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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session Following Discussions With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London


The President. Let me just thank the Prime Minister on behalf of our entire traveling squad. She and I talked in detail about a wide array of issues. I want to thank her, and I want to assert here that the special relationship that has existed between the United Kingdom and the United States is continuing and will continue. And once again, Madam Prime Minister, my sincere thanks to you for a very encouraging and frank exchange that we had. It's only with friends that you can take off the gloves and talk from the heart. And I felt that I was with a friend today, and I can assure the people in the United Kingdom that, from our side of the Atlantic, this relationship is strong and will continue to be.

The Prime Minister. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Ladies and gentlemen, the President comes here after a very, very successful NATO summit due to the leadership of the United States under the Presidency of George Bush. We talked about the followup to these matters. We talked also about the very difficult situation in the Middle East. We talked about the situation in China. We talked about matters in South Africa. And we have talked about matters in the Argentine and in Central America.

And so, I think you'll agree we have covered an extremely wide range of subjects, and yet the morning has been too short. We spoke together for about an hour and three-quarters and then joined our foreign ministers and Mr. Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs]. And they, too, had considered some of these matters and others. We then also talked about the problems in Cambodia and the problems with the Vietnamese boat people still going to Hong Kong.

So, you can see that we have compressed a great deal into the time. We think very much the same way, which isn't surprising. And we're absolutely delighted that we have in President Bush a President of the United States who is staunch and steadfast on everything which is of fundamental value to democracy, freedom, and justice -- necessary to keep our country secure, and yet forever stretching out the hand of friendship with other nations across the European divide, trying to extend to the world some of the benefits which we enjoy but take for granted.

We are in a period when -- as the President has said in some of his most excellent speeches -- it's the end of containment. It's freedom on the offensive -- a peaceful offensive -- throughout the world. I think they have been some of the most valuable and happy talks I've had for a very long time, and we thank and congratulate the President.

Q. Mrs. Thatcher -- --

Q. Mrs. Prime Minister -- --

The Prime Minister. No, no, now, one at a time.

Q. All right, Mrs. Thatcher, can I ask, first of all -- --

The Prime Minister. One moment. You question me frequently. What about the President?

European-U.S. Relations

Q. Well, perhaps I can ask both of you: Is Britain America's most important ally in Europe?

The Prime Minister. I think you might put it more tactfully. [Laughter] America has allies throughout Europe and throughout the free world. I would like to think that we pride ourselves of being among the foremost of United States friends, and we will always be. I think it's quite wrong that because you have one friend you should exclude the possibility of other friendships as well. And I'm sure the President doesn't, and I don't. We both have many friends in Europe.

The President. Very good answer.

Q. Mr. Bush, can I ask you: Do you think that West Germany and France will increasingly share the spotlight in the so-called special relationship you have with Mrs. Thatcher?

The President. I think that the special relationship that I referred to in my opening remarks speaks for itself. And I think the remarks that the Prime Minister just made about U.K.'s propensity for friendship with other nations and the United States' friendship with other nations -- those remarks speak for themselves. And so, I would simply say I expect this relationship to continue on the steady keel because it is so fundamentally based on common values. And the NATO alliance, for example, is not going to divide up into inside cliques of who is the closest friend to whom.

But the point I want to make here is that I value the judgment, the conviction, the principled stance of Prime Minister Thatcher. I've been privileged to know her and work with her in a -- for me, a lesser capacity, for 8 years. And this visit alone -- as we crossed many, many borders and discussed the problems -- reassures me and just reaffirms what I've always felt: that we have a very, very special relationship. But it needn't be at the expense of our friendship with other countries.

The Prime Minister. Just one more. That's the other television channel. One more.

Eastern Europe

Q. Mr. Bush, what exactly can Britain do to bring about this further freedom in Eastern Europe that you said you want to see?

The President. Well, they've already done one step, and that is to help NATO come out with a very sound proposal. I can tell you that the Prime Minister and her able Foreign Minister [Sir Geoffrey Howe] helped shape this whole NATO proposal, which both of us think is a very forward-looking document, adhering to principles. So, it's not a question of the future; they've already performed, since I've been here in the last few days, a very useful role. And there are many other areas where, just on bilateral basis, that I'm sure the United Kingdom can influence and encourage this trend to democracy that the Prime Minister referred to -- many other areas. The U.K. is widely respected in Eastern Europe.

The Prime Minister. Thank you. I think Mrs. Bush awaits. No, that was the last question. Thank you for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 12:40 p.m. at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's residence. Prior to their remarks, the President and the Prime Minister participated in a bilateral meeting with U.S. and British officials.

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