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1991 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Soviet Coup

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Soviet coup, made in an interview held in London on Wednesday 21st August 1991.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether the coup was definitely over].

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, it does seem as though it is. It looks as though the coup is over and it looks also as though President Gorbachev will be back in Moscow this evening and back in power. That is very good news indeed.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he felt about that].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am delighted. The danger that existed over the past 48 hours if this coup succeeded can scarcely be overstated. What was actually at risk over the last 48 hours was whether one of the largest and most powerful nations in the world continued down a democratic path of reform or moved back to repression with all the dangers of the cold war that we knew for so many years. The right side has won. It is very good news indeed.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he felt the coup failed].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are many reasons why it failed and a great deal of time and trouble will be spent on analysing that later. There were, I think, a number of things that were significant.

I don’t think it was terribly well-handled from the point of view of those organising the coup. I think the enormous and unanimous condemnation of the rest of the world publicly of the coup was of immense encouragement to the people resisting it. That is not just my view; that is the view that has been expressed to me by Mr. Shevardnadze, Mr. Yakovlev, President Yeltsin and many others as well to whom I have spoken to the last 48 hours. The moral pressure from the West and the fact that we were prepared to state unequivocally that the coup was illegal and that we wanted the legal government restored, was of immense help in the Soviet Union. I think that did play a part.