With just a few hours to go before the announcement of the new US president, one of the many remarkable aspects of the campaign is how the Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton, is the candidate standing up for conservative principles rather than her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. The Republican nominee has actively opposed free trade, questioned the value of NATO and expressed unflinching admiration for Vladimir Putin. David Frum, George W. Bush’s former speechwriter, has highlighted this absurdity in the Atlantic, making a courageous and powerful case for Clinton.

Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, two former Republican grandees and Secretaries of State, have both stated that they will not endorse Trump but they have not given support to Clinton either. Among former Republican statesmen, Colin Powell has stood out in his rejection of Trump and commitment to Clinton.  How one cries out for a Ronald Reagan or a Margaret Thatcher to make their voice heard.

There is little doubt in my mind that Thatcher would have backed Clinton, and not because she was a woman: no feminist was she. No, the Iron Lady would have been appalled by Trump’s fondness for dictators, and, particularly, his admiration for Putin. As she wrote presciently in her 2002 book, ‘Statecraft’, when it comes to foreign relations, Russian attitudes under Putin “have suggested continuity with those of the old Soviet Union”. She also warned that “the call for ‘strong’ measures and ‘strong’ men is often an all too well-known preliminary to some kind of dictatorship.” Clinton has attacked Putin’s Russia in much the same way that Reagan and Thatcher condemned the Soviet Union through the 1980s.

In ‘Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East’,  I argue that the British Prime Minister’s concern about the global ambitions of the Soviet Union coloured her policy towards the Middle East as it did her foreign policy, in general. Within days of entering 10 Downing Street in May 1979, Thatcher lectured Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin on the importance of reaching a peace settlement in order to counter the strategic threat of the Soviets.  This was a consistent strand of her Middle East policy: preserving regional stability was vital to ensuring that Moscow could not expand its influence and become a threat to Western interests.

Thirty six years on and a resurgent Russia is once more dominant in the Middle East. It is also posing a renewed and alarming threat to NATO member states in Eastern Europe: the same countries that were once part of the Soviet-led Eastern bloc. Thatcher stood up for the freedoms of the Eastern European nations living under Soviet tyranny during the 1980s. The worry is that a Trump presidency may end up emboldening Russia with incalculable consequences for Europe and the Middle East. Reagan and Thatcher must be turning in their graves.


Written by Azriel Bermant, author of Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East

Azriel Bermant is a historian, and a lecturer in international relations at Tel Aviv University. He was a Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv until December 2015. Dr Bermant was awarded his PhD from University College London. His work has been published in numerous publications, including the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and Haaretz. He is the author of The Russian and Iranian Missile Threats: Implications for NATO Missile Defense (2014).

Azriel’s new book Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East examines Thatcher’s policy on the Middle East, with a spotlight on her approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It questions claims that she sought to counter the Foreign Office Middle East policy, and maintains that the prime minister was actually in close agreement with the Whitehall bureaucracy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In particular, the volume argues that Thatcher’s concerns over Soviet ambitions in the Middle East encouraged her to oppose the policies of Israel’s Likud governments, and to work actively for an urgent resolution of the conflict. Furthermore, while Thatcher was strongly pro-American, this was not translated into automatic support for Israel. Indeed, the Thatcher government was very much at odds with the Reagan administration over the Middle East, as a result of Washington’s neglect of the forces of moderation in the region.

To read more about Azriel’s exciting book visit cambridge.org/9781107151949


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