatcher told Gorbachev, according to the transcript, was: “A destabilization of Eastern Europe and breakdown of the Warsaw Pact are also not in our interests.” Why might she have said this? Why would not say instead, “We are fomenting the destruction of the Warsaw Pact in the hope of swiftly burying you?” For the answer, recall that in September 1989, no one imagined that within two months, the Iron Curtain would dissolve without a drop of blood.
Much more easily envisioned was a Soviet crackdown and a brutal bloodletting, which had happened, within living memory, in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and which the Chinese had just perpetrated months before in Tiananmen Square. Reasonable observers were worried that East German leader Erich Honecker was about to massacre thousands of people on the streets of Leipzig and Dresdena step for which Honecker was preparing by stockpiling body bags. It was equally reasonable to fear that Gorbachev was on the verge of sending in Soviet troops. The transcript suggests that Thatcher’s goal was to reassure.
A cop facing a panicked criminal with a loaded gun and a room full of hostages is surely better off saying, “We do not plan to kill you, so stay calm” than “We want you dead, so you better shoot your way out of here.” Thatcher’s goal, at such a meeting, would have been to buy time and do what she could to keep the Soviets from panicking. No responsible politician would have told Gorbachev that she was praying for the destruction of the Warsaw Pact, particularly at a private, high-level diplomatic meeting. It would have been an idiotic provocation.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.