Britain’s islands in the South Atlantic are frontier posts in a race for economic riches in the Antarctic, according to an academic in Argentina.
In past centuries, St Helena was a vital refuelling station for the commercial supply lines of the British Empire. Now, says Juan Recce, her sister islands have become key strategic assets, as jumping-off points for the ice continent and its underwater wealth.
‘The islands of Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and South Sandwich give logistical control of the path to Antarctica,’ says Recce, executive director of the Argentine Centre for International Studies.
He suggests Antarctica could yield great economic riches – not only oil, but also other natural resources that can be harnessed for the medical drugs industry.
‘Before, there was talk of krill as food for the future,’ says Recce on publicserviceeurope.com. ‘Today, it is the race for patenting of biodiversity for pharmaceutical purposes, for control of mineral resources on the continental shelf that is submerged and control of hydrocarbon resources that may exist in the subsurface.’
Recce, who is executive director of the Argentine Centre for International Studies, is clearly writing for his country.
He says if Buenos Aires gave up its claim to Las Malvinas (the Falklands), it would be ‘giving up our genome heritage, biodiversity, mineral wealth and, perhaps, oil.’
It’s not about ‘the Kelpers’, he says, using his country’s not-affectionate nickname for Falkland islanders – it’s about climate change, money from pharmaceuticals, and big changes in the way the world’s nations get their energy.
‘We are now facing a high-level game of chess. The Malvinas and Antarctica are, for the United Kingdom, part of a strategic power agenda.
‘The country’s margins expand with its overseas territories in the central South Atlantic.’
On the same website, another article says Britain is becoming unpopular with Argentina’s neighbours over oil exploration in the Falklands. Writer Matt Ince says pledges of support could leave Britain unable to bring in people and supplies through South America.
But he says sympathy and support for Buenos Aires are unlikely to lead to armed conflict.
Ince, of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in the UK, suggests Argentina’s president is using the Falklands to divert attention from spending cuts and restraints on media freedom.
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