In BBC Interview, Javier Milei Shows His True Colours on Falklands Issue While Praising His “Idol”, Margaret Thatcher, to the Skies

In a sharp departure from established practice, Milei admits that the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, are, to all intents and purposes, British. And he is no rush to change that. 

For most Argentines, Margaret Thatcher is a controversial figure, to put it mildly. It was she who, as British Prime Minister, ordered the torpedoing of the ARA Belgrano, an Argentine cruiser, leading to the deaths of 323 people on board — practically half the total casualties suffered by Argentina during the 1982 war over the Falklands (or Malvinas, as they are known in Spanish). The attack took place outside the exclusion area the British Government had established around the islands. It is also the only case of a ship sunk in war by a nuclear submarine.

So, when Argentina’s faux libertarian president, Javier Milei, described Thatcher as “brilliant” in an interview with the BBC this week, it turned a few heads:

Criticising someone because of their nationality or race is very intellectually precarious. I have heard lots of speeches by Margaret Thatcher. She was brilliant. So what’s the problem?..

There was a war and we were the ones who lost. That does not mean that one cannot consider one’s adversaries as people who did their job well.

This is not the first time that Milei has heaped praise on Thatcher in public, but it is, to my mind, the first time he has done so since becoming president. The fact that he made these remarks during an interview with the UK’s national state broadcaster gave them added prominence. During the election campaign Milei described Thatcher as an “idol” who played a significant role in the fall of the Berlin Wall. He steadfastly ignores the fact that Thatcher’s legacy of failed privatisations and strict adherence (aka TINA) to monetarism, loose financial regulation and so-called free trade have left the British economy in tatters while, of course, being exported around the world, including to Argentina.

“In the history of humanity,” Milei told the BBC interviewer, “there have been great leaders. Mrs Thatcher was one, as were Reagan, Churchill and De Gaulle.”

In this latest interview, not only did Milei reiterate his admiration for the “Iron Lady”, he also did something that no other Argentine president of the post-Falklands War era has done: he admitted that the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, are, to all intents and purposes, British. Asked if he considered the recent visit by UK Foreign Minister David Cameron to the Falklands to be a provocation, Milei said: “No, because that territory today is in the hands of the United Kingdom. In other words, he has every right to [visit the Falklands].”  

Located 250 miles off the southern tip of Argentina and 8,000 miles from British shores, the Malvinas/Falklands, home to 3,500 mostly British people, have been the subject of a territorial dispute between the UK and Argentina ever since 1833, when a British expedition invaded the islands, evicted their inhabitants and planted the British flag. After the Suez disaster of 1956, the British government began divesting itself of most of its colonial holdings in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean (while, of course, building a vast web of tax havens in their place). However, London made sure to hold on to the Falklands, for its obvious geostrategic benefits.

Now classified as a British Overseas Territory, the islands are technically self-governing, with defence matters and foreign affairs handled by the UK government. London regularly wheels out the fact that almost 100% of the residents of the archipelago approved remaining under British control in a referendum held in 2013. During his visit to the islands in February, Cameron stated that he hopes that the territory will want to remain under the administration of the United Kingdom “for a long time, possibly forever.”

Milei, however, has a cunning plan, of the sort that even Blackadder’s Baldrick would be proud, to resolve this centuries-old territorial dispute once and for all, which he shared with the BBC during his interview. He and his ministers, he said, will talk about the issue to their British counterparts in an adult, cordial manner until the British finally agree to hand back the territory like true gentlemen. This despite the fact that the British government insists that sovereignty over the islands is not up for debate.

Here’s a transcript of the brief exchange (the Spanish sections translated by your truly):

You have promised Argentines a road map to making the Falklands, known here as the Malvinas, Argentinian. What specifically does that road map look like?”

— We believe this always must be done in a framework of peace and as the result of a long-term negotiation in which an adult discussion takes place between countries that have a great deal in common as well as a source of discord. And we have to try to resolve it in an adult way. Obviously this is not going to be an instant solution, it will take time. So we are not going to give up our sovereignty nor are we going to have a situation of conflict with the UK. What we are looking to do is to initiate a dialogue so that at some point the Falkland Islands become Argentinian.

—  What makes you think the UK will agree to that, because they have been very clear they do not want to negotiate it?

— It could be that today they don’t want to negotiate but some time later they do. Many of these positions have changed over time.

But how will you convince them. What tools would you use to convince them?

