(UNITED NATIONS) – Nuclear fears between the United Kingdom and Argentina are real, according to a White House source.
President Ronald Reagan, who once worried about London giving Buenos Aires “a big one.”
On Friday, at United Nations headquarters, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant and Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman, were debating new charges that a U.K. nuclear submarine was suspected off the coast of the controversial Falkland Islands which both nations claim.
Timmerman told a group of reporters:
Argentina has information, that within the framework of the recent British deployment in the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, they sent a nuclear submarine … to transport nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic.”
Amb. Grant called the allegations “absurd” but was silent about the status of any U.K. nuclear weapons in the region.
Coincidentally, the Argentine allegations came as London announced that Prince William would be dispatched to the Falklands for several weeks as part of his RAF military service.
It also comes on the heels of recent geological studies indicating new vast deposits of oil and gas in the region.
On the military allegations, documents obtained by WND show that Argentine fears may be well-grounded.
In 1982, Argentina, under the leadership of a military junta led by General Leopoldo Galtieri, decided to reclaim the disputed islands known to Buenos Aires as the Malvinas.
The Argentine forces, vastly outnumbering the small U.K. military contingent, easily overpowered the Brits and soon “reclaimed” the islands for Buenos Aires on April 2, 1982.
Then-U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher repeatedly proclaimed that “the (Argentine) invasion will not stand!”
Thatcher also warned that she would “use all force necessary” to eject the Argentines.
Tempers were flying and Thatcher was under intense political pressure in Parliament to act “decisively.”
No. 10 Downing Street moved to assemble an “invasion” fleet to confront Argentina, but the logistics were such, that it took London almost a month to arrive on the scene.
During that period, the U.S. tried to be an honest broker to avoid a war between two allies of Washington.
President Ronald Reagan dispatched then Secretary of State Alexander Haig to engage in some trans-Atlantic shuttle diplomacy between Thatcher and Galtieri.
Haig began his fruitless diplomacy departing from Andrews Air Force Base for London on April 8.
President Reagan opted to take a brief Easter vacation. He traveled to the Caribbean island of Barbados where he was the guest of an old friend, actress Claudette Colbert.
While at Colbert’s home, Haig had just completed his first round of talks with Thatcher and called Reagan from his plane to deliver a status report.
This reporter, an avid ham-radio buff, was able to listen in on the Haig-Reagan air-to-ground communications.
Tapes of the conversation revealed that Haig was doubtful a war could be avoided.
More chilling was the fear that emotions in London were so strong that any conflict “could go nuclear.”
Fleet Street was rampant with speculation that London actually had secret military forces in the South Atlantic only days after the Argentine invasion.
Thatcher repeatedly denied the reports.
Then came Reagan.
The president, audio tapes revealed, was worried about Thatcher’s “options” and quizzed Haig intensely.
On the U.K. nuclear “option” Reagan asked Haig:
“Al, do you think the British nuclear sub down there might let the Argies have a big one?”
The sub President Reagan was concerned about was believed to have enough sea-based nuclear firepower to easily “level” Buenos Aires and most of Argentina, if Thatcher gave the word.
While Haig told the President he “was not optimistic” that war could be avoided, he did not believe Thatcher would pursue a nuclear option.
Several weeks later, the British forces eventually expelled the Argentines after imposing a sea and air blockade of the islands, without resorting to nuclear weapons.
The British action also saw the fall of the Argentine military junta.
But neither side ever concluded a peace treaty.
Though Washington succeeded in avoiding a possible nuclear confrontation, the lack of a formal peace treaty has been instrumental in leading to a renewal of tensions today.