Silly Season

22 Feb


There must be a lack of substantial news about. A researcher comes across an obscure report from a low-level diplomat in Buenos Aires, submitted to his bosses two weeks before Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, and suddenly Britain was, “considering giving Argentina a naval base.”

What utter rubbish.

The facts are rather more mundane. On March 5th, 1982, David Joy, a member of the Embassy Staff in Buenos Aires reports a conversation with another diplomat, Raul Schmidt, from the Chilean Embassy. “The Schmidt thesis is based essentially on the Argentine Navy’s need of a strategic port further south than its current and most secure port, Puerto Belgrano. The obvious option Ushuaia was not satisfactory from a security point of view because it is under constant Chilean surveillance. Therefore the Argentines are, according to Schmidt, desperate to have some other secure port further south, a goal that could be satisfied by having access to the islands south of Beagle or the Falklands. In this context, he believes the sovereignty disputes are linked.”

Considered so important a revelation that Joy’s report does not actually get picked up in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London until March 16th; and an unknown someone pencils a note in the margin. “I think we are agreed that the Argentine interest in South Atlantic security is part of her wish to gain sovereignty over the islands. But it’s only a small part. After all, if all they wanted was a naval base we could easily accommodate them.”

Then there is a second comment, in different handwriting – “Could we easily accommodate the Argentines on a naval base? Because this is the sort of idea which we should have in mind if negotiations do resume.” This commentator is as unidentified as the first.

No suggestion of anyone at a high level in the FCO seeing the document, and no indication that the provision of a naval base for Argentina was ever considered by the great and the good who actually form Government policy. And yet headlines proclaim – UK considered allowing Argentina Falklands naval base two weeks before war!

It must be silly season already.


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