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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 28, July 1998

Remarks on Proliferation by Former UK Prime Minister Thatcher

Speech by Baroness Thatcher to the American Enterprise Institute Conference, 25 June 1998

"... North Korea remains a real menace: the Japanese believe that it is capable of firing nuclear warheads to hit their country and Pyongyang has certainly been selling ballistic missile technology with abandon. It is not surprising that, in such circumstances, with mighty China on its border, India should assert its claim to be a nuclear power - nor that, in view of long-standing rivalry, Pakistan should aspire to this as well. It is faintly absurd and hypocritical for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to react with such pained outrage to their tests.

It is arguable that possession of nuclear weapons makes all war, including conventional war, unthinkable: applying that to the relations between India, Pakistan and China, we might be tempted to welcome what has happened. But we don't need to welcome it, merely to react sensibly. Part of that is recognising that no amount of huffing and puffing about test bans and non-proliferation is going to stop major regional powers and possible future superpowers such as India also becoming nuclear powers.

I don't necessarily urge abandonment of all attempts to deal with proliferation by diplomacy: just that we should accept that success will at best be limited. The difficulty of trying to force Iraq to comply, even after a severe military defeat, should prove the wisdom of that observation. Our priorities should be to take all necessary measures to ensure that rogue States do not develop weapons of mass destruction, and to ensure that we have adequate ballistic missile defence systems greatly to reduce the threat of strikes by these powers. ...

The single most important lesson of developments in Asia, as elsewhere, is stark: it is that there is no new world order and that the world now is more similar to that of the Cold War than liberal optimists expected. True, there is no global confrontation between two opposing superpowers, economic systems, social models and political ideologies. But the risks themselves are not so different - risks of unsound economic policies that undermine prosperity, risks of government intervention that diminish liberty and, most of all, risks of military unpreparedness that leave us vulnerable at best to blackmail and at worst to annihilation.

In fact, the world is the kind of place in which conservatives are still needed."

Source: The Daily Telegraph, 26 June 1998; extracts available on the Government of India web-site, http://www.indiagov.org/govt/thatcher.htm

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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