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Posts tagged ‘Argentina’

Argentina’s Elections and the Falklands Dispute

President Kirchner votes. presidencia.gov.ar photo, via Wikimedia.

President Kirchner votes. presidencia.gov.ar photo, via Wikimedia.

By Taylor Marvin

On November 22nd Argentines will go to the polls to elect a new president. This presidential runoff, which follows an inconclusive first round held on October 25th, marks the end of an era for Argentina. Since 2003 Argentina has been led by the husband and wife duo of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with Cristina elected in 2007 and again in 2011. (Widely thought to aspire to return to the presidency, Néstor suffered an untimely death in 2010.) With Kirchner constitutionally barred from a third term, many hope the election of a new Argentine president is also an opportunity to wind down Kirchner’s aggressive rhetoric about the disputed Falkland Islands.

Argentina has long claimed the Falkland Islands or Islas Malvinas and officially views British sovereignty as “a blatant exercise of 19th-Century colonialism,” in Kirchner’s words. Despite earlier tentative steps towards a negotiated solution to the dispute, in 1982 the Argentine military seized the Islands. In the midst of economic stagnation and its murderous “Dirty War” the ruling military junta hoped that a quick victory would boost the regime’s domestic popularity, but seriously misjudged UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s willingness to fight. As Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins write in their history The Battle for the Falklands, while the UK came far closer to military disaster than is often realized, British forces eventually retook the Falklands. The war left 225 British servicemen, three Falkland civilians, and around 650 Argentines dead, as well as thousands of soldiers scarred mentally and physically by the brutal conflict.

Throughout her tenure Cristina Kirchner has stressed the Falklands issue, arguing that the UK illegally took possession of the Islands in 1833. Kirchner has repeatedly called for dialogue over the Islands’ status in her UN addresses (though not this year), and tied the issue to UN Security Council reform (though Argentina opposes fellow Mercosur member Brazil’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat). In 2012 Kirchner “ambushed” British PM David Cameron at the UN with a letter about the issue, and two years later Kirchner commemorated the 32nd anniversary of Argentina’s invasion by introducing a new banknote featuring a map of the Falklands. The recent discovery of oil off the Falklands also gave new impetus to Argentina’s push, and Argentina has threatened to sue British oil companies involved in exploration off the Islands – despite the fact that low oil prices are challenging the offshore oil’s commercial viability.

Map by the CIA World Factbook.

Map by the CIA World Factbook.

The ongoing presidential election has centered around economic issues and the legacy of Kirchnerismo, as Kevin Lees chronicles, and despite leaving office Kirchner is expected to remain politically powerful, as Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert write. (Indeed, Kirchner is thought to hope to return to the presidency in 2019). But as the Week reports, both of the candidates competing in the runoff election have taken comparatively moderate stances on the Falklands. While insisting that the Islands are rightly Argentina’s, opposition center-right candidate and current Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri wants to improve relations with the UK and “has also signalled that he would abolish the government role of Falklands Secretary, or Malvinas Secretary, created by Kirchner in 2013.” Similarly, the Independent’s David Usborne reports that Kirchner’s preferred successor and Buenos Aires province governor Daniel Scioli, who narrowly won the first round, is also expected to “seek to adopt a fresh and less belligerent tone in the hope of bringing Britain to the table.” Despite the wide enthusiasm for the Malvinas cause in Argentina, some see Kirchner’s combativeness as counterproductive, as Usborne’s excellent story notes. “Everyone has the sensation that Argentina gets into these quarrels for no reason … and that’s true with the Malvinas,” says Marcos Novaro, an Argentine think tank director quoted by Usborne. Others disagree, and acknowledge that there little room for mutual reconciliation between Argentina and the UK regardless of Kirchner’s rhetoric.

Whatever their reasons, Macri and Scioli’s apparent moderation is a recognition of reality. After the Falkland Islanders overwhelmingly approved continued British sovereignty in a 2013 referendum it is difficult to see any hope for a diplomatic agreement that meaningfully cedes sovereignty to Argentina — though it was the invasion more than anything else that hardened the British position. For its part, Argentina views the “imported” Islanders’ self-determination as irrelevant.

