Falklands drilling "carries no risk of military conflict"News // February 25, 2010
IHS Jane’s Americas Analyst Robert Munks says oil drilling in the Falklands is unlikely to lead to any military conflict.
Mr Munks explained: “It is vital to stress that the current resurgence of interest in the Falklands carries no risk of military conflict between the two countries. Argentina ’s return to democracy in 1983 and its pledge to pursue its claim to the ‘Malvinas’ through peaceful means underline that the military option is no longer viable."
"Indeed, the military balance of power in the South Atlantic is also substantially different from the time of the 1982 conflict, with the UK having qualitatively improved its defence posture on the islands at the same time as Argentina’s military capabilities have stagnated and so are little better than at the time of the previous conflict in 1982.”
Exploratory oil drilling began earlier this week in waters north of the Falkland Islands, whose sovereignty remains contested by the United Kingdom and Argentina. The commencement of hydrocarbons exploration activities has led to diplomatic protests from Buenos Aires and new measures requiring Falklands-bound shipping in Argentine waters or ports to obtain pre-visit authorisation.
"A further intensive round of diplomatic activity from the Argentines will now concentrate on shoring up regional support for its case from other Latin American countries and presenting its annual case to the UN Decolonisation Committee in June,” continued Munks.
There will now be a period of relative calm for some six to eight months while four companies undertake exploratory drilling in a range of concessions around the islands, during which Buenos Aires will maintain a heightened level of diplomatic activity.
The next crucial development will come if or when any substantial and exploitable oil reserves are confirmed. Any discovery would be certain to give added impetus to Argentine protests, which, given the relatively hard-line posture of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, could escalate into a number of retaliatory measures including trade sanctions or action to reduce transport and communication links to the islands.
Munks concluded, “Even under this scenario, such tensions would not lead to any prospect of renewed, large-scale military hostilities between the United Kingdom and Argentina.”