1982 in 2012?

With the new HMS Dauntless destroyer destined for the South Atlantic, many are commenting on the message the move is sending out. The Falkland Islands, where the £1bn ship will be headed, were the subject of a major military conflict in 1982. Igniting soon after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s controversial sinking of the Belgrano, the war went on to claim hundreds of lives. But does this new development signify an escalation of tensions in the South Atlantic, or is this just what the Ministry of defence claims it to be: a routine operation?

HMS Dauntless

Tensions have been building as the Argentinean Government have begun reasserting their claim over the islands. The British Government’s official line is that the Falklands are part of Great Britain by self-determination. In December Argentina and other South American countries placed a ban on ships flying the Falklands’ flag from entering their ports. What does this mean? Certainly it shows that everything is not ok, and that the war that took so many lives did not end the controversy over the possession of the islands. Prime Minister David Cameron rejected this tactic, describing it as “colonialism”. While this may well be hypocritical, the British Empire having been at the forefront of colonialism for hundreds of years, it does raise a valid point. Is the purpose merely to show Argentine displeasure, or is it a provocative move to test Britain’s commitment to the territory? This in itself does not seem to be an act of overt aggression. Verily it shows that Anglo-Argentinean relations aren’t what they could be, but it doesn’t constitute an act of war. The deployment of one of the most advanced naval vessels the world has ever seen, however, may be a different issue.

A spokesman for the Royal Navy (source BBC) said that:

The deployment of HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces another ship on patrol.

However it seems suspect that of all the territories the HMS Dauntless could have been sent to protect, it had to be the archipelago where tensions were escalating and conflict could erupt if either side feel provoked. If the British Government doesn’t believe a war is likely to break out, why is it sending so powerful a ship to replace a mere frigate? The ship to be replaced, HMS Montrose, has a displacement of 4,900 tonnes, which, while substantial, is only just over half that of the HMS Dauntless  (8,000 tonnes). So it’s hardly a like-for-like trade. Whether or not the British Government intended it, and it seems likely that they did, the Dauntless‘s imminent deployment does send a warning.

This begs the question: will there be another Falklands War? Impossible to say. Watch out for any new developments in the area, either Argentine or British, that may signify a further deterioration in relations and increase the probability of a major disagreement.

Image: Brian Burnell [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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