By Nile Gardiner
Argentina’s launch of a naval blockade “to isolate the Falklands” is in clear violation of British sovereignty. It should be considered an act of war and must be met with the use of force by Great Britain if Argentina does not back off.
According to a report by The Telegraph’s Fergus MacErlean:
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.”
The Kirchner regime has for some time been threatening a blockade of the Falklands and is now beginning to implement it in an effort to strangle the Islands economically. 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. Britain should also prepare to deploy its contingency infantry battalion – the Spearhead Lead Element (SLE) – to the Falklands at short notice to reinforce the 1,200-strong British Forces Garrison based near Stanley.
A significant show of force by Britain, rather than a weak-kneed "official complaint" by the Foreign Office, is needed to emphatically demonstrate to Argentina that it is playing with fire.
The British government should make it categorically clear to Cristina Kirchner and her administration that its behavior over the Falklands is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Its blockade is not only a violation of international law: it is an aggressive, hostile act designed to intimidate foreign ships doing business with the Falkland Islands. Mrs. Kirchner has also threatened to cut off air links to the Islands that had been negotiated back in 1999 and has launched a series of tirades against Britain, including calling it "a crude colonial power in decline.”
This is not a moment for diplomatic niceties by the prime minister and the foreign secretary, but a time for firm leadership in the defense of over 3,000 overwhelmingly British Falkland Islanders threatened by a hostile power on the other side of the world.
For David Cameron, his handling of the Falklands issue may be a defining moment. He should not underestimate the gravity of the situation Britain faces today, or be unwilling to do what is necessary to defend British sovereignty. If Argentina persists with its blockade, it must face the consequences and be sharply reminded that any attempt to cut off the Falklands or invade it will end in heavy defeat for Buenos Aires.
Nile Gardiner is a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst and political commentator. He appears frequently on American and British television and radio, including Fox News Channel, CNN, BBC, Sky News, and NPR.