The Falklands Crisis | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

The Falklands Crisis

By Andrea Chiampan (University of Padua), and 

Jason Saltoun-Ebin (University of California Santa Barbara)

August 5, 2011

* Please cite as: Jason Saltoun-Ebin & Andrea Chiampan,"The Reagan Files: The Falklands Crisis," (, Aug. 5, 2011.

President Reagan’s close relationship with Prime Minister Thatcher was tested in March 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (an isolated island chain off the coast of Argentina that came under British colonial rule in the 1800s) and Prime Minister Thatcher responded by sending an Armada to repel the Argentine invaders. Newly released documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for the first time confirm that President Reagan directed U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig to try to resolve the crises without taking sides as the Reagan Administration, though ultimately supportive of Prime Minister Thatcher, did not want to risk alienating Argentina, an important ally in the war against Communism in South America.  

Following the landing of Argentineans forces on April 2, 1982, Prime Minister Thatcher immediately sent an Armada to repel the Argentineans from the Falkland Islands. With the Royal Navy needing about 20 days to reach the Falklands (off the coast of Argentina near the tip of South America) Secretary of State Haig had less than three weeks to negotiate a peaceful resolution. 

Newly released documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library shed light on President Reagan’s decision to allow Secretary of State Alexander Haig to engage in what was termed “shuttle diplomacy” – Haig’s trips between London and Buenos Aires to negotiate a peaceful settlement. The documents are important record verifying much of what participants (like Secretary of State Haig) wrote about in their memoires, and in many cases shed light on the delicate balance the Reagan Administration was playing by trying to appease two important allies in the war against Communism. 

For example, the newly released documents include a summary of President Reagan’s message to Argentinean President Galtieri warning that the use of force would severely damage U.S.-Argentine relations. (See Document # 1.) The document also significantly shows President Reagan was left with the impression that Galtieri would not be stopped from using force to end British colonial rule in the Falklands. Given the political pressures in both countries, Haig’s task would be difficult, if not impossible. 

In Argentina, the timing of the Falklands conflict was likely due to the fact that the country was about to enter into an economic disaster. Inflation was nearing 120%, and unemployment and poverty were both quickly rising. The junta probably thought that an easy military victory would distract Argentineans from the growing economic problems.  Additionally, the junta had little reason to suspect that Great Britain would fight over a tiny island nation with little economic or military value.

But the junta drastically miscalculated the severity of the crisis for Prime Minister Thatcher, who believed that her government (and her career) would fall if she could not reclaim the Falklands. She was justified in this belief as The House of Commons pressed her not to deal with the brutal military Argentine regime; conservative members of Parliament (sensitive to national prestige) framed the crisis as a war between Democracy and Authoritarianism and noted that Great Britain’s international creditability was at stake.

Secretary Haig’s “Shuttle Diplomacy” was officially launched on April 6 (see Document 2), and on April 8 he arrived in London hoping to persuade Great Britain to allow for the creation of an interim administration over the Falklands in which Argentine forces would comply with UN Resolution 502, which required a complete withdrawal. Prime Minister Thatcher, however, would not negotiate anything less than the withdrawal of all Argentineans; restoration of the British administration; and preservation of the right of self-determination for the Falklanders. (See Document 3.)

Secretary Haig then took off for Buenos Aires with a prepared four point plan: mutual withdrawal; establishment of a demilitarized zone in the Islands; an international interim administration; and establishment of a bilateral committee to find a settlement for the sovereignty of the Falklands. Haig’s first round in Buenos Aires must have been as disappointing as his first round in London, as the Argentinean’s required a halt to the British Armada before even considering any withdrawal.  Sensing that President Reagan might have more influence, Haig scheduled a phone call with Galtieri for April 15. The memorandum of conversation is now released (see Document # 9), and shows that Reagan was very clear that if war could not be avoided, the U.S. would have difficulty staying neutral. The minutes also show that Galtieri played the Cold War hand, warning Reagan that he could not afford to lose an important ally in the war against Communism at a time when Nicaragua and El Salvador were in turmoil.