— I’m going to try to convince them that the territory is Argentinian. I am going to try to convince them that this territory is Argentine and that according to the specifications that are usually used to define it that way, Argentina has the right and sovereignty over the islands.

But when they have said very clearly that they are not willing to negotiate and use the referendum held on the islands as proof that they do not want to discuss this issue again. How will you convince them? What tools would you use?

Well, it won’t be discussed now. It will be discussed later.

And that is pretty much it. In other words, Milei is going to appeal to the British establishment’s better nature without applying any kind of political or diplomatic pressure, as previous Argentinian governments have tried to do, albeit with little success. Nor does Milei appear to be in any hurry to press the issue. Now, he said, is not the time to discuss the territorial dispute, which, he added, could take decades to resolve.

It is, to all intents and purposes, the geopolitical equivalent of kicking the can as far down the road as possible while seemingly seeking to cosy up to the British government.

“We have a lot of other issues on the agenda that [Argentina and the UK] can work on together and we are willing to do that. I think it’s the adult (yes, that word again) way to do things.” It makes more sense, he added, to “be working with the United Kingdom”, rather than “arguing and fighting” over an issue that will take inordinate amounts of time to resolve.

In other words, Argentina, under Milei’s government, will be working closely with its long-time adversary on a whole range of issues while consigning the Falklands dispute to the backburner. It is, to put it mildly, a sharp departure from traditional national policy regarding the Malvinas.

Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas remains a major issue for most people. In a 2021 poll carried out by the consultancy firm, Julio Aurelio, more than 80% of the population supported Argentine sovereignty over the islands. Many have clung to a non-binding 1965 UN resolution that recognized a sovereignty dispute that invited the Argentine and UK governments to negotiate a solution.

I remember crossing into Argentina from Bolivia 20 years ago and seeing a giant billboard proclaiming: “Las Malvinas son Argentinas.” It was one of many I would see on my travels. Even Argentina’s national constitution from 1994 has a section asserting the country’s claims of sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the corresponding maritime and island spaces, as they are an integral part of the national territory.” The recovery of said territories, it says, and their “full exercise of sovereignty… constitute a permanent and inalienable objective of the Argentine people.”

But not apparently for Argentina’s new government. Milei’s latest words should finally put to rest speculation, particularly in the English-language press, that Milei might one day repeat the follies of Argentina’s military dictatorship and order the military to recapture the Falkland Islands. That is highly unlikely to happen. Although Milei insists that he has a clear roadmap for brining the Malvinas back into Argentine hands and has called for a new era of reconciliation with the armed forces, in reality the roadmap consists of kicking the can as far down the road as possible.

While Milei insists that his government is the first to have articulated a clear path for turning Argentina into a fully sovereign nation, in reality he has aligned his government with the West, particularly the US and Israel, in almost every possible way, even going so far as to apply to join NATO as a global partner. The notion that his government will one day take aggressive action of any kind against the US’ fellow Five-Eye nation and founding NATO member, the UK, is, to put it mildly, absurd.

Predictably, Milei’s words have sparked a backlash from some of Argentina´s Falkland War veterans. In one statement, the La Plata Centre for Former Malvinas Islands Combatants has warned that President Milei’s “dishonest and disgraceful words should be setting off flashing lights in our political system given that what is ultimately at risk is adequate institutional representation for the country”:

The degree of irresponsibility evident in each of his statements is an affront to the millions of Argentinians who love our country. The conflict with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been going on since 1833 when they appropriated millions of square kilometres of territory on our continental platform, today in the hands of a neocolonial power that illegally occupied it with force. And that occupation DOES NOT GRANT IT RIGHTS!

In denigrating terms President Milei is inviting the owners of speculative capital around the world… to come to our country to do what they want with it, dishing up a program of grand investment incentives, all in the name of giving away our strategic resources.

Since coming into office in mid-December, the Milei government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States allowing members of the US Army Corps of Engineers to operate along the Paraná-Paraguay Waterway, including large parts of the river Plata basin, upon which roughly 80% of all Argentine exports travel. It has agreed to buy $300 million of second-hand, 40-year-old F-16 fighters from Denmark. It has also announced the establishment of a US naval base in Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Tierra de Fuego, often described as the last stop before Antarctica.

Accused of selling out his country’s sovereignty for seemingly nothing in return, Milei argued, with a straight face, that allowing the installation of a US military base in Ushuaia is the greatest act of sovereignty of the past 40 years since it will strengthen Argentina’s territorial claims over the Antarctic.


