In Richard Aldous’s Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, Aldous proves that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher never possessed the Churchillian “special relationship” propagated in the media. Instead, as his title suggests, it was a difficult relationship filled with disagreement and ups and downs over both domestic and foreign policies in the two kindred nations. Despite the deception for public image, both did possess commonalities that endured one to the other. Both shared a similar faith, Reagan a Baptist and Thatcher a Methodist. Their domestic policies were often similar, including a belief in low taxes, limited government, free market, a strong defense, and emphasis on nuclear deterrence. The cultivated relationship was tested early own and continued to be tried throughout Reagan’s eight years in office and Thatcher’s nearly twelve years as Prime Minister. Their new relationship was first tested as troubles rose in the Falkland Islands, followed by a coup in Grenada. Later, the Libyan bombing secured that Britain could be counted on, while the French were hesitant.
Of the presidents that Thatcher maintained political relations with, it was Reagan that she professed to be the most competent. His “belief” in democracy and a nuclear free world coupled with Thatcher’s growing relationship with new USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev helped to bring about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Although the USSR had been drained by the arms race, both Reagan and Thatcher created a situation that allowed the Soviet leader to agree in a reduction in nuclear arms. Particularly, Reagans Star Wars program as well as the initial plans for START, which would not go into affect until 1991 under President Bush.
Both also shared similar experience that strengthened their relationship. After Reagan’s assassination attempt, Margaret phoned to see how the president was recovering and wrote to him about looking forward to “strengthening their relations” even more once he recovered. A few years later, a similar threat reached Thatcher. A car bomb, probably intended to kill the entire cabinet, nearly killed Thatcher as well. As before, the president returned the notion of continuing their relationship. Although fictitious, their was general concern and respect that they both shared for each other. Ardous argues that it is with foreign policies that the relationship was most tested.
In April of 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and assumed control. This territory belonged to the British and was governed by a democratic constitution. Britain, eager to go to war over the territory, expected American support on the issue. Yet, America’s relationship with Argentina caused hesitation in taking sides with Britain. After the sinking of two ships, Thatcher secured a military force to take back the Falklands. The situation, controversial in London as well as Washington, later proved to strengthen Thatcher’s ability as Prime Minister. Although the Falklands seemed unimportant to America, even Reagan had asked Thatcher why they desired to keep them, it was a matter of British pride in keeping the cold islands a world away.
After the Falkland crisis, another one arose. In Grenada, a Cuban force seized the government and endangered American interests. Reagan approved an immediate US military intervention, not wanting to wait for advice from Thatcher. Thatcher was deeply hurt by his initial request for advice then sudden will to act without it. Grenada was a success, overthrowing the military coup and installing a democratic governor a few months after the intervention. US-UK relations suffered during the Grenada situation and continued to suffer as Britain made the decision to begin looking to the East for support in foreign policy. To Thatcher, relying on the West after Grenada seemed too risky.
Aldous states that both Thatcher and Reagan were deeply impressed with Gorbachev and considered him a very capable leader to help bring an end to the Cold War. After nearly forty years of nuclear tensions, SDI proved to be the strength behind securing a reduction in nuclear arms that would later, after Reagan’s presidency, see greater limits on nuclear weapons. Aldous argues that although there was personal affection at times between the two world leaders, the political bond and Churchillian relationship that the media cultivated was only an image purposely created. They disagreed on more than they agreed yet each knew that they could rely on the other. Aldous argues that the Libyan strike carried out by the US with Britain’s permission to leave form their air base, after having been rejected by what the US thought to be a newfound relationship with France. In the end, Britain pulled through and could be counted on in times of crisis.