The Falkland Islands, a windswept archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, are a British Overseas Territory, and have been since 1833. The 3,000 inhabitants of this island are proud to be British subjects, and no amount of Argentine huffing or puffing will change that.
The bellicose attempts by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to challenge the island’s sovereignty, and to engage in efforts to disrupt shipping links to the islands, are without justification. British Prime Minister David Cameron is right to reject such challenges, and to reiterate the U.K.’s firm commitment to the islands’ prosperity and security.
Ms. Kirchner may gain support at home for exploiting feelings among some Argentines that they have a rightful claim to the islands, known there as Las Malvinas. Argentina has successfully pressured members in the Mercosur trading bloc, including Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, to ban legitimate Falkland Islands flagged vessels from using their ports. There is even unsporting talk that the Argentine Olympic team will deface their national uniforms by including a political statement about the Falkland Islands on them.
The issue, however, is not a colonial one. It is the right of a country to determine its own future. And this right to self-determination cannot be ignored, wished, or shouted away. Falklanders are unlikely to change their minds about their loyaltu. The endeavour by Argentina’s military junta to invade the islands in April, 1982 ended in a humiliating defeat, and the withdrawal of Argentina forces. It was widely seen as an unsuccessful attempt by Leopoldo Galtieri, leader of the military government, to divert attention away from the nation’s economic difficulties.
Ms. Kirchner too faces a difficult year, with rising inflation, declining competitiveness, and accusations of curtailing the media’s freedom of expression, following the government’s move to seize control of the paper used to produce newspaper. Surely the country would be better off addressing these very challenges, than engaging in belligerent behaviour towards its tiny, friendly, and admirably independent neighbour.