FLASHBACK: When Reagan Literally Blew Up Maggie Thatcher’s Soviet Pipeline Deal
Former President Ronald Reagan blew up a pipeline from the Soviet Union to Europe in 1982 that then-U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher desperately wanted.
Thatcher was negotiating with Reagan to allow U.S. suppliers to provide materials for a set of natural gas pipelines between the Soviets and Western Europe, a 1982 Christian Science Monitor article explained.
Reagan wanted to punish the Soviet Union for its repressive actions in Poland, as well as prevent a Western European dependency on Soviet fuel. He issued sanctions against the companies doing business for the pipelines, a September 1982 United Press International article explained.
The British and French companies issuing the materials defied the sanctions and continued to ship materials to build the pipelines. At this point, the pipelines were likely to continue regardless of U.S. intervention.
The sanctions were a sore spot between the United States and Britain. Thatcher said that she was “deeply wounded” by the sanctions, according to the UPI article. “[Reagan] did not quite realize how serious it was to us,” she said in a television interview.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government learned the Soviets were looking to steal American software to operate the pipelines, The Telegraph reported in February 2004. Via a KGB spy in France, the U.S. gave the Soviet Union “booby-trapped software” that would explode one of the pipelines.
“I don’t get the amnesia people pretend to have,” Grover Norquist, a close ally of the late Reagan and founder of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The targeted pipeline went boom in 1982. It was “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space,” former U.S. Air Force Secretary Thomas Reed said, according to The Telegraph. There were no casualties, but the explosion shocked even the U.S. government.
Today a similar pipeline conundrum exists. The Nord Stream 2 project, a projected gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants, has garnered opposition from President Donald Trump and the U.S.
Critics question Trump resisting an ally like this. However, Norquist argues that Trump’s upset at Nord Stream 2 is just like Reagan’s dismay at the Soviet pipeline.
“What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
Critics of Trump say his rebukes at allies like Germany are harming NATO. It “is a spectacle I never expected to see,” vocal Trump opposer Bill Kristol wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
An American president abroad, whining petulantly and ignorantly, and so diminishing his office and our country, is a spectacle I never expected to see.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 11, 2018
“What Trump is doing is exactly what Reagan went through with the same conversations,” Norquist said. “It’s what the Europeans do, they want us to pay for their defense … when [they] are making [themselves] completely blackmail-able on energy.” (RELATED: Trump RIPS Merkel Over Hypocrisy On Russia)
Norquist rebuked those who claim that Trump is soft on Russia, saying that he’s taking the same actions Reagan did to weaken the Soviet Union in the 1980s. “The biggest thing for [Russia] is the price of gas … [Trump] wants to drill everywhere, [he] will drop the price of energy … and Hillary [Clinton] wants to not frack … and would’ve made Russia OPEC,” Norquist told TheDCNF.
Nord Stream 2 has been one of a few rough patches between Trump and the United State’s Western European allies at the NATO summit in Brussels this week. The president criticized fellow NATO members’ commitments to defense spending, asking that allies increase their defense spending to four percent of GDP, according to a Wednesday New York Times article. Trump signed a recommitment to the two percent spending minimum.