The Iron Lady’s Soft Spot for Eastern Europe

2013. április 10. 8:12
Travis LaCouter
Paprika Politik
Thatcher held Hungary in a special regard among Warsaw Pact countries, choosing it as the site of her first official visit to the Eastern bloc in 1984.
„Thatcher held Hungary in a special regard among Warsaw Pact countries, choosing it as the site of her first official visit to the Eastern bloc in 1984. Though she wrote to President Reagan after her visit that she was concerned about the lack of Parliamentary opposition, widespread state-ownership of industry, and Budapest’s close alliance with Moscow, Thatcher was still impressed by the limited «economic experiment» taking place and the Hungarian people’s thorough-going sense of national pride. She detected a noble and resilient spirit in the people she met in Budapest’s covered markets and Szentendre’s historical museum; she wrote in her memoirs that the ’84 visit «confirmed … that human beings in communist countries were not in fact communists at all but retained a thirst for liberty.» The visit also suggested to Thatcher what Britain’s «distinctive» policy towards eastern bloc countries should be: open greater economic and commercial ties with existing regimes, freeing them from total dependence on the Soviet dole; emphasize the importance of human rights; and eventually make Western aid conditional on internal political reforms.

A grocer’s daughter who fought her way to the apex of world politics, Thatcher devoted her life to the idea that everyone deserves freedom and self-determination. Soviet domination of Eastern Europe offended her on a visceral level, since it represented the negation of human dignity and a denial of the same freedom that had allowed her to succeed. She did her part to consign communism to the trash bin of history, but she warned the world against forgetting the past: «[If] many influential people have failed to understand, or have just forgotten, what we were up against in the Cold War and how we overcame it, they are not going to be capable of securing, let alone enlarging, the gains that liberty has made.»

May freedom lovers the world over honor the memory of the Iron Lady by continuing her mission of «securing» and «enlarging» the gains of liberty.”

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