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In April 2nd 1982, the then Argentinian government sent soldiers to take over the disputed Falklands Islands. The reason for this is that the South American country regarded the group of islands as part of its territory. However, the British, who already occupied the islands, also regarded the Falklands as their territory. Over the next one month, both countries made serious attempts to store the conflict from escalating. Alexander Haig, who was the then United States Secretary of State was right in the middle of the diplomatic negotiations to try and stop the conflicting from escalating. He and his team travelled frantically between the London and Buenos Aires to meet and negotiate with the leaders of the two countries, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and President Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina. Nevertheless, the countless hours of negotiations and the frantic efforts of the Alexander Haig and his team failed to stop the conflict from escalating. The British responded to the deployment of Argentinian troops in the Falklands islands by sending its own troops. The resulting confrontation saw the death of over one thousand men (“Crisis in the South Atlantic,” N.D.). The purpose of this research paper is to investigate the American diplomatic relations with the British during the war and in the immediate post-war period.
Background of the Falkland War
The Falkland Islands are located about 300 miles to the east of the coast of Argentina. They are geographically closer to the South American country than to Britain. Argentina had for a long time regarded the islands as part of their territory. However, in 1833, Britain, a far more superior power than Argentina, claimed the islands and occupied them. Despite Argentina’s diplomatic opposition to the occupation and administration of the islands by Britain, the European power refused to surrender them. However, in early 1982, the Argentinian government decided to forcibly take the islands. The government led by a military junta that thought that forcibly taking the islands would unite the country behind it as it was facing a significant decline in popularity because of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. For this reason, the government sent over 1000 troops to the Falklands Islands for the recovery mission on the 2nd of April 1982 (“Crisis in the South Atlantic,” N.D.).
As the military government expected, many in Argentina reacted positively to the news of the recovery mission. Large ecstatic crowds turned up in the capital to show political support for the junta’s military mission. Nevertheless, the British saw the mission as an act of aggression. The then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, declared the Falklands a war zone and asked the British forces to prepare for a military response to recover the islands for the UK. Considering the power and stature of Britain, many European countries and other countries showed open support for the United Kingdom. The countries, especially the European ones, reacted by withdrawing support for the Argentinian military forces (“Crisis in the South Atlantic,” N.D.). On the other hand, most South American governments supported Argentina, with the only open opposition coming from Chile which had its own conflict with Argentina over another group of islands. Failure by the British, Argentinian, US, and international diplomatic efforts to stop the conflict from escalating resulted in a military response by the British. The British naval forces responded effectively and was able to recover the islands and get the Argentines to surrender on June 14th.
USA and UK relations during and after the Falkland Islands war
The US has always had a special relationship with the UK. This continued during the war as the United States responded to the Argentinian aggression by imposing economic sanctions and embargoes on Argentina. There was also plenty of private support. Nevertheless, the US did not want to show so much public support since it also wanted to maintain a strong relationship with the South American countries that were in support of Argentina. It also did not want to go against its longstanding Monroe doctrine that opposed the European colonization of any part of the Americas. For this reason, the Americans chose not to step in and send troops to help Britain retake the islands.
Even though, the Americans did not send in troops or continually publicly voice their support for the British, the Falklands War is thought to have re-energized the special relationship between the US and the UK. Before the breakout of the conflict, the US and the UK were already closer than before courtesy of the shared ideologies of the then leaders of the two countries. Both Ronald Reagan (US President) and Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister) were strongly liberal and believed in removing all sorts of barriers.
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For these reasons, they were both strongly opposed to the Soviet Union and to communism. Although the British still had plenty of clout in the global scene and the special relationship with the US was continuing to grow, the relationship was still dominated by the US even during the war (“Crisis in the South Atlantic,” N.D.; “Message from British Prime Minister” May 5, 1982).
The special relationship during the war
The conflict between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands broke out at a time when the United States was working hard to build the strong relationship it had with Latin America. There were many American diplomats argued that there was no need US to step into the situation more heavily in favor of the UK as such a move would affect American interests (Bartlett, 1992, 154). However, although the diplomats urged caution in the provision of support for Britain, there were those who wanted to give the UK full support. They included the Secretary of Defense and other members of the Reagan administration. These powerful UK allies allowed the British warships the use of the US Navy base in Ascension Island, hastened the purchase of missiles from American companies by the UK government, and…
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…Security Council, the Secretary of State told the council that the negotiations had broken down and that his government had declared total support for the British position. He also called for the suspension of economic and military aid to Argentina. Less than a week later, the American Secretary of Defense met with his British counterpart and together they worked on the modalities of the military, diplomatic and political support for the UK in the Falklands War.
Despite the official declaration of total support and subsequent high-level meetings to actualize the support, the American diplomacy still had the job of making sure that the declaration of support did not cause a severe damage on the US-Argentina and US-Latin America ties. This is because of the reason that most Latin American governments regarded the US declaration of total support for the UK as a betrayal of the tenets of hemispheric unity laid out in the 1947 Rio Treaty of reciprocal assistance. To save face and to ensure that the situation did not escalate any further. At this point fighting was already raging as the British naval forces sought to retake all the Falklands islands from the Argentinians. The American diplomacy was, however, able to resolve the situation through sending its top diplomats to meet with high-ranking leaders on both sides. One of the most influential diplomats in the resolution of the conflict was General Vernon Walters who was an Ambassador-at-Large. He was sent to secretly meet with the Argentinian regime. President Reagan himself called the British Prime Minister to convince her to stop the war and not to go for total victory. The high-level negotiations brought the war to an end. In the field, the war ended with British victory as the British navy managed to reclaim the islands for the UK.
The US and the UK have always had a special relationship. The relationship has seen the two countries cooperate extensively on political, defense, trade, security, and on many other fronts. However, there have been multiple cases where the British and the American interests have differed leading to the straining the special relationship. One such instance was the Falklands war. The war started when the Argentinian junta sent its military to take the Falklands islands so as to regain political support back home. The resulting conflict saw the US diplomacy trying to maintain both its special relationship with the UK and its acquaintance with Argentina so as to prevent the possible spread of communism to the country. However, while the US tried to maintain a neutral stance, the UK diplomacy was able to score important diplomatic victories that got the international community on its side. In the end, upon securing international support the UK went on the offensive and retook the South Georgia islands military. This forced the US to declare support for the UK. It at the same time forced the American diplomacy to go on an overdrive and to prevent any further hostilities. The war ended….....
“Crisis in the South Atlantic: The Reagan Administration and the Anglo-Argentine War of 1982” in MILESTONES: 1981–1988. (N.D.). Office of the Historian
“Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan” in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1981–1988, VOLUME XIII, CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, 1981–1984 (N.D). Office of the Historian
“Message From British Prime Minister Thatcher to President Reagan” in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1981–1988, VOLUME XIII, CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, 1981–1984, (May 5, 1982). Office of the Historian
“Message From British Prime Minister Thatcher to President Reagan” in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1981–1988, VOLUME XIII, CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, 1981–1984, (November 4, 1982). Office of the Historian
“Note From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark) to President Reagan” in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1981–1988, VOLUME XIII, CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, 1981–1984, (May 5, 1982). Office of the Historian
“Telegram From the Embassy in Argentina to the Department of State” in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1981–1988, VOLUME XIII, CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, 1981–1984, (April 27, 1982). Office of the Historian.
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