Coffee House

Fog around the Falklands

22 December 2011

For the populist president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, the ban on Falklands-flagged
ships agreed by the Mercosur summit
in Montevideo
is a diplomatic triumph. It comes after a string of similar moves throughout the region aimed at tightening the noose around the Falklands. For example, HMS Gloucester was denied
access to Montevideo in 2010 and, in an effort to strengthen Brazilian-Argentinian ties, Brazil did the same when HMS Clyde sought to dock in Rio de Janeiro.

In reality, ships from the Falklands can switch flags before they enter any regional ports, but Argentina’s intent is to isolate the islands — and bring fellow South American nations
along with them in the process. In which case, the default British response of talking war is beside the point. The Falkland Islands and Britain are at risk of being outmanoeuvred diplomatically,
not confronted militarily. And the British government must find ways to strike back diplomatically, not listen to the pugilistic voices of ex-admirals.


That said, the situation is also not as clear-cut as Argentina — and the press — would have us believe. Yes, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica did say he would join other Mercosur states
in barring Falklands-flagged vessels from their ports. But Mujica also made clear that the Uruguayan government would refuse to join an economic or maritime blockade of the inhabitants of Falklands
because this, in his view, would represent a violation of their human rights and complicate negotiations between Argentina and the UK. So there will be clear limits to how far Argentina can go in
its effort to isolate the islands.

Besides, as maritime strategist James Rogers points out:

‘In some ways, though, the closure of South America’s Atlantic ports does not matter very much. There are only twenty-five vessels in the Falklands’ merchant marine; the
Royal Navy’s warships do not need to berth in South America’s Atlantic ports, for Britain has the logistical wherewithal to support them almost anywhere with its auxiliary fleet (as
well as at the naval station in the Falklands at Mare Harbour); and vessels flying Britain’s merchant ensign will still be welcome (Uruguay went out of its way to assert that its support
for Argentina is not an anti-British commercial drive).’

The Argentinian move requires a firm response from Britain, but one with perspective. As Argentina has rallied Mercusor, so the UK needs to rally its allies in the EU, NATO and
elsewhere. Perhaps a senior British minister should consider spending some of his or her Christmas holiday on the Falklands. Talk of a sending a nuclear submarine will be counter-productive by
confirming Argentina’s narrative of Britain as a colonial military aggressor and the Falkland Islands as some kind of foreign implant. Diplomacy is not a lesser tool and ought to be the default
option, not military manoeuvres. 

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  • Nicholas

    “”A show of strength is required. And South American ships should all be barred from UK ports. And their ambassadors should all be called in to ask what they are playing at.” LOL. And perhaps forces should be summoned from India, Burma and Rhodesia to defend the interests of the Empire…”

    Didn’t need that help in 1982, Brazil nut.

  • Noa


    Wax too hot for you?

  • Brazilian

    “A show of strength is required. And South American ships should all be barred from UK ports. And their ambassadors should all be called in to ask what they are playing at.” LOL. And perhaps forces should be summoned from India, Burma and Rhodesia to defend the interests of the Empire…

  • Nicholas

    @ Antikelper. Ven a buscarlas. Como la

  • michael

    Will the Argies be buying ‘Sunburn’ from the Russians? Through the back door via Syria or Iran?… bit of game changer.

  • no one that knows

    don’t forget the US
    oh no, wait, they’ve already abandoned you on the Falklands issue
    you know you could just give up your colonialists ambitions there since the other (colonialist) countries in that region decided to vote the Falklands out of existence and they are the majority…

  • Noa

    H2B talks tough:-

    “…I firmly believe that it is in our interests that we have a constructive relationship with Argentina. There is common ground to be found on issues like the global economy and climate change..”

    So, a smidgeon of QE and loft insultation grants for Buenos Aireans should do the trick then.

  • antikelper

    las malvinas son el ultimo reducto de una epoca pasada donde la royal navy necesitaba bases y estas islas espa

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘In which case, the default British response of talking war is beside the point.’

    Spoken like the true Brussels leftist horseshite peddler you are.

    ‘The Falkland Islands and Britain are at risk of being outmanoeuvred diplomatically’

    …and please tell us why we should give a flying f IF we are whatever the hell it means.

  • Coeur de Lion

    Well done HiFli. Sad to see so much military nonsense on this blog – it’s only 30 years ago! Cool off, everybody.

  • Nicholas

    David Lindsay is full of shit and when it comes to spouting about the British Empire it is mixed 50/50 with bile and brimming over.

    He is neither objective nor impartial. He is a propagandist like so many of them. Tell us about Thatcher and the grammar schools David.

  • Nicholas

    Trust Erica Blair to demonstrate the self-hate and contrariness of the Left. It’s a psychological condition rather than a political viewpoint.

    Dangerous people who have harmed their mother country immensely.

  • David Lindsay

    Dimoto, if the Brazilian admirals have designs on Saint Helena, then it is the first that I have heard of it, and let’s just say that I would know. Honestly, and there is no nice way of putting this, you are either gravely misinformed or deliberately making mischief.

  • Archibald

    So, Spanish-Europeans think they have a claim over something that British-Europeans colonized first? It’s all complete nonsense. It’s funny how former colonies in defining themselves so quickly remove themselves from any of the ‘bad’ stuff their former masters did, even though they are the offspring of said masters. But this is not and never will be like, for example, Ireland or any African states that were colonies of European powers. The British were there before Argentina even existed. It is a completely farcical argument to say it belongs to them on some sort of anti-colonial basis.

  • Noa

    daniel maris 9.35pm

    And what does the UK get in return?

