Britain to Boost Falklands Defenses, Argentina Eyes Russia

Britain will spend more to defend the Falklands as Argentina seeks military support from Russia.

HMS Clyde patrols in waters around the  Falkland Islands, December 5, 2014
HMS Clyde patrols in waters around the Falkland Islands, December 5, 2014 (MoD/Jay Allen)

Britain will boost its defenses in the Falkland Islands, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday, as Argentina was reportedly considering to lease bomber planes from Russia in return for beef exports.

Argentina still poses a “very live threat” to the British-ruled islands, Fallon said.

“The principle threat to the islands remains,” he told lawmakers in London. “I am confident that, following this review, we have the right deployment.”

Fallon told Parliament the government would spend £180 million over the next decade to boost the security of the islands. Personnel involved in their defense would remain at around 1,200.

The minister earlier told the BBC, “We do need to modernize our defences there to make sure we have sufficient troops and the islands are sufficiently defended.”

Four Typhoon combat aircraft are currently deployed to the islands as are a large Royal Navy warship and a small patrol ship.

The United Kingdom operates three helicopter carriers but no aircraft carriers which were instrumental in retaking the islands from Argentina after it invaded in 1982. The first of two new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers is due to enter service in 2017.

Argentina has stepped up its claims since 2010 when oil was found in a field north of the archipelago.

Last week, Argentinian and Russian officials agreed in Moscow to expand military cooperation between their nations. Unconfirmed reports on Tuesday said Russia had offered to lease twelve long-range bombers to the Latin American state.

Supporting Argentina’s claims in the Falklands could be a way for Russia to retaliate against Western sanctions. Britain was among the most forceful in calling for punitive measures after Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Britain has ruled the Falklands for almost two centuries and the overwhelming majority of its roughly 3,000 inhabitants are of British descent.

In a 2013 referendum, all but three of the island’s voters said they wanted the Falklands to remain an overseas British territory.

The islands are situated some five hundred kilometers off the Patagonian coast.