University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger

December 27, 1979

Over the Christmas holidays, three clergymen were allowed to visit the hostages in the American Embassy in Tehran and to hold prayer services with them. But for the moment, what will happen with the hostages remains an open question.

South Bend, December 28, 1979

Nuclear Armament in Western Europe

On its December meeting in Brussels, the Council of NATO Ministers decided to accept the American offer to upgrade nuclear armament in Western Europe. Until 1983 altogether 572 new Pershing II missiles with a 1,000 mile range should be installed - at first in the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain and Italy, later on also in the Netherlands and Belgium. This decision was urgently called for in view of the predominance of the Warsaw Pact in conventional weapons. But basically, it was a matter of creating a counterbalance to the Russian intermediate-range missiles targeted at Western Europe. By this decisive and serious step, the defense of Western Europe will be even closer interwoven with that of the United States.

[The mobile, ground-stationed Pershing I/II intermediate-range missiles with nuclear warheads were named after General John J. Pershing (1860-1948). Pershing was the commander of the American expeditionary forces in Europe during World War I.]


[Margaret Thatcher explains in detail how the decision of the NATO ministers of December 12, 1979, had come about. In the area of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (lNF) a decision had to be made. The intermediate-range missiles at the disposition of Western Europe were out-dated and by far inferior to the Russian SS-20 intermediate range missiles. There was the danger that Western Europe could become exposed to blackmail by the Soviet Union. The West could no longer, Thatcher argues, just react passively to the course of action taken by the East. It was imperative to act. The deployment of the modernized Pershing II missiles as well as the new Cruise missiles could secure nuclear parity of Western Europe with the East. The new missiles and nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe remained in American hands and under American control. In Thatcher’s view, NATO’s resolve and decision was the beginning of the historic turning point, which finally led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. See Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), pp. 239-44.]

[Margaret Thatcher was born as Margaret Roberts in Grantham, England, in 1925. She studied at Somerville College and Oxford University natural sciences and law and worked as research chemist and lawyer, 1947-53. In 1951 she married Denis Thatcher whose name she assumed. Margaret Thatcher soon entered politics; she was a Member of Parliament as a representative of the Conservatives in the House of Commons, 1959-92; she led the Conservative Party, 1975-79. Following the victory of her Party in the general elections in May, 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and held that important position until 1990. In 1992 she was ennobled with the title of baroness. As Lady Thatcher she is a Member of the House of Lords.]

South Bend, December 31, 1979

The Invasion at Year’s End

During the past 36 hours, the Soviet Union has been massively invading Afghanistan with tanks and about 35,000 troops. The purpose of this move was apparently to protect the loyal Communist regime, carried to power by the Soviet Union, against Islamic insurgents. One must ask oneself what the broader intentions of this invasion could be: Is the Soviet Union planning to extend its belt of satellite countries from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and finally to advance to the Persian Gulf?


[The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan started on December 27, 1979. The capital Kabul was instantly seized by airborne troops and Babrak Karmal, Moscow’s faithful vassal, installed as head of state and government. The Soviet Union occupied the entire country but was soon pushed more and more into the defensive by the unyielding resistance of the Islamic population. The international indignation at the Soviet action was no less vehement.]

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