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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 Thursday 22nd August 1991.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether he was relieved that the coup was over].

PRIME MINISTER:

Complete relief. When one contemplates what might have happened over the last sixty hours, one could have seen a complete change in the balance of atmosphere between East and West; we could have seen the end of the reform passage in the Soviet Union; we could have seen a return to repression; we could have seen the Cold War come back; all that has been worked for over the last decade could suddenly have disappeared.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether this was a victory for common sense, Mr Yeltsin or the West].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is a victory for all of us. I certainly don’t see it as a victory for the West. I think it is a victory for common sense most certainly. It is certainly a victory for the future. It is a tremendous day today. It is a day in which reform can proceed; it is a day of hope; it is a day of expectation. Reform is back on track. The hardliners no longer have the influence they had even four days ago and reform may well accelerate. That is what we wish to see in the West.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was surprised by what had happened].

PRIME MINISTER:

I never thought the coup was a fait accompli and said so very shortly after it began, but it might well have succeeded so that is an immense feeling of relief that it failed.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the G7 meeting had been more generous to the Soviet Union that this wouldn’t have happened].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is not Mr. Gorbachev’s view. When Mr. Gorbachev came to the G7, he wanted several things: he wanted to be accepted as part of the large industrial nations and he wanted to have a continuing dialogue with them; he also wanted us to ensure that he was able to have a relationship with the IMF, so it simply isn’t the case that the G7 didn’t provide Mr. Gorbachev with what he was seeking; they did and he accepts that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the Soviet Union needed more now].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the circumstances have changed now and they have changed for the reason I set out just a moment or so ago. The reform package that was being considered before had a large number of defects but then, back in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gorbachev had many people opposing reform. That may well have changed as a result of the events of the last sixty hours or so, so I think we will want to look again at what the position is.