"Obsessed" Thatcher warned French of rampant Kohl
PARIS (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned France's ambassador months before German's 1990 reunification of a domineering Chancellor Helmut Kohl who "sees himself as the master," diplomatic notes revealed Thursday.
In secret archives unveiled to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov 9., 1989, French diplomats describe an "obsessed" and "bitter" Thatcher's fear of a united Germany and her proposal to join forces with Russia to contain the threat.
"Kohl is capable of anything," France's ambassador to Britain, Luc de La Barre de Nanteuil, quoted Thatcher as telling him during a dinner with French businessmen at his residence in London on March 13, 1990.
"He has become a different man, he does not know himself any more, he sees himself as the master and begins to act like that. You have to see for example how he behaves with (then Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev," she said according to the confidential report.
Nanteuil was struck by Thatcher's bitterness, noting that while she was pleased with the end of communism, she did not express any joy over eastern Europe's new-found freedom.
"The 1990s begin with euphoria, they risk ending in catastrophe," said Thatcher, whose anti-European Union stance culminated in her forced resignation in December 1990.
France and Britain, western Europe's two nuclear powers, needed to link up in the face of the "German danger," but this alone would not be enough, she told Nanteuil.
Once Russia was transformed into a free-market democracy, it could act as a necessary counterweight, she said.
"ANXIETY AND PASSION"
While Thatcher's opposition to German reunification is known, the diplomatic notes cast a slightly more ambiguous light on the role of French President Francois Mitterrand.
Mitterrand shared Thatcher's concerns -- he has previously been cited as warning her in January 1990 that the Germans were turning "bad" again.
But the diplomatic records also describe his delicate balancing act as he tried to show Germany he was not fundamentally hostile to its reunification.
A report of a meeting between French diplomat Francois Scheer and the East German ambassador on November 14, 1989, mentions Mitterrand's position days after the Berlin Wall came down.
The thought of German reunification "did not frighten (Mitterrand) but this did not signify that he would say yes to reunification tomorrow and in any fashion," Scheer said, according to the report.
Archivists presenting the notes and letters to reporters cautioned that diplomats may have been biased while leaders could have tried to manipulate their counterparts.
The full archives from the period will be officially opened Monday, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.
But even as a partial account, Nanteuil's report confirmed Thatcher's increasing isolation as the Iron Lady lost the power to convince others.
"Mrs Thatcher was, as usual, attentive, reflective and combative, but she was basically much more negative than imaginative. She spoke of Germany with a striking anxiety and passion," Nanteuil wrote. "She wanted to be right and be right on all points, even when her worry did not suggest any solution. She was, as always, convinced that her instinct was right."
(Editing by Tim Pearce)
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