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Malvinas complicates Crimean choices

Delegates at the General Assembly use their phones to take pictures of the voting on March 27.
By Tomás Brockenshire
Herald Staff
Thirty-two years after the beginning of the war, a global crisis takes a decidedly local turn

On the 32nd anniversary of the day when the military dictatorship declared war in an ill-fated attempt to recover the islands, the debate over the Malvinas has been overshadowed by two votes at the United Nations concerning Crimea, in which Argentina spoke up about an inconsistency in the British and US position over the islands as part of its quest to regain sovereignty in the South Atlantic.

In a reminder of how the country’s foreign policy priorities are often shaped by the prism of the Malvinas Islands, Argentina questioned why the UK and US opposed a referendum in Crimea while supporting last year’s vote in Malvinas. After first voting against Russia at the Security Council, it later abstained in the General Assembly on a similar text.

The United Kingdom was also painted into an uncomfortable corner due to the Crimean crisis. London has failed to recognize a referendum in Crimea, in which the citizens overwhelmingly voted to join Russia, but sees a 2013 Malvinas referendum in which the Kelpers voted to remain British, as valid.

This contradiction, however, in the views of analysts is not new, and is unlikely to change the British policy on the Malvinas.

Territorial integrity

The Argentine policy on the Malvinas, stable to the point that it can be considered one of the few to achieve broad political and civil society consensus, has as one if its central tenets the primacy of “territorial integrity” over “self-determination.”

Socialist Senator Rubén Giustiniani (Santa Fe), a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Herald after the Security Council vote wherein Argentina rejected the Crimean referendum, that “we approve of the vote at the United Nations, as it was against the referendum, against self-determination... and why be against the referendum? Because the concept of territorial integrity has primacy.”

However, these concepts were given a new complexity as a result of the referendum in Crimea that led to the eventual annexation of the province by the Russian Federation. Argentina, first as a member of the United Nations Security Council and then at the General Assembly faced a choice.

Be wholly consistent with its Malvinas policy and thus reject the Crimean referendum like it did the Malvinas 2013 plebiscite and end up siding with Great Britain and the US, or temper its stance in consideration of its antagonism with Great Britain on the matter, and consider the relations with the Russian Federation and the voting patterns of its Mercosur and CELAC partners.

Argentina ended up resolving to split the difference, voting in favour of a resolution on March 15 that condemned the referendum but then abstaining from a March 27 General Assembly vote that had similar language.

Official explanation

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman to provided the rationale for the votes in a column printed in Página/12 last Sunday, wherein he described the shift as a response to the fact that “instead of hewing close to international norms, promoting dialogue among the interested parties and looking to support Ukraine to resolve its internal difficulties by peaceful means, various international actors kept on insisting on seeking advantages for their own aspirations... in other words: Ukraine’s internal affairs were intervened by way of political, economic and military means amid a climate of escalating international confrontation.”

The policy, therefore, was to reject the circumstantial use of the principle of “territorial integrity” to defend geo-political interests that Argentina does not share. The argument would be that it would set a poor precedent to participate in the “double” standard of a vote utilizing that concept in a resolution deemed not to be conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.

Seeing it differently

Argentina was not alone in abstaining, a policy followed by Mercosur countries as a whole.

Gabriel Puricelli, Chair of the Public Policy Laboratory, told the Herald that just because the votes were different does not make them contradictory.

“If taken separately, as two different votes, they have policy logic. For the vote in the Security Council, it’s a defence of the norms by a weak country, which thus has an interest in defending norms, and with a concrete interest in rejecting the referendum,” he said.

“In the General Assembly, there is a logic of finding a balance between Argentina’s interests and those of regional and international partners, which in this case lent itself to abstaining from the vote.”

The General Assembly vote also took place shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin called Fernández de Kirchner, at a time when YPF is seeking to partner with Russia’s oil and gas giant Gazprom.

Moving forward

Despite its seeming renewed interest in territorial integrity there is “no way” that it will signify a shift in position on the British policy on Malvinas, historian Federico Lorenz told the Herald.

The contradiction is hardly new and the greater geo-political importance of Ukraine “means that Great Britain will not be concerned about the coherence of their stance on Crimea in comparison to the Malvinas.”

For his part, Puricelli said that “the status quo in Malvinas will not change in the short or medium term” the vote “on Crimea should allow Argentina to introduce into the bilateral agenda with Great Britain the issue about the referendums.”

@tbrockenshire
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