United Kingdom Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has dispelled media reports suggesting a surge in troop numbers was likely. Fallon on Tuesday outlined £180 million infrastructure spending plans, but told MPs numbers would remain at around 1,200 military and civilian personnel.
The current military presence is broadly proportionate to the threats and risks we face. Our forces in the South Atlantic are... at the level required for defense of the Falkland Islands against any potential threat.
However, I have also agreed a number of measures designed to ensure our resilience for the short, medium and longer term. I have decided.. we will keep our numbers at around current levels of about 1,200 personnel.
Secretary Fallon said two Chinook helicopters would be recalled to the area by the middle of next year to provide tactical support to current forces. An enhanced communications system will be mounted at the military base at Mount Pleasant and at Mare Harbor.
Over the next ten years, £180 million will be allocated to improve and modernize infrastructure, including military accommodation upgrades and a new primary school.
The current ground-based air defense system, Rapier, will be replaced by the end of the decade. Refurbishments at key sites Mare Harbor and Mount Pleasant were also outlined.
Following multiple questions on Islanders' security, Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker suggested the Falklands be kept in review given the role of Russia in the region. Fallon reiterated British commitment to the South Atlantic.
“The review we have undertaken confirms our commitment to the Falkland Islanders. We will always defend the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own political future,
Despite multiple questions concerning Russian influence in the region, Fallon said he refused to get drawn into speculation regarding supposed deals between Russia and Argentina, saying: “The principle threat remains... the quite unjustified claim of Argentina to those Islands.”, reminding the House that 99.8% of Falkland Islanders chose to remain British in a recent referendum.
Alicia Castro, Argentine ambassador in London, said that Falklands is “just an excuse” to increase military spending. She added that there are increasing questions in the United Kingdom over the “excessive military spending to maintain a garrison of 2,000 men on a remote island to prevent an invasion that will never happen.”
“The United Kingdom is not only not listening but it is in breach of its obligation under international law to resolve disputes through diplomatic channels,” she said.
From Buenos Aires Argentina's Defense Minister Agustin Rossi has denied the allegations made by The Sun that it was preparing an attack on the disputed Falkland Islands, slamming the claims as crazy.
It is crazy; this is not the case, Minister Rossi, commented. The Sun is a British tabloid newspaper which has accustomed us to these type of covers.
While he claimed there has been no official communication with the British government, Rossi also denied Argentina had established a new strategy in the Falklands/Malvinas.
In his statement, Rossi insisted on denying the claims made in December 2014 that Argentina was in negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the leasing of Russian combat aircraft - 12 long-range bombers - in exchange for meat, wheat and other foods, as an alternative way to deal with sanctions from the European Union for the controversial annexation of Crimea to Russia.
There is no Argentine policy contemplating this possibility, Rossi told FM Delta on Tuesday, about a potential new arms deal with Russia.
The Minister reiterated the fact that the state of Argentina wants to find scope for dialogue with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas issue, in compliance with United Nations resolutions.
But Fallon insisted that the principle threat to the Islands remains the quite unjustified claim of Argentina to ownership.
Earlier, Cameron said: “The assurance that I can give the Falkland Islands is that we will always be there for them, we will always defend them. This government has been very good to its word on that and has actually strengthened our defences in the Falklands.
“We believe in the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination. They had a referendum. They couldn’t have been more clear about wanting to remain with our country and we should protect and defend them.”