Politicians and Soldiers
Being at a military institution, I wish to describe my experience of having to work both with political decisions against a background of the need for military decisions and ensuring that they both work together. The military serves the purposes of politics, and your country and mine serve the purposes of liberty and justice. Many is the time in my period of office when they were challenged. And always it had seemed to me that the Thatcher law of politics was very true, namely that the unexpected happens. So may I tell you how the unexpected happened in the military and political sphere, how we tackled it, what we did about it, and also then go on to tell you about the great changes that have come about between East and West and in the Soviet Union, how I see them, and the other still very troubled area of the world, which is the Middle East.
I had not long been in power as prime minister when I received a telephone call from the president of the United States over the Christmas of 1979 to say that the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. It came as a big surprise. What were we to do about it? We were very, very far away. There was no question of being able to argue against it or send forces there, but we could clearly be very, very condemnatory of it. We could clearly take certain action, have certain sanctions. We needed to do it because it came shortly in