But sharing a world vision does not necessarily make it easier for strong-willed individuals to agree on the day-to-day activities required to govern in a complex world. In Aldous’s telling, they regularly disagreed, often bitterly, during the eight years that their terms in office overlapped. The first dust-up came in December 1981 when President Reagan, angered by the declaration of martial law in Poland, ordered an embargo on high-tech products to the Soviet Union, including the equipment needed to build the Siberian gas pipeline. The action threatened $400 billion in British contracts. A compromise was eventually reached, but it was an early lesson for Thatcher that Reagan was prepared to ignore her interests if they conflicted with US policy.
A bigger and more lasting disagreement came a few months later when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, creating a huge political crisis for Thatcher. To her dismay, Reagan – with an eye on relationships in the Western hemisphere – initially adopted a position of “neutrality” and sought a diplomatic compromise that might have required Britain to renounce her claim on the islands. Even after the British invaded to reclaim the islands and the Reagan administration declared its support, Reagan continued to pursue a negotiated settlement, much to Thatcher’s anger.