In my researches for the final volume of my Thatcher biography, there is plenty, of course, about the Cold War, and its end. A constant bone of contention with the Russians was defection to the West. They were particularly furious about the MI6 exfiltration of the KGB man and British double agent Oleg Gordievsky in 1985. For several years afterwards, despite persistent personal pleas from Mrs Thatcher to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union refused to allow his wife and small children to join him in Britain. The KGB persecuted her, and told her untruthfully that her husband had remarried. The family were not allowed out until 1991. But what is striking is that the underlying conversation about wider issues between London and Moscow was well sustained. There was friction, but no breakdown of trust. Thatcher and Gorbachev continued, in her famous phrase, to do business together, and help one another wind down the Cold War. The Skripal poisoning and its aftermath reveal that things are actually much worse today. There is no constructive relationship. The Putin regime has retained all the nastiness of the totalitarian era, but lost its policy discipline, and has even less respect for international rules.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine