The British government on Wednesday warned that there should be no doubt about its commitment to supporting the Falklands Islands after Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay banned ships that fly the islands’ “illegal” flag from their ports.
Admiral Alan William John West, a former Royal Navy chief and security minister in the last cabinet, suggested that Britain dispatch a nuclear submarine to the South Atlantic and stage military exercises there to express its displeasure at the “outrageous behavior” of Argentina and its neighbors.
“Far from trying to settle in a grownup way and having better and better relationships with the Falkland islanders, they are upping the ante and becoming very confrontational,” he told the London Evening Standard.
Britain has claimed sovereignty over the Falklands since the eighteenth century and asserted its control over the archipelago in 1833 and 1982. On both occasions, it was challenged by the Argentinians. Admiral West commanded a frigate that was sunk by Argentine forces during the latter conflict. Twenty-two of his crew died in the attack.
The island dispute has escalated in recent years after British companies began exploring for oil in waters surrounding the Falklands which lie four hundred nautical miles off the Argentine coast. President Cristina Kirchner accused Britain of plundering her country’s resources this week.
“Malvinas is not an Argentine cause, it is a global cause, because in the Malvinas they are taking our oil and fishing resources,” she told a summit of Latin American leaders in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital. She’s previously labeled Britain a “crude colonial power in decline” and vowed to “reclaim” the Falklands.
There appears to be little chance of Argentina staging another invasion attempt however. Its naval capacity, for one thing, has barely improved since the 1980s when the South American country most recently tried to conquer the islands. Fearful of a military coup, Argentina’s civilian government has consistently underfunded the armed forces.
The country is gathering international support to open the issue up to negotiation, not just from its neighbors but from the Americans as well.
This summer, the United States voted in favor of a “draft declaration on the question of the Malvinas Islands” that was subsequently adopted by the Organization of American States by unanimous consent. Rather than siding with its Atlantic ally, the Obama Administration implicitly legitimized efforts to Argentinize the islands, urging the United Kingdom to enter into negotiations with Buenos Aires.
Prime Minister David Cameron rejected calls to negotiate, telling parliament this summer, “as long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory. Full stop, end of story.”
No matter Argentine pretensions, the Falklanders appear to have no desire to be part of their eastern neighbor, rather they are steadfast in their willingness to remain subjects of the British Crown. Of the 3,000 islanders, some 20 percent are British.