But beyond diplomatic considerations, Argentina’s lack of diplomatic leverage is compounded by its limited ability to militarily threaten the Islands today. Decades of financial crises have left Argentine military forces decrepit: its aircraft are “barely serviceable” and as of at least 2012 the Navy’s submarines rarely went to sea, falling far short of their required training time. Argentina has vague plans to refurbish its decaying Air Force with new jet fighters but the government’s financial challenges mean that any purchase is likely a way off,* and the UK has the ability to veto most Western fighter sales. These financial challenges are compounded by the low priority Argentina’s civilian leaders assign the military. As a 2014 report by Rowan Allport notes, Kirchner’s “nationalistic tone should not be interpreted as a pro-military stance,” and “the Nestor/Cristina Kirchner era has seen the military fall to near the bottom of Argentina’s spending priorities list.”

However, budget cuts have curtailed Britain’s military capabilities as well, and raised fears that the UK could not longer retake the Falklands. The number of British combat-ready aircraft is falling, and today the UK does not operate an aircraft carrier able to embark fixed-wing aircraft, which would be critical in any renewed conflict over the Falklands. This absence “creates a window of opportunity for Argentina,” in Defense Industry Daily’s words, but “one that will slam shut decisively around 2020” when the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers enter service, though when the ships’ advanced F-35B fighter aircraft will actually be reliably combat-ready is uncertain. However, the UK’s nuclear fast attack submarines would already complicate any Argentine effort to take and hold the Falklands, and would quickly isolate any Argentine invasion force. Indeed, during the Falklands War after a British submarine sank the cruiser ARA General Belgrano Argentina kept its single carrier, the ARA Veinticinco de Mayo, in port, forcing land-based Argentine fighter aircraft to fight at the very limit of their range. The RAF also bases a handful of advanced fighter aircraft on the Falklands, another major barrier to a successful invasion.

Despite Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s unstable style of governance she did not choose to resume hostilities, which now seem even more unlikely through 2019. In addition to Argentina’s military weaknesses, recently events have also dramatically illustrated the downsides of even nearly bloodless territorial annexation. From a military standpoint Russia’s seizure of Crimea was a complete success, but drew widespread condemnation and economic sanctions that have severely damaged the Russian economy. While the two cases are not directly comparable – many of Argentina’s major trading partners would not impose retaliatory sanctions – an invasion’s best possible outcome could still bring diplomatic and economic costs not worth the gain. Pressing the Islas Malvinas issue may be a useful political tool – and a sincere grievance for many Argentines – but its use rests far more on the personality and priorities of Argentina’s president than the actual chances of realizing Argentina’s claim.

*Update (11/10/2015): UK Defense Journal (via Jeremiah Cushman) and Flight Global are reporting that Argentina will soon sign a contract to purchase 14 Kfir fighters from Israel.

Update (11/18/2015): Or maybe not – according to MercoPress (originally via Defesa Aérea & Naval) Clarin reports that the Kfir deal has been frozen, and that there is disagreement among senior Argentine Air Force officers over the aircraft, most of which reportedly are not equipped with radar.

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What Can Argentina and Brazil Tell Us About Iran?

By Taylor Marvin

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, March 30, 2015. State Department photo.

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, March 30, 2015. State Department photo.

As the ongoing nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran enter their final stretch opposition to any potential deal is becoming more strident. Building on the efforts of Republican Senators and others wary of a nuclear deal, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has a characteristic op-ed in the New York Times calling on the US to abandon the diplomatic process and attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure instead.

Despite the attention Bolton’s call for war has received, there isn’t much in his op-ed that hasn’t been heard before. Like other many arguments in favor of attacking Iran, Bolton doesn’t dwell on the immediate or longer-term consequences of strikes (see Robert Farley for this). More interesting is Bolton’s brief mention of previous American efforts to avoid nuclear proliferation.

Bolton attributes India, Pakistan, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons to American and Western “inattention.” But — despite warning that “Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program” — he writes that sound policies have contributed to ending other states’ nuclear ambitions:

“Successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, worked hard, with varying success, to forestall or terminate efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by states as diverse as South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. Even where civilian nuclear reactors were tolerated, access to the rest of the nuclear fuel cycle was typically avoided. Everyone involved understood why.”

