Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Select Correspondences 1981-1988 | Title | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Select Correspondences 1981-1988

(Unless otherwise noted, the following documents were found at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the Head of State files for the United Kingdom.)


The relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher remains one of intrigue and envy. Were they political rivals or political kindred? Was their "special relationship" really special? If so, how should historians explain their bitter differences over nuclear arms reductions proposals and the Strategic Defense Initiative? 

The following selected correspondences between Reagan and Thatcher shed some light on these important questions. The letters show, as in the case of Reagan's decision to invade Grenada, that their "special relationship" did not mean Reagan would, as he promised the prime minister, inform her before he decided to take action against Grenada. But in other cases, like the Falklands crisis, the letters show that despite Reagan's efforts to remain neutral, he privately assured the prime minister that when push came to shove he would always be on her side. As Reagan and Thatcher entered into their second terms, the leaders also differed on their approach to arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. Whereas Reagan pushed for a zero-option, Thatcher was worried that his calls for doing so would jeopardize her chances of securing important defense funding.

These letters only tell part of the story. For further readings I suggest Richard Aldous's "Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship," as well as Nicholas Washpott's "Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage." The Reagan Files has also published an extensive document set on The Falklands Crisis.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation also has a comprehensive website that is frequently updated with the latest releases from the Thatcher files in Great Britain. 


    Reagan-Thatcher Select Correspondences, 1981-1988


October 19, 1981: Letter: Thatcher to Reagan (Strategic Forces Modernization) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8106581- 8200891) box 35.

December 1, 1981: Reagan to Thatcher (the Middle East) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8106458) box 35.

 December 22, 1981: Thatcher to Reagan (Poland) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8106581-8200891) box 35.

January 29, 1982: Cable from Haig to Reagan re meeting with MT on Sanctions Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: 8106581-8200891) box 35.

February 10, 1982: MT to RR re invitation to stay with the Queen. Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:(8106581-8200891)box 35.

June 18, 1982: Reagan letter to Thatcher re Falklands Islands dispute.  Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: 8290407-8390524.

June 18, 1982: Reagan to Thatcher re Lebanon. 

The letter has "recalled" typed at the top of it, suggesting that Thatcher never received this letter. Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:(8290407-8390524).

 March 7, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher re the Middle East. 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8207592-8300964) box 35.

March 29, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher re Arab Delegation 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:(8301952-8303361) box 35.

May 9, 1983: Thatcher to Reagan re rescheduling.

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: 8390604-8390605. Box 36.

May 9, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher re "Economic Summit."

This letter and accompanying material was made public by the Thatcher MSS. The link is to the Thatcher MSS site. 

May 10, 1983: Letter from Reagan to Thatcher re attendance at the Economic Summit. 

This letter and accompanying material was made public by the Thatcher MSS. The link is to the Thatcher MSS site. 

May 10, 1983: Letter from Thather to Reagan re proposed language for announcement of U.K. veto over launch of nuclear weapons from the U.K.

This top-secret letter is still classified. The summary of the letter comes from a memo White House National Security Adviser William Clark prepared for President Reagan. In the memo Clark wrote that Thathcer "asked your permission to say that 'no nuclear weapons would be fired or launched from British territory without the British Prime Miniser's agreement.' In your reply, you gave your permission for her to use that formulation. You said that U.S. spokesmen would confirm her statement." Clark concluded, "If you are asked in public about  the arrangements for the control of nuclear weapons in any NATO country, it is best to say that procedures have been agreed which are satisfactory to both the United States and the European countries, and these procedures protect both teh sovereignty and security requirements of all the NATO countries."

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8390604-8390605) box 36.

June 2, 1983: Thatcher to Reagan thanking him for his hospitatlity at the Williamsburg Summit.

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8303925-8305274) box 35.

June 20, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher. 

President Reagan prepared this letter for Secretary of Defense Weinberger to deliver to her on his trip to the U.K. during which he will announce American willingness to reduce nuclear weapons. President Reagan also uses the letter to congratualte Thatcher on her reelection, and to urge her to continue strict export controls on highly sensitve technologies to the Soviet Union that the Soviet's would use to modernize their military.

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8303925-8305274) box 35.

June 29, 1983: Thatcher to Reagan

This letter is a response to Reagan's letter of June 20. Thatche uses this short letter to tell Reagan that she is in complete agreement with his call to maintain strong export controls on highly sensitive military technologies to the Soviet Union. Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8303925-8305274) box 35.

August 4, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Belize).  

President Reagan uses this letter to urge Prime Minister Thatcher to not prematurely remove British forces from Belize as Reagan argues doing so, before negotiations with Guatemala could be concluded, would negatively influence the outcome of those negotiations. Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8303925-8305274) box 35.

October 23, 1983: Thatcher to Reagan (Lebanon).

