Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Falklands - The Forgotten Agreements

George Canning, Foreign Secretary and for a short time, Prime Minister, in the 1820’s claimed he had brought The New World into existence to redress the balance of the old.  The Foreign Office had done one of its major gear shifts again. 

Having rescued Spain from Napoleon just over a decade before, Britain was now allowing the Spanish Empire in South America to fall apart into a number of independent states; Argentina included, rather than assist it further.

This was the politics of reality, if Spain could not hold on to these territories, who would then be the chief influence?  France was certainly in the hunt and worse our former enemy the USA had its own ambitions, signalled by The Monroe Doctrine.

Britain had three advantages.  One was the power of the British Navy at the time, giving protection.  Another was the opportunities created by Britain’s desire to expand its trade across the world and the third was that the City of London at that time was the key source of capital for developing states.

Britain could offer diplomatic support for an emerging nation and access to goods and services unobtainable from elsewhere.  The logic for Argentina to be close to Britain was inescapable.  In return, Britain would be a prime buyer of anything it had to offer.

One price was that Britain needed naval bases which a generation later would be coaling stations in order to cover the route around Cape Horne for both its trade with the West Coast of the Americas and parts of the East. 

The Falklands, or Malvinas were a barren and unfriendly spot but a good shelter in a storm and there were a lot of storms in the South Atlantic.  In time a few people came and some remained.  They had little to offer except grazing and a very quiet life, at least when the wind wasn’t blowing.

In the century that followed the importance of Argentina to Britain is shown by the appointment of Ministers Plenipotentiary to Buenos Aires shortly after independence was gained.  This office late in the 19th Century became Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary.

Looking down the list of names of these men they were top draw civil servants, people who were very well connected and who had direct access to the highest in the land.  Argentina was seen as a key and important post.  This must mean that that it was very important to trade, finance and influence.

During this time there was constant negotiation and work dealing with a range of matters at the highest level.  What, therefore was going on in relation to The Falklands, if it ever figured much in the continuing relationships?

Were anyone to “sweat” the Foreign Office files for all of this there will be a range of treaties, agreements, negotiations and understandings that will be substantial.  This needs an expertise probably lost to the present commercial managers at the Foreign Office.

But there is likely to be a lot there and some of it critical to the present issue.  My purely amateur guess is that the 1881 to 1884 period of office of Sir George Glynn Petre may be a key period.  It was a time when the new Liberal Government headed by Gladstone was trying to sweep up the extensive mess left by Disraeli who was not a man for detail and who had a cavalier attitude to foreign and imperial affairs.

Today, we have a Prime Minister who is not a man for detail and jumps in and out of issues to suit the mood of the moment.  He will need to get a grip on this because it has a nasty potential.  Hague The Vague, the present Foraging Secretary will not be much help.

Nor can we hope for anything from the USA where the President sees the UK as much as an opponent as anything else.  All that human rights stuff for the existing population of The Falklands will be colonial garbage to him.

What will matter will be the opinions of the substantial Latino component of the support for the Democrat’s at present.  This is likely to favour Argentina because it is “Latin”, whatever that is.  Also The President is another who does not do “detail”, either historical or legal, if it conflicts will any latest opinion poll.

Europe will be even less help.  The Spanish with their eyes on Gibraltar will have a “Latin” view, in 1982 during The Falklands Campaign, France would have been happy to sell rockets to Argentina and the Germans do not see The Falklands as a good property investment.

It is odd that The Falklands dispute is not really about the Islands.  As a land investment they are almost worthless.  It is what is in and under the sea in what might be defined as its territorial waters that matters, for those who can afford to put their hands on it. 

This is not the nation states involved. Argentina is broke, the UK is broke, the USA is broke and Europe is broke.  So the real future lies with the major corporations who do have the money and the will. 

Who are they and what do they want?


  1. I would question your idea that "So the real future lies with the major corporations who do have the money and the will."

    The Falklands are the extreme periphery of several collapsing Weltanschauung's. The idea that corporate worldviews and motivations will come into play on these remote and windswept isles is hopeful in the extreme.

    They will probably become increasingly distant, remote, and unimportant.

  2. Vis-a-vis the Falklands, it's 30 years since the last fracas, I know cos I was there. I hear the "We've no aircraft carriers/troops/logistics etc this time, and if the Argies invade again, we're fucked" arguments.

    We're a nuclear power, the Argies are not. We control the likes of "Blackwater" and others, The Argies are still flying the same fucking planes they did back then, and planes are only a threat if they happen to be in the air.

    Last time the Falklands garrison was 30 men, 2 tug boats and a rubber raft, the contingent down there now is a tad more substantial. Any invasion will face stiff opposition, (AA missile batteries and a squadron of Typhoon euro fighters). Which will basically blow any invasion force out the water the minute they cross the 200 mile exclusion zone.

    As for Obama, if he is so stupid as to stick his oar in, we can always pull our troops out of "SandboxII" and redeploy them elsewhere, and good luck with their new found Argie allies in the "Stans". I see that working out real well...

  3. How excellently summarised Demetrios. However, Argentina is not surging ahead like Brazil, so impulsive actions from Argentina could be forthcoming. America does not need oil nearly so much now. Our superb armed forces at the moment seem to be deployed too much elsewhere. Our homeland is quite tiny. Our welfare outgoing is ridiculous. Where are the inspired statesmen we need.