Pressure builds over Falklands Oil

The discovery of huge oil reserves under the seas around the Falkland Islands has raised tensions between the UK and Argentina, according to the Sunday Express. Argentinian authorities have prevented a ship, the Thor Leader from leaving the port of Campana last Thursday. It was carrying a cargo of 7,000 tonnes of steel tubes to be used for drilling, which the Argentinian Government allege has been ‘illegally promoted’ by Britain.

Argentinian objections are believed to centre around UN resolutions which call for the two Governments to renew talks on sovereignty of the Islands. Quite how the Argentines can complain about this is interesting, as recently President Cristina Kirchner has vowed to regain the Islands. And in my opinion the UK Government is quite right in that as long as the Islanders themselves want to remain British, there is nothing to discuss. Therefore it is slightly mischievious of the UN to call for negotiations.

Geologists estimate up to 60 billion barrels could lie beneath the sea bed, potentially the second largest oilfield in the world. Argentina is facing an economic crisis, and ratcheting up pressure over the Falklands is an age old resort of Buenos Aires. It will not have gone un-noticed that British forces are severely stretched in Afghanistan, and the Royal Navy is much smaller than it was in 1982. The upcoming Defence Review is bound to cut the Armed Forces even further.

The Islands themselves are better protected than they were in 1982, with air defence missile systems, Typhoon Fighters, an infantry company and several Royal Navy vessels on station. But although the tripwire is stronger than in 1982, that the UK’s military’s forces are so much smaller are bound to have an impact on diplomacy.

That a signifcant oilfield is in UK sovereign territory has to be taken into account in the Defence Review, as Britain could not rely on international support should Argentina keep raising the pressure.



Filed under defence, Falklands War

9 responses to “Pressure builds over Falklands Oil

  1. Well, there is much more to the story….the argentines will keep claiming sovereignty over the Islands, because they believe in a string of historical propositions difficult to prove and more difficult even, to transform them into actual political levers of transformation.
    The UK has seen all kinds of protests from Buenos Aires, and with the present situation they can expect no more than noise from Buenos Aires…
    Still a conversation about what is possible to share is not taking place.

  2. James Daly

    Hi Nora, thank you for your comment.

    I think the paramount consideration has to be that as long as the islanders wish to remain British, any discussions are futile. It might be worthwhile discussing things like fishing rights, oil etc but all the time Buenos Aires is making aggressive overtones about regaining the islands these would be in bad faith.

    The standard Argentine response to this seems to be that the islanders have been transplanted there over the years and are not indigenous. Yet what proprotion of the Argentinian population is descended from Spanish settlers as opposed to native peoples? How far do we take it? Are the only true Australians the Aboriginies? Migration and the settling of people is a reality of the world.

  3. Grim

    This story has had a fairly sizeable bit of coverage now, and one article pointed out that until a few years ago we actually had a treaty with the Argentinians to share any potential oil revenue. They scrapped that treaty unilaterally.

    …So it’s their own damn fault if they lose out.

    And if they were ever to try and fight again, we wouldn’t just let it slide, eventually the British would fight back. At first the tactics might have to change though. For example, the supply routes could be cut, with a nuclear submarine doing it’s thing and scaring the Argentine navy into port, and then Tomahawking airfields to cut the air bridge.

    Anyway, now there’s oil involved, maybe big brother USA could be persuaded to send a CVBG or too our way in return for a nice cut.

  4. James Daly

    One thing I think is significant and different from 1982 is the intelligence situation. In 1982 we had one agent in the whole of S America and the Foreign Office were well off the ball. They could hardly expect to catch us by surprise now.

    I agree about the treaty, I think the noises coming from Buenos Aires at the moment are a combination of sour grapes and a reaction to their economic situation. Its the last resort of any Argentine Government facing internal problems – the Malvinas.

    I never understand exactly what they expect us to negotiate over anyway…

  5. Grim

    Perhaps they are expecting us to sail a nice big cruise ship down there and quietly march the Falkland islanders onboard when the UN decided they have no right to be there after 200 years of settlement.

  6. James Daly

    I think its pretty ridiculous for the UN to be calling for negotiations when it knows full well that with the Agentine Government’s stance even calling for talks makes the situation worse. You can’t have negotiations without realism.

    I find it hard to see how the UN can call for talks, when the ideal of the UN is supposed to be the right of self-determination. Look at the pressure FDR put Churchill under over withdrawal from Empire during WW2. Yet the Falklands have been British for 4 times the life of the UN, and since before Argentina even became independent.

  7. Perhaps this is a timely reminder of the fact that the future international crises are going to be both unpredictable and varied – better not get rid of the Navy then, as some media commentators seem to advocate….

  8. James Daly

    I think theres a lot of sense in that WEBF, no-one saw this crsis coming. Well in hindsight it seems that its been bubbling away under the surface for a while but its only just hit the mainstream media. I wonder what other troublespots are waiting to crop up? With the economic and energy situations how they are the world is an unpredictable place.

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