Thirty three years ago today on 2nd April saw the start of a dreadful military conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the South Atlantic Falkland Islands – which are basically almost the other side of the World (some eight thousand miles from us). How the heck we ever got control over these little forlorn bedrocks, goodness only knows, but we nevertheless did a couple of hundred years ago. However, Argentina (itself some three hundred miles distant from them) has historically coveted them and has claimed them as their very own, calling them the Malvinas (despite the irrefutable fact that they have never actually significantly inhabited them if they even set foot on them).
It has become a ‘cause célèbre‘ and a matter of national pride for most Argentineans to gain sovereignty over the island group (which consists of the Falklands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich). Due to dire mistakes made by Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, the Argentinean military government of the time believed Britain’s gaze was elsewhere, and consequently they easily seized & occupied the basically unprotected islands.
To their shock and horror, we British weren’t done though were we? No, we cobbled together a major naval task force that set off from our shores to fight a distant war. That was at a time of course when the UK had a credible fighting machine with adequate naval, air force, and army resources – not any more by any stretch of the imagination, eh? Nonetheless, the widespread opinion at that stage of those who know about these things, was that the operation was doomed (too complex logistical arrangements, you see). So it was a very high risk escapade for our brave forces, and two hundred and fifty five of them paid for it with their lives (and nearly another eight hundred were injured) in a short two month campaign. [Nearly six hundred and fifty Argentineans were also killed, with over a thousand other non-fatal casualties- and there is no joy to be found in that either is there?]. You see pride on all sides comes at a heavy price, doesn’t it?
Why, you might wonder then is the Falklands back in the news again now? Well, you can thank our Russian pain in the arse Vladimir Putin of course. Reportedly he is about to swap some of his out-of-date long range bombers for some Argentinean bully beef (to circumvent the trade sanctions placed on Russia for annexing the Crimea and undertaking military incursions into Ukraine). Analysts claim that these planes will give Argentina the capability of replacing their constant saber-rattling with an new offensive to re-conquer the Falklands – dream on everybody, that is simply not going to happen because it is not remotely militarily feasible, is it? No, it will remain all political and aggressive gesturing by a reportedly corrupt & incompetent Argentinean government trying to divert attention from home failures to a nationalistic cause.
Nevertheless, it begs the question as to what the long term future holds for the Falklands & the three thousand or so Falklanders, doesn’t it? They want the status quo and want to remain British citizens, and retain British dependency status. Moreover, apparently they simply want to be left alone to carry out their solitary style life with their sheep farming, sea fishing, and a bit of tourism – they would be more than glad to be rid of the military garrison interlopers, except that they their presence represents security against another failed foreign invasion by Argentina of course.
The British Empire used to encircle the globe, with some sixty countries and territories formerly ruled or administered by us, but we progressively gave it all up, didn’t we? Now, we just pretend to be a global power, don’t you think? Apart from the Falkland’s group Britain has only still a dozen other overseas territories.
In reality the only distant lands we really want to retain these days are where we have strategic military bases, like say Gibraltar – and certainly NOT the Falklands. We hang on to Gib and its Rock you see, against the recurring and increasing ire of the Spanish, because it provides us with a tactical naval base and the gateway for the Mediterranean, don’t we?.We stole it from Spain some three hundred years ago, and there is no way we are going to give it back now, is there? It is likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future, don’t you think?
But what about the Falklands then, do we really want to be there? Well, no. There has always been the controversial issue of oil exploration in the region, but that has been blighted for decades now by the maritime disputes with Argentina – and it is perhaps less significant these days in light of the (temporary?) collapse in oil prices? There is no political or military will to retain the Falklands and sentiment only plays a bit part – how long will that last, eh?
The most likely outcome is that the United Kingdom will cede the Falklands to the Argentineans sometime in the next couple of decades, with of course protective conditions for the existing British inhabitants – which will nevertheless be subsequently blatantly ignored by Argentina (analogous to ‘The Handover’ – our return of Hong Kong to China nearly eighteen years ago). Why would we do this transfer of the Falklands, do you think? A major reason is that Argentina also wants to claim part of Antarctica and Britain will be more than willing to sacrifice the Falklanders in a trade-off for that claim, wont it. Perhaps we will simply sell-off the Falklands? We have sold-off everything else we had of value in the last fifty years, haven’t we. If George Osborne gets a chance, the Falklands will be gone in the next five years, don’t you think?
BRITISH OVERSEAS TERRITORIES : British Antarctic Territory (research stations), Gibraltar (naval base),Cyprus (part – military base area for communications gathering), British Indian Ocean Territory (military bases), Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (military base – southern Atlantic Ocean), Anguilla (Caribbean), Virgin Islands (Caribbean), Cayman Islands (Caribbean), Montserrat (Caribbean), Turks and Caicos Islands (tropical), Bermuda (North Atlantic), Pitcairn Islands (virtually unpopulated – southern Pacific Ocean), Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
[Falklanders you are unfortunately going to be abandoned by the Realm, but that is financial prudency and international diplomacy for you. You can get on with your humble lives, but you will nevertheless have to learn Spanish and call yourselves the Malvinasers – perhaps not too high a price to pay for serenity?]