Haig then left Buenos Aires for London where he would present a revision version of the plan he submitted to the junta just days earlier. Thatcher, however, after realizing Haig’s proposal did not have the support of the junta, immediately suspended negotiations.

Haig was not ready to give up, and he returned to Buenos Aires on April 18 in one last ditch effort at negotiating a peaceful solution. Costa Mendez, a usually pro-American Argentinean diplomat, was sent to meet Haig. Mendez reminded Haig that Argentina required a recognition of sovereignty as a precondition for withdrawal and negotiations. (The episode of the Mad Clause has been reported by many accounts in slightly different nuances. See Roberto C. Laver, The Falklands/Malvinas case (The Haig: Kluwer Law International, 2001) and L. Freedman, Signals of War: The Falklands conflict of 1982, (London: Faber and Faber, 1990).) Mendez also handed Haig a paper to that effect, which also had the “Mad Clause”, the terms for Argentina’s precondition for withdrawal. Haig now must have realized that negotiations were dead and a new phase of the crisis was now at hand.

The newly released documents also shed light on President Reagan’s decision to move away from neutrality towards openly siding with Prime Minister Thatcher. The final “tilt” came on April 30, after an important NSC meeting, in which Reagan and his advisers decided that supporting Thatcher outweighed any possible repercussions if a new government were formed in Argentina. An important Department of State position paper (See Document 16A) outlines the arguments in favor of supporting Thatcher as well as the actions the United States could take to curb Argentine behavior. 

Haig then sought the support of Peruvian President Belaunde and UN General Secretary Perez de Cuellar to work out another “peace plan” to be presented on May 2. But the new plan, if it had any chance at all, was too late. That same day, May 2, the HMS Conqueror became the first nuclear powered submarine to “fire in anger” when it launched three Mark 8 torpedoes at the ARA General Belgrano, a Brooklyn-class light cruiser Argentina had sent to patrol the area around the Falkland islands in anticipation of the British Armada. Two of the three torpedoes hit their mark, and within half an hour the Belgrano was rapidly sinking. Although there were some 700 survivors, over 300 crew were killed, accounting for more than half of all the Argentine’s killed during the Falklands war. The news devastated the Argentine people, and although Prime Minister Thatcher would continue to offer cease fire terms, the sinking of the Belgrano probably caused the Argentine rulers to hold out until better news provided an opportunity for an honorable end to the conflict. 

 (The sinking of the Belgrano, May 2, 1982, Press Association Pictures)

But the junta had no such luck, and a British land invasion soon followed. By the end of May the British had already recovered the island of South Georgia, and although Reagan was now pushing for a rapid British success, the documents shows that he also feared a quick British victory would give credibility to those claiming the U.S. was militarily supporting the British. The Reagan Administration was also concerned about the prospects for U.S.-Argentine relations – a humiliating defeat of the Argentine junta would no doubt hinder Reagan’s war against communism in Central and South America. Yet, when push came to shove, Reagan was fully supportive of Prime Minister Thatcher, hoping to  “assure the earliest British success with the least damage to our interests in South America.” (See Document # 17.)

Although it was revealed by British newspapers in 1992 that Reagan phone Thatcher on May 31 to ask her to take it easy on the Argentine’s in consideration of the Junta’s help in the war against Communism, this important memorandum of conversation could not be located at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. According to the reports, Thatcher was adamant that the U.K. would not sign any peace agreement, cutting Reagan off every time he suggested that doing so would be in both their best interests. Argentina officially surrendered on June 11.



(Haig and Thatcher at their first meeting, April 9, 1982.)


Document #1: April 1, 1982 – Draft Letter from Reagan to Thatcher: “Galtieri intends to use force”.