Bolton mentions these states’ nuclear programs to suggest that the Obama administration’s “increasingly frantic efforts” to negotiate with Iran are considering an unprecedented and dangerous concessions — continuing enrichment. Noting only that US policymakers “worked hard” to avoid nuclear proliferation gives Bolton leeway in these historical examples, but ultimately they are irrelevant to the negotiations with Iran.

South Korea and Taiwan benefit from US security guarantees, vastly reducing the security value of developing their own nuclear weapons. And since apartheid-era South Africa actually built a small number of nuclear weapons, only to abandon them before democratization, this example is only relevant if Bolton is arguing that the US should ignore the nuclear issue and instead focus on on Iranian human rights — something he clearly does not believe.

The South American example is occasionally mentioned in arguments favoring regime change as a means of blocking Iranian nuclear ambitions. (via Rob and j.r. hennessy). The history of Argentina and Brazil’s nuclear programs is not well known in the US. As Mitchell Reiss writes in Bridled Ambitions: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities, these states pursued clandestine nuclear weapons programs under their military governments in the 1970s and 1980s. Driven by the their rivalry and a desire for prestige, these nuclear weapons programs were shuttered through mutual negotiation and agreements barring weapons but which allow civil and maritime propulsion nuclear activities. Today both countries generate a small portion of their electricity from nuclear power. Brazil is in the process of building a nuclear-powered attack submarine, enriches small amounts of low-enriched uranium (with European involvement), and is generally thought capable of producing nuclear arms in a few years if it chose to do so.

Bolton includes Argentina and Brazil to fill out an otherwise short list and argue that the US should not tolerate any Iranian nuclear enrichment. But the substantial differences between the Argentine and Brazilian nuclear programs and Iran’s make this comparison, even Bolton’s fleeting one, misguided.

First, both Argentina and Brazil’s nuclear weapons ambitions encountered substantial technical issues and had made little progress, which made it easier to negotiate an end to programs that were still far from success and not yet core national prestige projects. These negotiations also took place within the context of both countries’ returns to democracy, which undercut the military factions pushing for nuclear weapons and allowed civilian leaders more leeway to abandon the policies of the previous military governments. Barring a democratic revolution — which might not touch the nuclear issue, if enough Iranians outside the regime support the nuclear program — the dynamics of President Rouhani’s push to build regime support for a deal has little in common with Argentina and Brazil.

Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello, who opposed the nuclear weapons program. Agência Brasil photo by Sergio Lima, via Wikimedia.

Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello, who opposed the nuclear weapons program. Agência Brasil photo by Sergio Lima, via Wikimedia.

Secondly, again as Reiss writes, the peaceful end to Argentina and Brazil’s nuclear programs benefited from the United States’ distance from the negotiations. Both countries had refused to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which they viewed as a hypocritical double-standard that barred them from the same nuclear status the superpowers enjoyed. Aside from pushing controls on sensitive technologies (which slowed down Argentina and Brazil’s progress) and pressure to accept safeguards and oversight, America’s low commitment to the process probably encouraged cooperation. America’s leading role in the negotiations with Iran, however, must be reconciled with a revolutionary state which defines itself in opposition to the West.

Finally, negotiations to mutually end Argentina and Brazil’s nuclear programs was just one piece of the process of ending the two countries’ military and political rivalry. Despite Argentina’s war with the UK over the disputed Falklands Islands and its rivalry with Chile — which prompted the widespread mining of Chile’s long border and almost led to war in the late 1970s — Argentina and Brazil were each other’s greatest external rivals. While war between the two was always distant — Reiss titles his chapter “Rivals, Not Enemies” — both countries’ nuclear programs were fueled by the fear that the other would acquire these dangerous and prestigious weapons and the other would not. Aside from the general prestige of nuclear weapons, easing tensions and the return to democracy removed the security rational for nuclear arms.

Of course, none of this applies to Iran, which is surrounded by sectarian and political enemies. US lawmakers regularly threaten Iran, as do its Israeli and Gulf state allies whose actions the US may or may not control. This is a far more complex security situation than that facing Argentine and Brazil in the 1980s. Similarly, the mutual ratcheting down of tensions was critical to avoiding a South American nuclear arms race. As Reiss writes, the “Latin American example strong suggests that resolution, or at least amelioration, of outstanding political disagreements must precede cooperation in the nuclear sphere.” Since the US has little ability to improve relations between Iran and its rivals, this comparison is irrelevant. Bolton certainly has no interest in resolving the political conflicts between the US, its Sunni allies, and Iran.

