Argentina has claimed to have gathered support from other South American countries for its stance over the Falkland Islands, according to BBC News.
At a regional summit in Mexico a document has reportedly been drafted giving Argentina unanimous support. No official statement has been made, but the President of Mexico has reportedly said a document had been drawn up offering Buenos Aires full support in its territorial dispute with London. This regional support is hardly surprising, and has come with the usual anti-imperialist soundbites.
Cristina Kirchner, the Argentinian President, has apparently said that “I think the important thing is that we have achieved very strong support, something that legitimates our claims fundamentally against the new petroleum activity.” How somebody who happens to be the wife of the last President can claim any kind of legitimacy or expect to be taken seriously is beyond me. Also, it hasn’t been made clear exactly what international law has been violated by Britain.
Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, said “Mrs Queen of England, the empires are over”. Clearly Mr Chavez’s grasp of history, british politics and indeed of democracy are slightly weak. The British Empire ended years ago. The people on the Falkland Islands want to be British, how they got there is immaterial. Is Mr Chavez going to hand Venezuela back to the Indigenous Venezuelan Indians?
The majority of people in South America, and certainly those who find themselves in power, are the descendants of the Spanish Empire. If they are advocating that the Falkland Islanders should be shipped home, shouldn’t they all go home to Spain too? Like it or not, the effects of Imperialism are a reality, and the make up of modern South American is exactly the same.
One cannot help but feel that the rumblings coming from Buenos Aires are being caused by two factors. Firstly, the economic and political situation is leading the Argentine Government to exploit the age-old Falklands factor to divert attention away from their own domestic failings. Secondly, Buenos Aires is unhappy about having to eat humble pie over the oil issue. They may make noises about Britain not negotiating or acting unilaterally, but in 2007 they withdrew from talks over the sharing of oil revenue. Now, when it seems that there is money to be made, they want a slice of the pie. I cannot help but think that this recent crisis is not so much about the Islands per se, but about Argentinian domestic factors and oil. Argentina is being less than altruistic in this.
Given the staunch support of the UK for recent US Foreign policy, including unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it might be expected that the US Government will support the British stance. However, with Barack Obama’s somewhat cooler approach to the special relationship, and a desire to engage more with regional governments, the UK might not be able to expect as much support as it received in 1982.
So where does this leave Britain? Clearly, in a very dangerous position. Argentina will feel emboldened by the support they have received from their neighbours – they are not as isolated as in 1982. But economically and militarily, Argentina is unlikely to act. All the same, it is important that the Foreign Office works hard to garner support, particularly from the US and the EU countries.
Theodores Roosevelt’s adage ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ still holds firm – it might not be a bad idea, if possible, to send an extra warship or two down south to patrol the drilling area. We might not have many ships available, but the deployment of one or two now might save a bigger headache later. The biggest mistake the British Government made in 1982 was not acting decisively over the South Georgia incident.