The following draft letter to Prime Minister Thatcher was prepared immediately President Reagan concluded his phone conversation with Argentine President Galtieri. The draft letter would have informed Thatcher that Galtieri expressed an eagerness to use force to acquire the Falkland Islands. A transcript of the document was originally published by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation and can be found online at )

Here is the full text.

Dear Margaret:

I have just talked at length with General Galtieri about the situation in the Falklands. I conveyed to him my personal concern about the possibility of an Argentinean invasion. I told him that initiating military operations against the Falklands Islands would seriously compromise relations between the US and Argentina, and I urged him to refrain from offensive action. I offered our good offices and my readiness to send a personal representative to assist in resolving the issue between Argentina and the UK.

The General heard my message, but gave me no commitment that he would comply with it. Indeed, he spoke in terms of ultimatums and left me with the clear impression that he has embarked on a course of armed conflict. We will continue to cooperate with your government in the effort to resolve the dispute, both in attempting to avert hostilities and to stop them if they should break out. While we have a policy of neutrality on the sovereignty issue, we will not be neutral on the issue involving Argentine use of military force.

Warmest wishes, 

Document#2: April 6, 1982 – Memorandum from Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan, re: “Falkland Islands Dispute”.

Secretary Haig prepared this memo for President Reagan days after the Argentinean’s invaded the Falkland Islands. Haig’s memo proposes a “mediation plan”, that would become known as “shuttle diplomacy”. Haig writes: “I have begun to explore what we might able to do […] and looked for opportunities for diplomacy. I believe we found a few.” Haig left for London the next day.

Click Here to download the document: 82.04.06 Haig to Reagan.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: Falkland Crisis 1982], Box 90224)

Document#3: April 8, 1982 – Jim Rentschler's Telegram to Judge Clark: “Secretary's working dinner with Prime Minister Thatcher”.

This cable to White House National Security Adviser Clark is a summary of Haig’s first meetings in London. The cable shows that Secretary Haig proposed to Prime Minister Thatcher that he negotiate a way for the British to maintain control over the Falklands as well as an Argentine withdrawal but leaving Argentina a “face-saving way out via interim arrangement involving international recognized presence.”  

Attached to the cable are Secretary Haig’s talking points. 

Both documents were released at the Reagan Library in 2008 and be downloaded by clicking here: 

82.04.08 Telegram, Haig & MT.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223)

Document#4: April 9, 1982 – Haig's Telegram to the President: “Discussions in London”.

Secretary Haig sent President Reagan a summary of his meetings with Prime Minister Thatcher. A summary was originally made available thanks to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. The Reagan Files has obtained the original document which can be downloaded by clicking here: 82.4.09 Haig-Thatcher meeting summary.pdf

The following is the text as released by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation: 

1. (TOP SECRET ENTIRE TEXT) [Text following originally in upper case.] 

2. I spent five hours with Prime Minister Thatcher, the first hour with her and the Foreign Secretary, [ Francis ] Pym , alone, following by a working dinner which included the Defense Minister, [ John ] Nott , and senior officials. Before meeting with her, I spent an hour alone with Pym. 

3. The Prime Minister has the bit in her teeth, owing to the politics of a unified nation and an angry Parliament, as well as her own convictions about the principles at stake. She is clearly prepared to use force, though she admits a preference for a diplomatic solution. She is [fo 1] rigid in her insistence on a return to the status quo ante, and indeed seemingly determined that any solution involve some retribution. 

4. Her Defense Secretary is squarely behind her, though less ideological than she. He is confident of military success, based not on a strategy of landing on the islands but rather by a blockade which, he believes, will eventually make the Argentine presence untenable. Thus, the prospect of imminent hostilities appears less acute – if the Argentines keep their distance – though this does not fundamentally diminish the gravity and urgency of the crisis. 

