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Believe it or not, Javier Milei is a moderate on the Falklands

Javier Milei won't save Las Malvinas. Credit: Getty

November 21, 2023 - 5:45pm

On the orders of a Right-wing leader, the Argentine flag is once again hoisted over Port Stanley. Stiffening the sinews, summoning up the blood, he orders the new Queen Elizabeth liner requisitioned. David Cameron — keen not to be cast as Lord Carrington — asks if anyone remembers where we left the Harriers, before going red. The 14 remaining Royal Marines set off to yomp across East Falkland. A newly resurgent Rishi Sunak wheels out Grant Shapps to announce the recapture of South Georgia, before barking at Beth Rigby to “just rejoice at that news!” 

Of course, it isn’t real. But who’s to say you can’t enjoy the euphoria of what could have been, if only for a moment?  

New Argentine President Javier Milei has provided some hope that this play might be recast, and has been quoted as saying that his country “has non-negotiable sovereignty over the Falklands”. While he has stopped short of direct sabre-rattling — likely because a sabre is pretty much all the national military can afford — he has made clear that he thinks “Las Malvinas” are rightfully Argentine, and has suggested a transfer of power similar to the process used in Hong Kong. More, he has argued that “we had a war — that we lost — and now we have to make every effort to recover the islands through diplomatic channels.”

The unfortunate reality for Sunak is that Milei is relatively moderate when it comes to the Falklands. As the historian and Falklands War specialist Ricky Philips put it, “he is simply quoting the Argentine constitution, because the Peronists put him on the spot after he said the Falkland Islanders wishes were paramount.” Milei also received heat on the campaign trail for calling Thatcher — widely regarded in Argentina as a war criminal for ordering the sinking of the Belgrano — as “one the great leaders in the history of humanity”.

Saying the Falklands are rightfully Argentine is a political ritual: much like our politicians must pay fealty to “our NHS”, theirs must create noise over the Falklands.

But this might still be enough to make Sunak bite, for Thatcher’s spectral presence still broods over the wasteland of Conservative politics. During his ill-fated leadership run against Liz Truss, Sunak put his name to the subtly-titled Telegraph articleI will be the heir to Margaret Thatcher”. In it, he stated, “I am a Thatcherite, I am running as a Thatcherite and I will govern as a Thatcherite.” 

She, too, faced inflation and structural economic problems, racial discontent on the streets and plunging party popularity — and was left staring down the barrel of a historic loss. Although the importance of the Falklands bounce is often overstated — her polling numbers had begun to improve before the conflict started as the economy turned around — the war helped change the perception of Thatcher from a politician out of her depth to the Iron Lady. 

This combined with overwhelming public support for her uncompromising position undoubtedly secured her victory in the 1983 General Election. A panel survey for the Economist found 83% of the view that Britain was right to send the naval task force, then 85% a week later and 85% again in early May (with one in 20 advocating nuclear strikes against Argentina). 

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has already announced that “the UK government will continue to proactively defend the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination”, adding that “it was an issue that was settled decisively some time ago.” Milei might not wish to start a fight over the Falklands. But can we blame Sunak for dreaming of things that go yomp in the night?

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JOHN KANEFSKY
JOHN KANEFSKY
8 months ago

The Falklands / Malvinas were never Argentina’s, it did not exist as a country when they became British, so they cannot be “recovered”.
He knows that and has no intention of pursuing the point.
His only task is to get inflation under control and get real GDP per capita back up towards where it was 20 years ago. Whether adopting the dollar as the currency, as Ecuador did ages ago, is realistic only time will tell. Argentina is a much bigger fish than Ecuador.
The rest is all just political posturing for the peanut gallery in BA.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
8 months ago

Why doesn’t England use the Falklands to send prisoners, criminals, and convicts to? 😉

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

What on earth for?

Liam Tjia
Liam Tjia
8 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Because then the Falklanders would beat them at cricket too!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Interesting essay, thank you.
As before nobody remembers their history!
Twice, in 1806 & 1807 the Argentinians defeated a British attempt to conquer their country. The Colours of at least one British Regiment*are still on display in the Friary Church of the Dominicans in Buenos Aires.

(* A Scotch Regiment as it happens.)

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
R M
R M
8 months ago

Talking of forgetting history, you seem to have forgotten that in 1806-7 Argentina wasn’t a country. It was a Spanish colony.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
8 months ago

In asserting Argentina’s “non-negotiable sovereignty” over the Falkland Islands, Javier Milei is simply declaring himself an Argentinian. It would hardly matter, except that the mini-Budget had a ruinous enough effect on the much more robust British economy. Anything remotely resembling Milei’s programme would so devastate Argentina’s that there would be only one way of distracting popular attention. And then, those of you to whom the Milei is your latest toupée after the Trump and the Thatcher, where would you be?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Starting a Whig Revivalist campaign.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Argentina’s economy is already devastated by government profligacy, incompetence and corruption. A far worse mess than the one Thatcher inherited.

Last edited 8 months ago by Brendan O'Leary
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
8 months ago

The mini-Budget had a ruinous enough effect on the much more robust British economy. Anything remotely resembling Milei’s programme would so devastate the Argentine that there would be only one way of distracting popular attention.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Delusional nonsense.

Paul T
Paul T
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

There is no Argentinian economy to damage; the Cretinistas destroyed it and nearly everything else is on the blue rate or USD. Nobody uses the official rate of exchange except for the government and its union and Peronista friends that need to apply for “grants”. It uses that rate arbitrage, along with triple or quadruple inflated “costs”, to steal billions of USD$ of Pesos every year. You are merely one of the shills providing cover for that.

Last edited 8 months ago by Paul T
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Could you please list the economic indicators you are relying on to make your statement that the mini-budget had a ruinous effect? All the ones I’ve looked at show its effect was minimal and transitory.

Gorka Sillero
Gorka Sillero
8 months ago

Don’t bother, he’s just astroturfing

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Argentina has 130% inflation. The average citizen is at least 15% poorer than twenty years ago and your remedy is what? More of the same?