‘I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together’
Margaret Thatcher quickly emerged as Mikhail Gorbachev’s most passionate Western supporter and champion of his efforts for reform.
He was a man she admired, an accolade rarely bestowed by the then prime minister.
What Thatcher liked about him was that they could argue together, sometimes ferociously, sometimes, as he once put it, ‘until we were red in the face’.
It was when he visited Britain in 1984, four months before he assumed power, that she said: ‘I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together.’ His new style, she said, had ‘brought hope to the whole world’.
And a Foreign Office spokesman said at the time: ‘It’s nice to find a Soviet politician whose face moves. Even when he scowls, you know where you stand.’
The initial favourable impact he made on Thatcher and his pursuit of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (reconstruction) was to prove an accurate assessment of his qualities.
Born under Stalin, young Gorbachev survived famine and saw his grandfathers sent to the gulags – but rose through the Communist ranks to become a reforming titan of 20th Century politics.