5. Her Foreign Secretary does not share her position, and went surprisingly far in showing this in her presence. Whether this means he will have a restraining influence or instead that there will be a problem within the Government is impossible to say. 

6. The British tried to avoid the question of the long-term consequences of using force, though they are concerned and, I believe, our discussions sobered them further. They agree with our assessment that the next 72 hours, before the fleet arrives, is crucial. 

7. The Prime Minister is convinced she will fall if she concedes on any of three basic points, to which she is committed to Parliament: 

•A. Immediate withdrawal of Argentine forces;

•B. Restoration of British administration on the islands;

•C. Preservation of their position that the islanders must be able to exercise self-determination.

8. We focussed on three elements of a solution, which I argued would meet her needs: 

•A. Withdrawal of Argentine forces; [fo 2]

•B. An interim arrangement involving an international presence (e.g., U.S., Canada, and two Latin American countries) to provide an umbrella for the restoration of British administration.

•C. Swift resumption of negotiations.

9. The main problems were with point B. She wants nothing that would impinge on British authority, she wants the British Governor back, and she bridled at the thought of any Argentine non-military presence even under an international umbrella. She does not insist that British sovereignty be accepted – she is finessing this by saying that British sovereignty is simply a fact that has not been affected by aggression – but she rules out anything that would be inconsistent with self-determination. 

10. All in all, we got no give in the basic British position, and only the glimmering of some possibilities, and that only after much effort by me with considerable help not appreciated by Mrs. Thatcher from Pym. It is clear that they had not thought much about diplomatic possibilities. They will now, but whether they become more imaginative or instead recoil will depend on the [fo 3] political situation and what I hear in Argentina. 

11. I will arrive in Buenos Aires late Friday. I will convey a picture of total British resolve, and see what I can draw from the Argentines along lines we discussed in London, without giving any hint that the British are prepared for any give-and-take. 

12. If the Argentines give me something to work with, I plan to return to London over the weekend. It may then be necessary for me to ask you to apply unusual pressure on Thatcher. If the Argentines offer very little, I would plan to return to confer with you. In this case, it may be necessary to apply even greater pressure on the British if we are to head off hostilities. I cannot presently offer my optimism, even if I get enough in Buenos Aires to justify a return to London. This is [fo 4] clearly a very steep uphill struggle, but essential, given the enormous stakes. 

13. Throughout what was a difficult discussion, there was no trace of anything but gratitude for the role we are playing and for your personal concern and commitment to the Prime Minister. She said, in conclusion, that the candor of the discussion reflected the strength of our relationship. 

14. As you know I have excluded travelling US press from the plane. All I have said to the local press is that we want to be helpful and support U.N. Security Council Resolution 502, which calls for withdrawal and a diplomatic solution. For the benefit of Thatcher – and the Argentines – I also said I was impressed by the resolve of the British Government. We must be absolutely disciplined with the press during this critical stage, avoiding at all cost any suggestion that we are encouraged. There is, in fact, little basis for encouragement in any event. 


Document#5: April 9, 1982 – Reagan's reply to Haig's Telegram: “Your Discussions in London”.

President Reagan sent this cable to Secretary Haig in response to Haig’s summary of his discussion. The cable shows that President Reagan was well-aware of the difficult position of Secretary Haig – allowing Prime Minister Thatcher to do what she wants to do while maintaining an even hand with the Argentineans. 

A transcript of the document was originally published by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. (Summary available at:

The Reagan Files has obtained the original document which can be downloaded by clicking here: 82.4.09 Reagan-Haig.pdf

Document#6: April 9, 1982 – Secretary Haig's Talking Points for President Galtieri

Secretary Haig’s Talking Points for his meeting with President Galtieri are important because the points listed show that Secretary Haig was instructed to act as an impartial mediator – the document shows that Haig was not pushing Galtieri to accept Prime Minister Thatcher’s ultimatum. 

