Status Quo Side: UK
Non-Status Quo Side: Argentina
Region: Western Hemisphere
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Territory
At independence in 1816 Argentina claimed the uninhabited Falkland Islands by right of colonial succession, but Britain in 1833 reasserted an earlier claim, displaced Argentine settlers and established an enduring presence. Argentina claimed the South Georgia (1927) and South Sandwich (1948) Islands and agreed with Chile on joint defense of their rights in the Falklands against British claims. London declined a 1953 purchase offer. By 1966 "Malvinas" was a cause celebre among Argentine nationalists, subsequently aggravated by oil and gas discoveries. The UN attempted many fruitless negotiations 1966-82. By 1981 domestic economic and political crises in Argentina led to demonstrations against the military government, accused of massive "disappearances" and homicides. Army Commander Leopoldo Galtieri in December 1981 formed a new junta with navy and air force commanders.
Argentine workers dismantling an old whaling station raised an Argentine flag. The UK protested to the UNSC. Leaders on both sides made increasingly hostile speeches.
An Argentine invasion force seized the islands, overcoming a token Royal Marines force. The UK severed ties and called for Argentine withdrawal. On April 5 a UK task force put to sea, US good offices were offered and rejected by both sides, and the task force arrived in the area on April 25. The UK action was supported by the US and condemned by Latin nations and the USSR. Argentina rejected aid offered by Cuba. Naval battles from May 5-26 cost six ships, 250 British and 750 Argentine lives. Diplomatic efforts by the UN, Peru, and the Vatican collapsed or were rejected by the UK. Pitched battles May 14-26 saw 5,000 UK troops advance on East Falkland. The UK launched its final Stanley offensive on June 11.
15,000 Argentine troops surrendered. In 1984 negotiations foundered over the sovereignty issue. Negotiations reopened in 1989 when President Carlos Menem declared willingness to normalize relations without discussing sovereignty. In February 1990 full diplomatic relations were restored, air and sea links reestablished, the British 150-mile exclusion zone abolished and agreeement reached to resolve the sovereignty issue non-violently. In April 1992 Menem predicted recovery of the territory before the year 2000, and in June 1995 he spoke of buying out the islanders.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton