Joe Biden discusses Falklands conflict in 1982
The UK and Argentina have long argued over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which boiled over into conflict when the South American country invaded the British Overseas Territory almost 40 years ago. Though US President Ronald Reagan was close to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, files showed Washington believed London had not considered diplomatic options thoroughly enough and initially tried to end the conflict through “shuttle diplomacy”. However, when Argentina refused the peace overtures, both houses of Congress passed resolutions supporting action siding with the UK.
Mr Biden, who would later chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, often opposed Republican policies but made a firm commitment to upholding the cultural and historical roots that tied the US and Britain together.
Speaking during a 1982 interview with CBC, the Democrat said: “I believe that my resolution, which clearly calls for us to state whose side we’re on – which is the British side – will, in fact, I believe, aid the negotiating process.
“It won’t diminish the chances of negotiations.
“I think the Argentinians must be disabused of the notion, assuming they harbour it, that the US is truly neutral in this matter.
Joe Biden weighed in on the debate
The Falklands War took place in 1982
“I have no sense that my resolution – calling on the US Congress to go on record in support of the British – would be anything other than helpful.”
Mr Biden, who will be inaugurated as the next US President on January 20, said it was “clear” that Britain was correct.
He added: “I do not wish for it to topple the Argentinian government, but the fact of the matter is there is a great deal at stake for the US.
“The fact of the matter is, if we allow the settlement of claimants by the use of force, we will unleash a series of actions no one wants.
“NATO is an alliance for which we have made a firm and solid commitment – it is clear the Argentinians are the aggressors, it is clear the British are right.
Joe Biden speaking on the matter
“It should be clear to the whole world where the US stands.”
At the time, Argentina’s claim to the Falklands had won the backing of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
But Mr Biden said US interests had to be put aside.
He said: “There is no question that the US is going to lose no matter what it does.
“But we lose a great deal more by not standing with our closest and oldest ally and the alliance that is most important to America.”
Mrs Thatcher was a close ally of Mr Reagan throughout the Eighties.
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Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister at the time
It was then that UK-US relations were at an all-time high, especially in the face of the Soviet threat to the West during the Cold War.
Despite this, Mr Biden remained staunchly opposed to many of the policies that Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan agreed on, including their stance on Apartheid in South Africa.
He repeatedly slammed what he perceived as the Reagan administration’s lack of action to end the segregation and violence in the region.
In a famous 1986 Senate speech, he accused the US of having a lack of “moral backbone” over the ordeal.
Naturally, the President-elect has changed his stance on international policies over his career – which has spanned more than five decades.
And while he previously pledged his support for the UK in the Eighties, his position today is slightly less clear.
Ronald Reagan with Margaret Thatcher
Relations between Mr Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit a roadblock last year after the presidential candidate joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in condemning his plan that risked breaking international law by rewriting parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
But Mr Biden’s issues with Brexit go way back to when he was serving in an administration that put itself squarely behind David Cameron’s Remain campaign, notably clashing with Mr Johnson in the process.
In February 2013, Mr Biden said Britain’s EU membership was an important contribution to world peace, prosperity and security.
He told The Times: “We value our essential relationship with the UK, as well as our relationship with the EU, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity, and security in Europe and around the world.
The dispute over the Falklands has continued
“We believe the UK is stronger as a result of its membership.
“And we believe the EU is stronger with the UK’s involvement. That’s our view.”
Asked again about Britain’s leaving the bloc in 2018, Mr Biden said he would have voted against it if he were a British MP and claimed that US interest would be diminished with Britain out of the EU.
On the ties between the US and UK, he added that there was still a “special relationship,” but feared “without England being totally integrated into the EU” it could “diminishes our ability to have an influence on events on the continent”.
He added: “I do believe very strongly that the US’ ability to play a major role in the security of the West and the prosperity of the transatlantic partnership rests in part on Great Britain’s influence in Europe.”
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