The document shows that Haig recommended to Galtieri to pursue frank negotiations with the UK, warning that doing otherwise would likely lead armed conflict. This document was released at the Reagan Library in 2008 and is published for the first time by The Reagan Files. 

Download Secretary Haig’s Talking Points by clicking here: 82.04.09 Talking Points.pdf

Excerpt: “The British showed nothing but determination to get your forces off the islands. Thatcher's demands were clear: you must withdraw before they will consider negotiations. I told her I was sure you could not accept this, and frankly I don't believe you should. The British position is tantamount to an ultimatum.”

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26867)

Document#7: April 11, 1982 – Secretary Haig's Talking Points for Foreign Minister Costa Mendez

Secretary Haig’s talking points for his April 11, 1982  meeting with Argentine Foreign Minister Costa Mendez are important because the talking points show that Haig warned Mendez that armed conflict was inevitable.

Although the official State Department memorandum of conversation from this meeting is still classified, Argentine officials reported that Haig and Mendez could not come to an agreement over the sovereignty issue.  “I'm afraid we'll have to go home,” Haig told Mendez. “Your proposals will be utterly unacceptable to the British.”(See Haig, Caveat: Reagan, Realism and Foreign Policy, p.281.) 

With that, the first round of Haig's Shuttle Diplomacy in Argentina failed.

Secretary Haig’s Talking Points Can be downloaded by clicking here: 82.04.11 TP's for Mendez.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26868)

Document#8: April 12, 1982 – Cable from James Rentschler's (National Security Council) to National Security Adviser Clark, “Jim Rentschler's Falklands Diary”.

National Security Council staffer James Rentschler was sent to Buenos Aires as part of Secretary Haig’s delegation to the negotiations. Mr. Rentschler kept a candid diary of his trip, which he made available to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. The diary can be downloaded by clicking here: Download: James Rentschler, “Falklands Diary, 2 April- 25 June”, at:

The diary contains an unofficial transcription of a telegram from Rentchler to White House National Security Adviser Clark. The telegram, according to Rentschler, summarized the Buenos Aires round of negotiations, April 11-12. “We made some progress on these issues, though very probably not enough to secure British agreement,” Rentschler noted. 

Document#9: April 15, 1982 – National Security Adviser William Clark's Memo to Secretary Haig: “Reagan's Phone Conversation with President Galtieri.”

The release of Clark’s memo is important to a better understanding of American involvement as the memo shows that President Reagan personally attempted to broker a peaceful settlement. The memo is also significant as it shows that Reagan in very strong language warned Galtieri that armed conflict would be inevitable unless he took a more moderate position. Most interestingly, the Argentine response shows how detached from reality Galtieri was as he seems absolutely convinced that Prime Minister Thatcher would not instigate an armed conflict over the Falklands.  

Click here to download: 82.04.15 Clark to Haig re RR call to Galtieri.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: Falkland Crisis 1982], Box 90224, ID#26921)

Document#10 A: April 15, 1982 – Reagan's Letter to Thatcher: “My Conversation with Galtieri”.

President Reagan sent this letter to Prime Minister Thatcher following his conversation with Galtieri earlier in the day. Reagan’s letter makes clear to Thatcher that the U.S. views the United Kingdom as “one of our closest allies,“ while Reagan notes that Argentina is a country “with whom we would like to be able to cooperate in advancing specific interests in this hemisphere.”

Click here to download: 82.04.15 RR letter to MT.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: Falkland Crisis 1982], Box 90224, ID#26921)

Document#10 B: April 18, 1982 – Secretary Haig's Cable To Judge Clark:”Today’s Telephone Call”

Click here to download: 82.4.18 Haig-WPC.pdf

(Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat, NSC: Records, Country File (Falklands War) (Box 91365)

Document#11 A: April 19, 1982 – Secretary Haig's Telegram to Foreign Minister Pym: “Draft Text Worked Out in Buenos Aires”.