It remains unclear whether Iran and the P5+1 will reach an agreement, or if Iran has any intention of actually following an accord which trades nuclear oversight in exchange for sanctions relief. It is also unknown if, unlike Argentina and Brazil, Iran’s substantial investment in its nuclear efforts and their importance in the state’s ideology of resistance will even allow it to reach an agreement. The Obama administration, the P5+1, and Iran are in new territory.

A Framework for Military Xenophobic Cultures

By Taylor Marvin

Last week a video showing Chilean sailors chanting “I will kill Argentines, I will shoot Bolivians, I will behead Peruvians” surfaced and immediately drew international condemnation. Chilean leaders denounced the chant and promised that the sailors involved would be punished, but the nature of the video — which shows a public training run — and reports that the particular chant has been around for decades suggests that it, and the military culture of violent xenophobia it embodies, enjoys some level of semi-official approval in the Chilean Navy. Chilean Congressman Gonzalo Arenas Hödar criticized the Navy’s reaction, remarking the chants “have always existed in all the armed forces,” and defensibly noted that anti-Chilean marching chants are common in the Argentine military as well.

Colin M. Snider has an excellent post (hat tip to Robert Farley) that places the violent chant within the context of Chile’s past wars and current rivalries with its neighbors  concluding that “such declarations are unsurprising, as they tap into nationalist sentiment and regional antagonisms that go back well over a century.” This is certainly true, as Chile’s historical wars with its neighbors is a source of frequent contemporary conflict. As Snider notes, Chile’s annexation of southern Peru and costal Bolivia during the 1890s War of the Pacific is still resented in both countries; notably, the Bolivian coat of arms retains a star for its lost Litoral province conquered over a century ago. More recently, Chile’s privileged position among its neighbors draws some degree of resentment: Chileans enjoy much higher standards of living than their northern counterparts, and, as David R. Mares nots in Violent Peace: Militarized Interstate Bargaining in Latin AmericaChile has been the dominant military force in the region for a century. While the likelihood of interstate armed conflict has dramatically decreased since the demise of the region’s military governments, Chile still enjoys a substantial qualitative military edge over its neighbors. Conversely, bigotry towards Peruvians and Bolivians is common in Chilean society, as is nationalistic hostility towards Chile’s poorer neighbors. Perhaps relatedly, the threat of renewed conflict is judged high enough to justify comparably high military spending (at 3.2 percent of 2012 GDP, higher than Argentine, Bolivian, and Peruvian percentage-of-GDP defense spending).

So, given the history of conflict between Chile and its neighbors and the nationalistic prejudice present in Chilean society, the chant is arguably — though perhaps depressingly — unsurprising. However, what is notable is its context. The public nature of the sailors’ chant suggests that this is not, strictly speaking, a discipline issue. If these xenophobic chants have persisted over decades of personnel turnover within the Chilean armed forces it strains credibility to argue that they are not tolerated by the military establishment. Instead, xenophobic chants are likely encouraged within the officer corp, a possibility supported by a Twitter user’s claim, directed at Chilean Admiral Edmundo Gonzalez, that the marching chants are “not improvisations”. This is striking. Of course, xenophobia and cultures of violence targeted at outsiders classified as enemies are not uncommon within militaries. However, their public expression is rarely tolerated in modern, democratic armed forces like Chile’s. That’s not saying these expressions never occur, but are rarely seen in the quasi-official context of the Chilean video.

Acknowledging the chant as semi-official implies some level of cost-benefit analysis within the military establishment. As noted above, this is not a discipline issue — violent xenophobia expressed as obviously as public chants would not be present if officers consciously decided not to tolerate it. Given that violent xenophobia appears tolerated, if not encouraged, within the Chilean military, the military establishment must judge that this culture’s benefits exceed its costs; this suggests that a cost-benefit framework determines when militaries foster cultures of violent xenophobia and when they do not. Of course, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the specific Chilean case — it is not clear if Chile’s apparent xenophobic military culture is due solely to endogenous determinants, or a broad framework that can be extended to other cultural contexts. But it does suggest interesting speculation.

