If memory serves the British forces stationed on the Falkland Islands test their missiles every six months, which seems to make sense. No good pressing the button in time of need and nothing happening.
Now, a little known part of the 1989/90 agreement to restore diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UK, following the break-down in 1982, deals with actions such as this by requiring a transfer of information. This also seems pretty sensible, one side keeping the other side informed so that no misunderstandings arise.
So far so good. But what happened in October 2010 was that Argentina suddenly woke up to the latest missile test and attempted to generate some political capital out of it. The result was complaints from a number of the ‘usual suspects’ and a formal protest laid before the International Maritime Organisation, whose bemused officers normally deal with such mundane issues as vessel safety.
The complaint was noted, and filed.
Now what do we have? News of Argentina asking Brazil to up-date their obsolete missiles, news of Argentina pushing for a UNASUR defence force and news of them seeking to join Brazil in producing a nuclear submarine.
Brazil has recently done a deal with France that will see just such a submarine entering into its service within the next few years. Argentina is hoping to join its larger trading partner by using an older submarine of their own and converting it to nuclear fuel.
Add to this United Nations’ concerns about a creeping militarization of Latin America and the result seems to be a near future return to the politics of the gun in the south cone. All potentially dangerous for the Falkland Islands and the few other territories held by European nations in that part of the world.
The reality of course may not be so bad. Brazil is more concerned with protecting its off shore oil fields than getting into anyone elses’ argument over small areas of territory. Quite why it is worried about someone attempting to take over the oil fields is not very clear, but it is. Brazil has even talked about the construction some kind of ‘sub-sea’ base within its EEZ so that it can keep a better eye on its territory.
Argentina is starting from a much lower position with its armed forces starved of cash for much of the last 25 years. And for all the bull and bluster about constructing a nuclear powered submarine, the vessel it is intending to use was never designed to take nuclear engines, and has been sitting on a dock in crates for the last 10 years.
Whether UNASUR is ever able to get its act together and make up a security force is something we’ll have to wait to see.
But the point is this, Argentina belly aches about what it sees as the militarisation of the South Atlantic, criticising the UK for the defence force that it keeps on the Falklands and whingeing anytime a Royal Naval vessel wants to dock in one of the mainland ports. Yet it fails to see the hypocrisy in its own moves to increase its military might in the same area.
It is doubtful that an Argentine nuclear submarine will ever see the light of day, but perhaps the British should protest and take the matter to the International Maritime Organisation.
Who of course, don’t give a damn!