Below is the text of Mr Major’s second statement, made in Downing Street, on Monday 19th August 1991 on the Soviet Union situation.
Prime Minister, any further developments you can tell us about?
There isn’t a great deal I can add to what I had to say earlier today. As today has progressed, I think it has become clearer that what we have actually seen in the Soviet Union is a straightforward common-or-garden old-fashioned coup; that is actually what has happened there.
I have had two conversations today with President Bush and a number of conversations with European leaders in both East and West Europe.
I think it is very important we coordinate our position, very important that we pool our information over the days and weeks ahead.
I had a particularly interesting conversation with the Prime Minister of Poland and I think tomorrow at the discussions at the European Community Foreign Ministers’ meetings a number of matters will be raised. I think the question of speeding-up the European Community Cooperation Agreements with Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia will be raised – Douglas Hurd will raise that; he will also raise the question of freezing Community aid to the Soviet Union in precisely the same way that we have frozen our Know-How aid and I think also that we will be very likely to have a European Community Heads of Government meeting some time in the next few days but beyond that there are no fresh events to report.
Have you had any indication at all about the nature of the new regime and are you any less gloomy about the prospects?
No, I have had no particularly fresh information about that. It is clearly, as I said earlier, a hard-line and reactionary coup but beyond that we have no details of what is going to happen. I think we are, like everyone else, waiting on events for the time being.
What do you think will be the next most significant event?
I can’t tell you yet. Events may move very swiftly. It is impossible to say. I think we will have to wait and see.
What do you make of the ambassador in this country’s apparent assertion that there are going to be continued reforms and so on in the Soviet Union?
Well I hope that is true. We have supported reform in the Soviet Union for many years in the past; we hope we are going to see reform. The future prosperity of the Soviet Union depends upon there being reform. It is in their interest to have reform; it is in the West’s interest to see reform; whether it happens, we must wait and see. The omens at the moment are not propitious.