Indoctrinating, or at least tolerating, violent xenophobia within armed forces brings both benefits and costs. In the eyes of officers that allow it, peacetime xenophobia helps build martial vigor and an esprit de corps by self-defining a military group in opposition to its perceived enemies. Indoctrinating soldiers with the idea that war is possible also presumably raises morale and commitment in countries where servicemembers are unlikely to actually fight. However, xenophobic military cultures also impose external reputation costs — risking that soldiers will be perceived as bloodthirsty and the society they represent bigoted. These interacting benefits and costs suggest that militaries will foster xenophobia when they face conditions that maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of these cultures. Chile appears a clear case of maximizing these benefits, for three reasons.

First, Chile has standing rivalries with neighboring countries the Chilean population perceives as enemies. In addition to Chile’s history of conflict with its neighbors, this public perception is partially due to the Pinochet dictatorship’s practice of stressing external, as well as internal, threats in a bid to legitimize military rule. A society-identified external enemy is a requirement for military xenophobia, for obvious reasons: to motivate, xenophobia needs an obvious target. While military establishments are certainly capable of indoctrinating their members with violent hatreds, this xenophobia must be based on an existing social bias — modern French officers attempting to motivate their soldiers by indoctrinating them with a hatred of Germans would be met by laughter, despite the two countries’ history of conflict. Importantly, the channel between social perceptions of external enemies and deliberately indoctrinated military xenophobia works both ways: soldiers indoctrinated with xenophobic hatreds will take bigotry with them into society, and as the historical Chilean military dictatorship demonstrates governments will often build public perceptions of external threats in the service of regime legitimacy. Together, these popularly-perceived external enemies likely maximize the beneficial motivating effects of fostering military xenophobia.

Secondly, Chile has little prospect of going to war. Chile has not engaged in an interstate war for over a century, and despite outstanding disputes with Bolivia and Peru there has been little prospect of armed conflict since the end of the Pinochet regime. It is reasonable to suspect that servicemembers will be less committed to training and discipline in peacetime forces, as low commitment is less likely to result in fatal consequences. Constant repetition of the idea that combat is coming — “I will kill Argentines,” and so on — presumably is a device to increase individual servicemembers’ personal commitment. Even if servicemembers can rationally judge war to be unlikely, immersion in an environment where the opposite is stressed presumably has an effect; again, adding to the benefit side of the calculus.

Finally, Chile’s peacetime status reduces the potential costs of xenophobic military culture. For militaries in combat, unconstrained xenophobia has potentially greater costs. Soldiers socially indoctrinated with ethnic hatred are much more likely to commit highly-visible atrocities, if they have the opportunity. Chilean servicemembers may chant about “beheading Peruvians”, but thankfully have no opportunity to actually do so. For forces in combat, this is not the case. In the US military, endemic hatred of Muslims would create an environment where servicemembers judged war crimes to be tolerated. Consequently, in the last decade the US military establishment has vigorously worked to prevent a culture of broad hatred from arising within its ranks. While xenophobic hatreds have persisted at the lower-level of the US military — and have arguably directly resulted in atrocities — these hatreds are clearly not approved by military’s leadership and exist in spite of, rather than due to, desired institutional culture.

These two Chile-specific cultural factors — popularly-defined external enemies, and a low likelihood of facing combat — support the idea that military xenophobia grows from a deliberate cost/benefits framework. But in modern times the costs of fostering xenophobic military cultures have grown, as the furious international reaction to the video — and Chilean naval commanders’ promise that those involved will be punished — demonstrates. In past decades barracks hatreds were mostly just that: confined to barracks. But when a sailors’ chant can be quickly disseminated around the world and instantly embarrass the government, the reputation costs of xenophobic military cultures have grown, even for peacetime forces. Chile’s military establishment appears to be learning this the hard way.

Rational Causes of War in the South Atlantic

1982 Argentine magazine, via Wikimedia.

“We’re Winning.” 1982 Argentine magazine, via Wikimedia.

