“Ripe for the picking”, were the words chosen by Air Commodore Andrew Lambert in his reference to the Falkland Islands during this week’s blast of fury from Defence Chiefs over the cuts to their budgets.
The most recent report to come from the United Kingdom National Defence Association, entitled the Inconvenient Truths, says that British overseas territories are at risk and warns the Falkland Islands could fall if Argentina decided to abandon its peaceful approach to the issue of sovereignty, and invaded again, supported by its new-found friend the Chinese.
The report concludes: ‘The vital twin pillars of Britain’s security for the past 50 years, the ‘‘special relationship’’ with America and the continuation of an effective Nato, can no longer be guaranteed unless Britain increases its defence capabilities substantially and soon.’
Quite why the Chinese would abandon their long adhered to, ‘hands off’ approach to international politics isn’t made very clear. Nor is there any assessment of Argentina’s ability to actually amount an attack, considering its much depleted armed forces.
So what of the threat to the British Overseas Territories world-wide? What of the threat to the Falklands and Gibraltar?
The reality, as usual, is politics.
Argentina’s main threat is the potential for their President, Cristina Fernandez, to bore the Falkland Islanders into submission. That is a very clear and present danger. The ability of Argentine forces to successfully attack on the other hand, is rather more moot. Badly underfunded for the last 20 odd years, it is doubtful that they could gather enough of a force together to have much hope of success against even the limited forces on the Islands, not to mention the submarines that would be sent to the area the moment that a threat became apparent.
Besides, if Argentina’s Government took the Islands by force, what would they use as a smoke-screen to prevent their voters finding out about the true state of their economy?
So, for all the shouting, I am not very worried that we are about to lose the Falklands. Much the same goes for Gibraltar. Technically a lot easier for Spain to over-run the Rock, but politically a lot less likely.
No-body seems to want Pitcairn, or indeed, any of the other remnants of Empire.
Every-time Argentina wants to distract its population from other events, or to rally them behind the Government, the cry ‘Malvinas Argentina’s’ goes up. Every time the British Defence Chiefs want more money, “the Falklands are in danger’ appears on every newspaper.
Mind you, it was the defence cuts of 1774 that brought out the garrison from Port Egmont and spurred Spain into thinking it had the Islands all to themselves. And it was the defence cuts of the early 1980’s that suggested to Argentina’s ruling Junta that we didn’t care.
I think they know that we care now. But perhaps a couple of submarines should float about in that area for a while.