Secret UK government papers released on Friday, December 28 showed the apparent surprise of Margaret Thatcher when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in April 1982. Published by the British National Archives, these documents are, according to historians, among the “most powerful material” declassified in the last three decades.
“It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happened, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing”, Thatcher told the Franks Committee in October 1982, “I just say it was the worst moment of my life. That night, no-one could tell me whether we could retake the Falklands – no-one.”
The conflict, which ended with the UK reclaiming the islands in June 1982, provoked diplomatic tensions between Great Britain and some of its allies. Papers documenting some exchanges between the Heads of States on that subject have also been released.
Thatcher, for example, warned then French President François Mitterrand about the possibility of mounting tension between their two countries over existing arms export deals to Argentina’s neighbour, Peru: “If the world were to learn – in all probability – that France is now delivering weapons to Peru that will certainly be passed on to Argentina and then used against us, France’s ally, this would have a devastating effect on the relationship between our two countries.”
France paid heed to this warning and never delivered the missiles to Peru. The Falkland Islands are, to this day, a British territory despite Argentina still claiming the ownership of the islands, basing its claim on the islands’ proximity to the South American mainland.