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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 what needed to be done now in the Soviet Union].

PRIME MINISTER:

The first thing that we need to determine in the Soviet Union is how these turbulent events of the last few days will settle down, we then want to see what is going to happen with the reform programme. One thing has changed, and it may be very dramatic, many of the people who opposed the reforms that President Gorbachev has in mind were those people who actually led the coup, they are no longer in position, that may mean a totally different atmosphere for the reforms, it may be possible to accelerate them, it may be possible to reach agreement on matters that agreement was impossible on before. Now if that happened circumstances have changed significantly.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if further aid would now be given to the Soviet Union].

PRIME MINISTER:

It relates to the point I just made a moment or so ago, we will have to see how the circumstances have changed. I do not think you can precipitately make those decisions but circumstances have changed and in the light of those changed circumstances we will want to consider what we can do. But it is a mistake I think to assume that we were not helping before, we were, and helping dramatically. What Mr Gorbachev wanted Mr Gorbachev was getting: associate status with the IMF, the special meeting with the G7 industrial nations, wholly unprecedented events, events that would have been quite impossible even two years ago. And so a great deal of progress was being made, the reform programme may now have been given a bigger push, if it is who knows what is then possible.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the relationship between President Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin would now change].

PRIME MINISTER:

Nobody can be clear about that. But I do not see what it is necessarily the case as some are presupposing that it will be a confrontational relationship, they both have an interest in working together to carry reform forward in the Soviet Union. And it was very striking, was it not, that the first thing that President Yeltsin said was that Mr Gorbachev should be freed because he was the legal President of the Soviet Union, they had been working together in recent months, I hope they will in future.