To what extent did Thatcher achieve her aims in foreign policy?

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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When Margaret Thatcher first came to power in 1979 she had little interest in foreign policy but focussing mainly on economic and domestic policy. However, it was an area where she left a huge impact on.

One of Thatcher’s aims was to increase the defence for Britain as she believed the USSR was a massive threat militarily. This meant improving relations with the USA. Her views on Communism helped with this as her and Ronald Reagan both shared the same ideas. She also believed NATO was vital to British and European defence and so to strengthen this relationship was important.

She supported NATO’s decision to deploy US nuclear cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe and permitted the US to station more than 160 cruise missiles at RAF Greenham Common, even though she knew it would trigger mass protests by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

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Relations improved with the US when Thatcher permitted US F-111s to use Royal Air Force bases for the bombing of Libya in retaliation for their apparent bombing of a Berlin nightclub; this decision wasn’t very popular with the British citizens.

Another one of Margaret Thatcher’s aims was to reassert Britain’s position as a major power. Many people will say she achieved this because of the Falklands War. In April 1982, Argentina ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia which were under British control at the time. She successfully retook the islands back by setting up a War Cabinet and dispatching a naval task force against them which in June they surrendered.

Even though 255 British soldiers died and the attack on an Argentinian cruiser which sunk and killed everyone on board, people were far more distracted by the victory which took place. This helped her win the 1983 elections. However, she was strongly criticised as to why she didn’t pay attention to the Falklands’ defence that led to the war, in which she could have stopped happening. This in turn would have saved the lives of the British soldiers and the people on the Argentinian cruiser.

Some people may disagree that Thatcher achieved the aim to raise Britain’s status entirely because of the Grenada incident. On October 1983, the USA attacked Grenada; a member of the Commonwealth, without consulting Britain to take-over a Marxist organisation. This was an embarrassment for Thatcher because it showed her weakness to defend countries which were once members of the Commonwealth who felt they still needed to be defended.

Thatcher also wanted to see the defeat of Communism, which some people argue was achieved and that her role played an important part. She was able to build a working relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev who came to power in the Soviet Union in 1985. This placed Britain in a good position to be the peace-maker between the US and the Soviet Union. They ended up meeting a couple of times which led to the agreement to scrap all intermediate-range missiles from Europe, the elimination of tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons and conventional forces. After that many countries in Eastern Europe experienced their own revolution which led to domestic changes and an end to the Soviet domination over them. This was a victory for Britain and all the other NATO countries.

Although this aim was achieved, Thatcher feared that because many changes were happening across Eastern Europe, Germany would start to reunify and become strong again which would affect the European balance of power and Thatcher didn’t like this.

After discussing the aims of Margaret Thatcher in Foreign Policy, I believe on the whole she achieved them. She managed to reassert Britain’s position as a superpower because of the Falklands war. It was a massive turning point for Thatcher and a defining moment in her premiership which helped her stay in power by winning the 1983 election. Even though many people died during the Falkland’s War, she was considered a highly talented and committed war leader by many people.

She also helped defeat Communism by building a relationship with the Soviet leader and making discussions between the US and the Soviet Union easier. This led to nuclear disarmament which helped with Britain’s fear of Russia attacking them.

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To what extent did Thatcher achieve her aims in foreign policy?. (2017, Aug 22). Retrieved from

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