  • Archie

    More delusional scribblings from Korski, I honestly don’t know why I bother reading him! Anyway, I seem to remember that we were in the EU the last time this kicked off and a fat lot of help our “EU allies” were then, ditto this time with knobs on, I’ll wager. America can probably not be relied upon, especially with the present Brit-hater in residence at the White House, so guess what? That’s right, it will be down to us………………again! One thing I am certain of though; if Cameron screws this up, he’ll be gone!

  • Erica Blair

    Korski as ever doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The islands in question are called the Malvinas.

  • Dimoto

    Argentina is a magnificent country, with a (mostly) friendly people who tend to admire the UK.

    But, on the dark side, they have never got over “Juan y Evita” and her various Peronist reincarnations (Isabellita, Cristina Kirchner etc).

    As the Brazilians say, Argentina is forever living in the 1950s.
    Well, what sort of government do you expect from that potent mix of Spanish and Italians ?

    Added to which, most of the Spanish speaking countries of Latin America, firmly believe in the treaty of Tordesilhas/Tordesillas – the pope gave South America to Spain and Portugal, any interlopers are pirates (British, Dutch and French).

    Thus, repeated attempts to take over former British territories (Falklands, Belize, Guyana).

    How did British-Brazilian relations get this bad ?
    Good question.
    Typical of British disregard for Brazil, Cameron visited all the other BRICs, but overlooked Brazil – big mistake Dave !

    In 1982 (when I lived in Brazil), it was ruled by the (benevolent) last of the military dictators, Joao Figueiredo.

    On the restoration of democracy, Brazil flirted with various centrist parties before choosing “the man of the people”, Lula – a sort of Brazilian Lech Walesa.

    Lula was a shrewd and moderate leader, but his successor is a different kettle of fish – think Janio Quadros (for those with long memories).

    Thanks to Jim O’Neil, Brazil has also got a bit carried away with a mild attack of the BRICs, feeding their hubris.

    Doesn’t excuse Cameron/FO overlooking Brazil though.

    BTW, Brazil’s crusty admirals also have (strategic) designs on Tristan da Cunha and St Helena. Maybe we should offer them bunkering facilities there ?

  • TrevorsDen

    Uruguay was created by Britain? Pardon me while I laugh. I think the Portuguese Spanish Brazilians and indeed the French might have something to say on that.

  • TrevorsDen

    Starfish – I cannot believe that some thick anti American racist can come up with so much thick lying twaddle. The Sidewinder won us the Falklands (and ‘a bayonet Sir! With some guts behind it!’)
    Thank you for taking the trouble to correct their garbage.

    I get totally sickened by all the anti American racist comments we get. No doubt all the usual suspecst will scream blue murder but quite frankly and in the true spirit of Christmas – sod you.

  • starfish

    “(unless the Argies, having worked this out, sneak a team ashore to blow holes in the runway).”

    the difference being this is now a military runway on a military base rather than Stanley – an act of war

  • daniel maris

    Well Argentina is now a democracy. Somewhat different from the days of the junta.

    I think we ought to negotiate some sort of condominium status. The West Falkands is pretty empty. Perhaps we could have a condominium status, with West Falklands developed as an Argentinian province.

    There could be provision for a referendum after 50 years as to whether to revise this agreement and allow for Argentinian sovereignty over the whole of the Falklands. There would be strict limits on what forces the Argentinians could place in the Falklands at any one time.

  • HiFli

    The runway at Stanley doesn’t allow us to to reinforce in anyway at all- its too short. The runway at Mount Pleasant does. It will take more than a couple of sneakies to blow a hole in it to the extent that a reinforcement is impossible.

  • HiFli

    David Lindsay
    OK here’s a couple for starters
    1. The Sidewinder AIM9M was first fielded in 1995, sometime after the Falklands. I think you are refering to the AIM9L which the US did agree to replenish from our NATO warstocks. It had a significant impact in the war.
    2. The US agreed to our use of Wideawake airfield. This also had more than a significant impact ont war.
    3.The US provided vital satellite resources. Whereas the State Dept were leaning towards supporting the Argie at the start of the war good old Ronnie brought them to heal. The DoD supported the UK in many vital areas throughout.
    4. The French ( not to downplay the excellent help[ they provided us) did not give ‘codes to disarm their missile’ they helped us with developing tactics against Mirage aircraft and, i believe in sourcing wher the exocets were.
    5. Need i go on ?
    Kind regards

  • starfish

    “whereas the land of Ronald Reagan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick refused us the use of any base”

    how many US bases were in the area? none

    “(so that we had to go cap in hand to Pinochet)”

    you seek help where you can in wartime, IIRC we cosied up to Stalin in the war against Hitler

    “and refused to sell us a single AIM-9M,”

    no, they gave us AIM-9L, a significant tactical edge (the 9M did not then exist). in fact the UK was the first to use it in combat

    ” but provided Argentina with boots and kit, and also trained the Argentinian Army.” eh?

    evidence? the French provided far more material support to Argentina

    The US provided logistic, communications and intelligence support

    all publicly documented

    you are wrong on so many levels

  • Gabriel Lewis

    Surely the whole point of nuclear subs is their “they could be anywhere…” stealthiness? Pointing out that there isn’t one currently deployed in the South Atlantic would seem somewhat counter-productive.

  • Airey Belvoir

    Admiral West is a bit of a blowhard who loves his telly punditry, but he is right to point out that the airfield at Stanley allows us to reinforce quite rapidly if needed (unless the Argies, having worked this out, sneak a team ashore to blow holes in the runway).

  • David Lindsay

    HiFli, which ones, exactly?

    I think you’ll find I’m right.

  • Cynic

    Thank goodness the public coughed up for the Vulcan To The Sky Appeal! We’ll get no help from the EU – have they ever backed us up before? I can’t remember them doing so. It’s times like this you need to be self-sufficient. Alas, the government is trying its hardest to avoid being in this happy state.

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