6. Defining moments of the Thatcher years | Thatcher meets Gorbachev | 16 December 1984

“I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together.”

Margaret Thatcher recalls her first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in her memoirs. Although she claimed that he espoused the standard Marxist line and the superiority of the Soviet system, she was taken by his manner. The impression he made on the prime minister was to change the course of east-west relations.

His line was no different from what I would have expected. His style was. As the day wore on I came to understand that it was the style far more than the Marxist rhetoric which expressed the substance of the personality beneath. I found myself liking him.

Following her first meeting with Gorbachev, Thatcher told the BBC's John Cole:

I think we both believe that they are the more likely to succeed if we can build up confidence in one another and trust in one another about each other's approach, and therefore we believe in co-operating on trade matters, on cultural matters, on quite a lot of contacts between politicians from the two sides of the divide.

This marked a paradigmatic shift in the international status quo. In due course, upon his election into office by the Central Committee in 1985, Gorbachev announced his perestroika ("reconstruction") policy.

Next: 7. Heseltine resigns | 9 January 1986

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