By Sergei Sayenko
British Parliamentary Defence Under Secretary of State Gerald Howarth has declared that Argentina’s military potential is not enough to take the Falkland Islands (the Malvinas) from the UK.
“There is neither the capability nor the intentions by the Argentines to repeat the folly of 1982 and the military deterrent that we have is up to the task,” Howarth said at one of the latest parliamentary meetings. Mr. Howarth also declared that the UK was ready to defend its territory if necessary. Apparently, official London does not rule out the use of military force in the struggle for the Falklands.
Evidently this is the reason why the other day the UK signed a contract worth 483mln pounds (about $760mln) with MBDA, the leading European developer and manufacturer of missile systems, for making a new missile defence system. The new Sea Ceptor system is planned to be installed aboard type 23 and type 26 frigates and to replace the current Sea Wolf air defence system when it goes out of service in 2016.
Is the UK indeed willing to repeat the nightmare of the 1982 armed conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands? That conflict cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British servicemen. Argentina still calls the Falklands Las Malvinas and considers them its own territory.
We would like to believe that both London and Buenos Aires have enough sense and political will to avoid shedding more blood over the Falkland Islands. However, it should not be forgotten that tension around the disputed archipelago is growing ahead of the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Falkland war which will be marked on the 2nd of April this year. Recall that speaking in the House of Commons on the 18th of January this year British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Argentina of ‘colonialism’ toward the Falkland Islands.
“The absolutely vital point is that we are clear that the future of the Falkland Islands is a matter for the people themselves, and as long as they want to remain part of the United Kingdom and be British they should be able to do so. I am determined to make sure that our defences and everything else are in order, which is why the National Security Council discussed the issue. The key point is that we support the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination. I would argue that what the Argentinians have said recently is far more like colonialism, as these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else.”
Argentine authorities called British prime minister’s words ‘insulting’. At the same time, Argentine senators declared that they would seek their claim over the islands via diplomatic channels only. Thus, in our opinion, Buenos Aires is demonstrating more tact and flexibility than London in an attempt to solve the difficult problem of the status and sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. This is confirmed by the latest event in the two countries’ relations: Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has appointed Alicia Castro new Argentine ambassador to the UK. This position remained vacant after the retirement of previous Argentine ambassador Federico Mirre in 2008.
It would be too optimistic to believe that the appointment of a new Argentine ambassador to London means an end to Buenos Aires’ struggle for the Falklands. President de Kirchner has repeatedly accused the UK of arrogance because London refuses to agree to talks on the status of the Falkland Islands. The Argentine president declares that her country will keep struggling for this disputed archipelago to the end.
Argentina proves its words with deeds. Thus, early this month it announced a ‘squid war’ against the Falklands. In particular, the Argentine government gave its fishermen instructions to catch squid before they reach the waters around this disputed British territory. Buenos Aires hopes that this measure will cause the collapse of fishing off the Falklands because catching squid makes half of the annual fishing revenue on the islands.
The Daily Telegraph writes that catching squid on the Falklands brings 45mln pounds a year which is a considerable sum for the small islands with a population of only 3,000 people. We are certainly justified in thinking that the residents of the Falklands will not be happy at all if they lose that money due to the ‘squid war’ Argentina has declared on them.
The bitter strife between London and Buenos Aires for the Falkland Islands continues and it is too soon to see light at the end of the tunnel.