Gorby VS Thatcher: How the USSR charmed Iron Lady
Updated: 2014-01-03 09:43
For over three hours, Gorbachev, at one point brandishing at Thatcher a full-page diagram from the New York Times showing the fire-power of the superpowers' nuclear arsenals, laid out the horrors of a nuclear winter to a distinctly combative Thatcher.
Citing an obscure Russian proverb, Gorbachev told Thatcher: "Once in a year, even an unloaded gun can go off."
Thatcher countered that she believed nuclear weapons were a deterrent and that Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars", was an expression of his "dream" of peace.
Gorbachev was adamant that despite no summit between an American president and a Soviet Communist Party general secretary since Jimmy Carter met Leonid Brezhnev in 1979, the Kremlin had decided to give priority to the "loftier ideal" of peace at talks to be held in 1985.
But Thatcher, who died last year at the age of 87, told Reagan she was impressed by his sharp personality, his willingness to debate and his possibly even sharper wife.
"His wife is far from being the usual Soviet woman," Thatcher's private secretary, Charles Powell, wrote in a note to the then US Secretary of State George Shultz.
"Her Doctorate of Philosophy could not conceal a forthcoming and attractive personality with a surprisingly wide knowledge of classical modern and English literature."
Reagan and Gorbachev, who was made Soviet leader on 11 March 1985, met for the first time on November 19, 1985 in Geneva.
After the discussion with Gorbachev, Thatcher went to China for talks about Hong Kong but aides were bemused when Gorbachev, still on his visit, turned up at Downing Street unannounced requesting to see the famous black door of Number 10.
The future leader of the Soviet Union managed to get into the front lobby, but left "reportedly in good humor" before any of Thatcher's private secretaries turned up.