Two days ago, the Argentine coast guard boarded Spanish fishing vessels operating under license from the Falklands authorities. In response, the UK announced it intends to set up a “maritime protection zone” around its South American territories. At least one commentator has urged London to respond with force: “it should be considered an act of war and must be met with the use of force by Great Britain.” Here’s the story from the Telegraph:
Argentine patrol vessels have boarded 12 Spanish boats, operating under fishing licences issued by the Falkland Islands, for operating “illegally” in disputed waters in recent weeks.
Argentine patrol commanders carrying out interceptions near the South American coast told Spanish captains they were in violation of Argentina’s “legal” blockade of sea channels to the Falklands.
The warning has been backed up in a letter to Aetinape, the Spanish fishing vessels association from the Argentine embassy in Madrid warning boats in the area that “Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and adjoining maritime spaces are an integral part of the Argentine territory.”
In response, the UK announced it would support the territorial governments of the Falklands and the other islands in their bid to establish a maritime protection zone encompassing a million square kilometers of the surrounding ocean. “These are UK waters that are under discussion”, one official told the AFP.The Falklands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands have been claimed by the British since the eighteenth century and continuously governed by them since 1833, but Argentina has always considered them occupied parts of its territory; in 1982 hundreds of soldiers died when the junta of murdering, torturing thugs who hijacked Argentina felt they were on their last legs and needed a quick victory. As clueless as they were evil, the junta generals sent under equipped, under trained and under supported conscripts to shiver helplessly on the Falklands until Argentina was humiliated by British forces — and Margaret Thatcher made her name.The British lion is beginning to roar: Argentina’s intimidation of foreign fishing vessels is unacceptable, writes Nile Gardiner at RealClearWorld: “London should respond forcefully to this provocation by dispatching a second destroyer to the South Atlantic, as well as further Typhoon fighter aircraft and an additional attack submarine, as a warning to Argentina.”Via Meadia isn’t expecting imminent war. A quick look at Argentina’s newspapers makes it clear that the media doesn’t see this as a critical situation: The only story on the Falklands in the Buenos Aires Herald lies below the fold, tamely noting that “Argentina intensified its claims of sovereignty over the South Atlantic archipelago by detaining Spanish fishing vessels on suspicion of breaking the country’s ‘blockade’ of the seas around the islands.”Nevertheless, nationalist MPs in Buenos Aires are pushing President Cristina Kirchner not to back down, to finally secure what many view as Argentina’s national territory. The recent Chavez love fest in Caracas cheered the Argentines on, affirming Latin America’s united support for Argentina’s quest to evict perfidious Albion from the South Atlantic. Huffs were huffed and puffs were puffed, and it will be hard for President Kirchner to beat an inglorious retreat.The Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William of Wales) is scheduled to go on active duty in the Falklands next year; Argentines are already complaining of what some see as British aggression and insult. With Brazil on its side, and increasingly interested in the South Atlantic where its own vast oil reserves are found, and with the Obama administration showing signs of tilting toward Latin America rather than traditional allies like the UK, Argentina may sense an opening.There’s another interpretation. The Kirchner government’s economic program appears to be running out of gas. Whipping up a controversy with Britain over the Falkland Islands (Argentines call them the Malvinas) is a traditional resort of Argentine leaders who see bad times ahead. Let’s hope she is smarter than the generals: Falklands Round Two would likely strike many British Tories as a “splendid little war” that would stoke the party’s popularity the way the first war did back in 1982.