As the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War approaches, Argentina has adopted an increasingly assertive strategy of regional diplomacy and economic pressure to draw attention to its long-running row with the United Kingdom over the islands. The dispute over the desolate archipelago in the South Atlantic, inhabited by about 3,000 people and 600,000 sheep, is no longer just a matter of national pride over a vestige of empire. It is being cast by Buenos Aires as a high-stakes scramble for substantial oil reserves that are believed to lie beneath the waters surrounding the islands.
The government of President Cristina Kirchner is seeking to pressure the UK government into accepting negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands. But unlike 1982, when invading troops were driven out by a British task force, Argentina's current strategy is focused not on military deployments but on diplomatic and economic initiatives. Buenos Aires hopes to harness the emerging global clout of Latin American countries to strengthen its position. However, the steps it has taken so far to embarrass the UK have had little impact.
Las Malvinas, as the islands are called in Argentina, have long been a nationalist cause for Argentine leaders seeking to bolster their domestic political positions. This has been particularly true of the Kirchner era, especially under Cristina, who was elected in 2007 to succeed her husband Nestor (who later died). As the 30th anniversary approaches, she has made a series of speeches and diplomatic manoeuvres in an effort to draw attention to the issue. Calling Britain a 'crude colonial power in decline', Kirchner said she would take Britain's 'militarisation' of the dispute to the United Nations after the new destroyer HMS Dauntless was deployed in 2012 as part of a regular South Atlantic naval patrol. Also fanning the populist flames was the routine posting to the Falklands of Prince William, a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot who is second in line to Queen Elizabeth's throne.