George Shultz was US secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. He spoke with Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels on Tuesday at Stanford University.
Nathan Gardels: You sat in the room in Reykjavik back in 1986 when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev discussed for the first time the abolition of nuclear weapons. And, well before Barack Obama became president in 2007, you joined with Henry Kissinger, former US Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn to call for a nuclear-free world.
What prompted you in 2007 to make that statement at that time?
George Shultz: President Reagan was a long-time advocate of abolishing nuclear weapons. He thought their use was immoral and that building a global security system based on mutually assured destruction was wrong.
And I supported that. At Reykjavik, he actually engaged the Soviets on it seriously. It was without doubt a watershed in the cold war.
When I returned from Reykjavik to Washington, I was virtually summoned to the British Embassy where Margaret Thatcher handbagged me.
“How could you sit there and allow the president to propose a world without nuclear weapons?” she scolded” “But Margaret,” I said, “he is the president.” “I know. But you are supposed to be the one with his feet on the ground,” she continued. “But I agree with him!” I responded.
In general, there was a very hostile reaction to President Reagan’s proposal at the time.