Det danske Fredsakademi
Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 1. April
2012 / Time Line April 1, 2012
Marts 2012, 2. April 2012
Reagan on the
Falklands/Malvinas: "Give Maggie enough to carry on"
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 374
Washington, D.C., April 1, 2012 -- The United States secretly
supported the United Kingdom during the early days of the
Falklands/Malvinas Island war of 1982, while publicly adopting a
neutral stance and acting as a disinterested mediator in the
conflict, according to recently declassified U.S. documents posted
today by the National Security Archive.
On the 30th anniversary of the war, the Archive published a series
of memoranda of conversation, intelligence reports, and cables
revealing the secret communications between the United States and
Britain, and the United States and Argentina during the
At a meeting in London on April 8, 1982, shortly after the war
began, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed concern to U.S.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig about President Ronald Reagan's
recent public statements of impartiality. In response, according to
a previously secret memorandum of the conversation, "The Secretary
said that he was certain the Prime Minister knew where the
President stood. We are not impartial."
On April 2, 1982, Argentine forces under de facto President
Leopoldo Galtieri seized the Falkland/Malvinas Islands militarily
from the U.K. The U.S. launched a major shuttle diplomacy mission,
sending Secretary Haig numerous times to London and Buenos Aires to
de-escalate the conflict. Though the U.S. did not formally announce
support for the U.K. until April 30, newly released documents show
that Washington sided with the British from the beginning,
providing substantial logistical and intelligence support. In a
conversation with British officials at the end of March, Haig
declared that the U.S. diplomatic effort "will of course, have a
greater chance of influencing Argentine behavior if we appear to
them not to favor one side or the other."
At the same time, the White House recognized that British
intransigence would create problems for the U.S. in its dealings
with Latin America. President Reagan, reacting to Haig's secret
reports on the British position, wrote to the secretary: "[Your
report] makes clear how difficult it will be to foster a compromise
that gives Maggie enough to carry on and at the same time meets the
test of 'equity' with our Latin neighbors."
Under Thatcher's leadership, the U.K. launched a large-scale
military expedition that proved a logistical, communications, and
intelligence challenge for the British Air Force and Navy. It would
take the task force almost a month to traverse the 8,000 miles
between England and the Falklands and prepare for combat around the
South Atlantic islands. For the British, the expedition would not
be justified without retaking the Falkland Islands and returning to
the status quo ante. An analysis from the Department of State's
Bureau of Intelligence and Research predicted on April 6 that "the
effectiveness of the fleet, far from its maintenance bases, will
rapidly deteriorate after its arrival on station. [Thatcher's]
damaged leadership could not survive a futile 'voyage to
"The Prime Minister has the bit in her teeth," Haig reported to
President Reagan on April 9, after the Argentine attack on the
islands. "She is clearly prepared to use force. Though she admits
her preference for a diplomatic solution, she is rigid in her
insistence on a return to the status quo ante, and indeed seemingly
determined that any solution involve some retribution."
Haig's report continued: "It is clear that they had not thought
much about diplomatic possibilities. They will now, but whether
they become more imaginative or instead recoil will depend on the
political situation and what I hear in Argentina."
The documents reveal that initial covert U.S. support for Britain
was discussed quite openly between the two nations. During the
first meeting with Haig on April 8, "[Thatcher] expressed
appreciation for U.S. cooperation in intelligence matters and in
the use of [the U.S. military base at] Ascension Island." A series
of CIA aerial photography analyses showed the level of detail of
U.S. surveillance of Argentine forces on the ground: "Vessels
present include the 25 de Mayo aircraft carrier with no aircraft on
the flight-deck," reads one; "at the airfield [redacted] were
parked in the maintenance area [....] 707 is on a parking apron
with its side cargo door open," reads another.
With Argentina mired in economic stagnation, Galtieri's military
campaign tried to rally support from large sectors of Argentine
society. But U.S. observers foresaw serious problems for him ahead.
A top secret State Department intelligence analysis reported:
"[Galtieri] wants to hold on to the Army's top slot through 1984
and perhaps the presidency through 1987. The Argentine leader may
have been excessively shortsighted, however. The popular emotion
that welcomed the invasion will subside."
A White House cable stated, "Galtieri's problem is that he has so
excited the Argentine people that he has left himself little room
for maneuver. He must show something for the invasion. or else he
will be swept aside in ignominy."
This collection of 46 documents was obtained through the Freedom of
Information Act and extensive archival research. It offers a
previously unavailable history of the exchanges between key
British, American, and Argentine officials in a conflict that
pitted traditional Cold War alliances against important U.S.
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