By Taylor Marvin

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is once again making noise over the Falklands dispute. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the unresolved dispute over the islands is once again causing diplomatic trouble — recent petroleum exploration around the islands has raised the stakes of the conflict — but the real takeaway is that the status of las Islas Malvinas continues to draw popular ire among Argentines.

Jorge Luis Borges famously described the Falklands War as “a fight between two bald men over a comb.” Borges’ comment pithily summarizes the perceived futility of the war, but frivolously dismisses the conflict’s real impetus — states may fight over worthless territories, but they rarely do so for irrational reasons. The 1976 Argentine military junta initiated the war not in an irrational grab for the harsh islands themselves, but instead in a reasonably-sophisticated bid to legitimize their unpopular government through a popular military victory the war’s architects judged readily attainable. That fact that the junta’s initial assumptions about the UK’s commitment to defend the islands were wildly inaccurate does not mean, in and of itself, that the war decision was irrational.This explanation for the 1982 war suggests that renewed conflict over the islands is unlikely.

Las Islas Malvinas command a unique place in popular Argentine thought. Among Argentines, the sentiment that the Falklands rightly belong to them and that the status quo is an unjust colonial holdover is widespread. In this framework — that identifies the British claim to the Falklands as nothing more than open colonialism — the islanders’ desire to remain part of the UK is irrelevant; the very fact British people live there at all is an injustice. I’ve spent only a brief time in Argentina, but vividly remember noticing a cartoon map of the country, part of a corporate logo, that included the islands. Even in this trivial context, las Islas Malvinas are Argentine.

The Argentine junta’s 1976 overthrow of the Isabel Perón civilian government was intended to facilitate the remaking of Argentine society and force an end to the country’s historic liberal-conservative conflict. But the junta’s frustrated inability to usher in stability and clearly unsustainable brutality of the Dirty War made their rule increasingly untenable, and the invasion was a last-ditch effort to bolster the junta’s popularity. Allusions to combs and bald men aside, the Falklands conflict was never about territory itself; instead, it was fought over the symbolic value of the islands’ sovereignty. The junta saw themselves as the defenders of Argentine society. Facing the prospect of the overthrow of their regime, the potential legitimizing payoff of a successful invasion of the islands made war a reasonable choice.

Importantly, the Falklands was not the junta’s only prospective legitimizing victory. Argentina’s military government had long-standing territorial disputes with Chile, where Pinochet actually encouraged settlement of the country’s harsh south out of the fear that Argentina would sieze the sparsly populated territory. But despite almost going war with Chile over disputed and geopolitically important Beagle Channel islands in 1978, the Argentine junta only escalated a territorial conflict to war in 1982, when they faced a severe domestic legitimacy crisis. In Argentina’s zero-sum political climate of the early 1980s, a face-saving military victory would salvage the critically unpopular military government’s rule. Of course, the conflict had the opposite outcome, but at the time the invasion was a reasonable bet.

Today fears of renewed conflict are mostly based on this populist logic: as long as an Argentine government perceives itself as domestically unpopular, so the thinking goes, stoking nationalist sentiments over the islands will be a tempting policy. But the belief that the Argentine government’s behavior is governed by a rational cost-benefit logic suggests that actual war over the islands is unlikely. Yes, Argentina’s continued economic downturn and erratic growth both reward populistic nationalism and increase the appeal of offshore energy exploration. But the current government faces nowhere near the legitimacy crisis that prompted the junta’s decision to invade in 1982. The Falklands War was a desperate act launched by a domestically embattled government that associated its own legitimacy with national survival. That is not true today. Rather than the culmination of a century of left-right conflict, today’s Argentine government is comparably unexceptional. The modern Argentine government is also aware that the expected costs of conflict would be greater than it judged in the days before the 1982 invasion. Despite the British armed forces’ shrinkage since the 1980s, the 1982 war is evidence that the UK is willing to fight over the islands, while the junta’s war plans were benchmarked around the assumption that Britain would not contest the invasion. Given the lower domestic incentive and higher expected costs of conflict today, a rational choice for war is unlikely.

Making diplomatic noise over the Falklands question is a low-risk strategy for bolstering the Argentine government’s domestic popularity, and it is unsurprising that President Kirchner continue to press the issue. But this does not mean that renewed war is likely.

Note: This post has been edited for clarity.