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  1. The Rev Kev

    It’s hard to understand this move as on the surface, Milie’s Argentina gets nothing out of it. So perhaps there have been some secret agreements made in the background for which Milie needed the approval of the UK. Maybe he wants to turn Argentina into a huge base for NATO to help take control of South America and it’s resources and needs the help of the UK. But his loyalties seemed to be focused on conservatism as show by the foreign leaders that he admires rather than the interests of Argentina itself.

    1. Jana

      If I recall, UK has all of Argentina’s gold, perhaps even their gold reserves. Nope, wrong.
      Bank of England seized 31 TONS of Argentina’s gold….maybe he’d like it back. Now, lemme think a sec…which new global currency will be backed by gold? Ah…yes. BRICS. Just a coincidence, Argentina pulled out of BRICS application after Lulu busted his a** to get Argentina an APPLICATION…BTW, I have ZERO predictive power, zilch. But I do savor excellent plot twists, admittedly. :)

      1. ebolapoxclassic

        The article is about the gold the UK stole from Venezuela. Have they tried to do the same with Argentinian gold?

        1. Jana C

          New subscriber here.
          Oh my! That’s embarrassing…lesson learned (and thank you for pointing out my error)…my mind went into high speed plot twist with bad facts!
          What’s the etiquette for terrible post? Is there a delete button or am I allowed one mistake?

  2. K.M.

    “What we are looking to do is to initiate a dialogue so that at some point the Falkland Islands become Argentinian”

    Just the once will not hurt!
    A very decent position from a preson widely known for his indecent positions.

  3. Carolinian

    Since Milei also approves of the British and then the Israelis seizing Palestine he’s just being consistent. The strong do what they will.

    Of course when it’s Russia being strong in Ukraine Nato says “waaaah!!”

    The strong don’t worry about being consistent. It’s all about muscles, not brains. So perhaps Milei a natural fit?

  4. Mikel

    Next time he is on the tv somewhere, somebody should flash a queen of diamonds card at Milei.
    See what happens.
    Just sayin’….

      1. vao

        There is also that “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island” — which to me sounds great: it has the flavour of the UK actually being the realm of Viking monarchs from Iceland.

        1. Nick Corbishley Post author

          :-) That is a good one. Jet lag is definitely not good for spelling (flew back from Mexico four days ago and I’m still frazzled)

  5. JonnyJames

    Once again, he did MI6/CIA proud. The pathetic “tough guy” faux-nationalist bends over and bows down publicly to lick the boots of the Anglo-American overlords. What courage and integrity.

  6. Kemerd

    Actually I am with millei this time, British power gets smaller in an accelerated path and him not saying how they will negotiate is a hint that he will simply press for military threat once the time is ripe, which actually might not be that far at all

  7. Alex Cox

    Immediately after the BBC interview Milei went to a photo shoot where he embraced the US and Israeli flags. You can find the picture on today’s Telesur news site. It looks like it was taken in a dive bar, and is a real keeper.

    With his sideburns and hairdo, Milei increasingly resembles the sensational Scottish rocker Alex Harvey, who died at the age of 42.

  8. ebolapoxclassic

    There are many cases where politicians blatantly assume the opposite stances to the ones they campaigned on (Meloni is one recent example). This on the other hand is a great example of getting exactly what you voted for. I’m obviously aware that many Argentinians didn’t vote for Milei, but they’re going to have to blame the majority that did.

  9. ciroc

    One day the British may realize the absurdity of spending £60 million a year to maintain a monument to the false victory of democracy over a U.S.-backed military dictatorship. Then Milei will be vindicated.

  10. MFB

    Maybe the French should have just appealed to Count Bismarck’s better nature and asked if it wouldn’t be proper for Germany to give Alsace-Lorraine back.

    Might have saved millions of lives. Or not, of course.

    By the way, the Falklands are a great jumpoff point for exploiting the Southern Ocean and the coast of Antarctica, if only Britain had the money or technology to do either thing. Argentina could do the same without the Malvinas, if Argentina had the money or technology to do either thing (which they might have acquired if they hadn’t decided to abandon BRICS).

  11. alfred venison

    Could be an analogue to one of Zelensky’s Swiss recipe peace plans : withdraw your army, return Alsace & Lorraine, compensate us handsomely, and we can discuss a treaty. Oh yeah, hand over Bismarck.

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