In this short letter Prime Minister Thatcher "deplores" the terrorist incident in Lebanon. The letter was originally released at the Thatcher MSS, and the link is to their website.

October 23, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Lebanon)

In this short letter Reagan informs Thatcher that the United States is still committed to the peace process in Lebanon and that he believes peace can still be achieved "if we work closely together." The letter was originally released at the Thatcher MSS, and the link is to their website. 

October 24, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Grenada) 

This cable to Prime Minister Thatcher, sent at 6:47 PM on October 24, 1983 informs the prime minister that President Reagan is seriously considering the OAS request to intervene in Grenada, and that if any American action is ordered she will be informed before the action starts. 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:(8391099-8391255) box 36.

October 25, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Grenada) 

In this letter Reagan explains to Thatcher why he decided to use force in Grenada. He notes the request from neigboring countries as well as the fact that Grenada is leaning left and likely to become a Soviet/Cuban base in the Caribbean.

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8391259-8391521) box 36.

October 25, 1983: Thatcher to Reagan (Grenada)

Prime Minister Thatcher uses this letter to explain to President Reagan why she thinks intervention in Grenada is a bad idea. The letter was made available by the Thatcher MSS, and the link is to their website. 

November 6, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Lebanon)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8391259-8391521) box 36.

November 19, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Lebanon)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:(8391259-8391521) box 36.

 December 7, 1983: Reagan to Thatcher (Argentina)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8307330-8308845) box 35.

December 26, 1983: Memo: McFarlane to Reagan re Thatcher letter Concerning Talks with King Hussein and Palestinian Situation. 

Reagan initials and approves Thatcher’s suggestion that he “remain true to the September 1 initiative and press even harder for Israel to freeze the expansion of settlements on the West Bank.”  Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:  (8391259-8391521) box 36.

February 6, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (MNF evacuating Beirut)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8490164-8490571) box 36.

 February 8, 1984: Reagan cable Thatcher (Lebanon) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8400187-8404387) box 35. 

February 9, 1984: Cable/ Memo re MT cable on Hungary. Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8400187-8404387) box 35.

March 16, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (Iran-Iraq war) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8490164-8490571) box 36.

June 19, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (G7 Summit)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8404781-8407224) box 36.

 

July 18, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (MTF: Dockworker Strike)

July 23, 1984: Thatcher to Reagan (Response to July 18) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8404781-8407224) box 36. 

October 3, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (East-West relations) 

President Reagan sent this letter to Prime Minister Thatcher to inform her of the results of his meetings with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko. Reagan concludes that the discussion confirmed "the wisdom of our present course in dealing with the Soviet Union on a basis of sober realism, firm resolve, and quiet confidence." Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8491035) box 36. 

October 12, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (Brighton Bombing)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:  (8407695-8409063) box 36.

October 17, 1984: Reagan to Thatcher (Hong Kong agreement)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8404781-8407224) box 36.

November 7, 1984: Thatcher to Reagan (election results)

“My fondest hope is that was we will continue to work as closely together as we have over the past four years.” Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:  (8491070-8491142). Box 36.

November 13, 1984: Reagan response to Thatcher from Nov. 7

December 20, 1984: Cable from Amb. Price to President Reagan: “Your Meeting With Prime Minister Thatcher.” 

(Reagan Library: WHSOF: National Security Adviser, Assistant to the President: Chron File. Folder: 8409212.)

January 3, 1985: Reagan letter to Allied leaders on Geneva. 

This link is to the version at the Thatcher MSS. The letter can also be found at the Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8590010-8590047) box 36.

January 14, 1985: MT to RR re SDI/Geneva talks. 

“But I do believe that as a result of your efforts … we now face a new and perhaps historic opportunity to create a more stable and therefore safer world.” 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder:  (8500392-8500484) box 36.

January 29, 1985: McFarlane to Thatcher with attachment of letters from Weinberger and Abrahamson. (Defense and SDI)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8500392-8500484) box 36.

June 24, 1985: Reagan to Thatcher (Arms Control)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Nationa Security Adviser: Assistant to the President for: Chron File. Folder 8504357

September 17, 1985: Reagan to Thatcher (USSR)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8590931-8591083) box 36.

November  4, 1985: Reagan to Thatcher (Decision to buy from the French)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (851142) box 36.

November 5, 1985: Reagan to Thatcher (regrets that the United States could not buy from the British, and pledge to include the British in future SDI contracts)

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (851142) box 36.

May 23, 1986: Reagan to Thatcher (deploying 8th Trident submarine/US-Soviet relations) 

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8690401-8690687).

Sept. 30, 1987: Reagan to Thatchert (Soviet efforts in the Middle East)      

Reagan Library: WHSOF: Head of State: United Kingdom: Prime Minister Thatcher. Folder: (8790494-8790998) box 37. 

© Jason Saltoun-Ebin 2012