After a final round of negotiations undertaken by Secretary Haig in Buenos Aires, the Argentines insisted again on the sovereignty issue and refused to withdrawal without guarantees by London and the U.S. Although at an impasse, Haig was not ready to abandon the negotiations. He then sent this telegram to Foreign Minister Pym in a last ditch effort to avoid armed conflict. 

Click here to download: 82.4.19 Haig-FM Pym.pdf

(Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat, NSC: Records, Country File (Falklands War) (Box 91365)

(Document first made available by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation and a transcript can be found at )

Document#11 B: April 19, 1982 – Annotations of Draft Text Worked Out in Buenos Aires

Click here to download: 82.4.19 Draft Text.pdf

(Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat, NSC: Records, Country File (Falklands War) (Box 91365)

Document#11 C: April 19, 1982 – Secretary Haig's Departure Statement 

Click here to download: 82.4.19 Haig Dep Stmt.pdf

(Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat, NSC: Records, Country File (Falklands War) (Box 91365)

PART II – American Reflections: Toward the “tilt” in favor of London

Document#12: April 20, 1982 – Memorandum from Rentschler to Clark and McFarlane

After several weeks in which the U.S. had sincerely tried to be an even-handed moderator, by April 20, as this memo shows, the American negotiators recognized that a peaceful solution might never be acceptable and it therefore might be in the best interest of the United States to support Great Britain. “Don't we need to put some clear and preferably early time limit on how long we are willing to continue this process,” Rentshcler writes to Clark and McFarlane, “particularly if both sides maintain the rigidity they have so far displayed?”

Click here to download: 82.04.20 JR to WC& BM.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26870)

Document#13: Memorandum from Tom Enders to Secretary Haig: “Your Meeting with the President, 20 April”. (No Date)

Enders memo is very important because it summarizes the Argentine position and then assess the current situation. “Now comes the delicate part of the problem,” Enders tells Haig. “British will step up pressure on us to back them openly.” 

Click here to download: 82.04.00 Briefing memo for Haig.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26872)

Document#14: April 20, 1982 – Memorandum from Jim Rentschler for National Security Adviser Clark and Deputy National Security Adviser McFarlane, “The Guns of April? - where we now stand with Argentina, the UK, and Ourselves.”

In this important memorandum (it seems that it was never sent as it is unsigned), Rentschler describes the current American position of neutral mediator as no longer possible. The memorandum is further proof of U.S. intentions to remain neutral as long as possible. 

Click here to download: 82.04.20 Memo from JM to WPC.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26871)

Document#15: April 27, 1982 – “Haig's II proposal” to Argentina for a peaceful solution of the dispute on the basis of UN Resolution 502.

Haig drafted this proposal after a meeting with Secretary Pym, Minister Nott and Prime Minister Thatcher. Thatcher, though not in complete agreement with the proposal, agreed to forward it anyway to Buenos Aires, probably with the hope that Argentina would reject it. After a meeting in Washington on April 25 between Haig and Costa Mendez, the plan was addressed to the junta with the request to have an answer by the midnight of April 27.

(Document available at )

Document#16A: 30 April, 1982 – NSC Meeting Background Paper, “Falklands Crisis”.

This important background paper was prepared for the April 30, 1982 NSC Meeting on the Falkland Island crisis. The background paper sheds important light on the internal debate over the later decision to support Prime Minister Thatcher. The paper shows that the United States was already at this point committed to supporting Prime Minister Thatcher, but wanted to also appear neutral so as not to jeopardize any credibility as a mediator. 

Click here to download: 82.04.28 State Paper for NSC.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Meeting File, [Folder: NSC 00048 – 04/30/1982 - “Falkland Islands”], Box 91284)

Document#16B: 30 April, 1982 – NSC Meeting Minutes “Falklands Crisis”.

Click here to download: Falkland Island NSC Meeting -- NSC 48.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Meeting File, [Folder: NSC 00048 – 04/30/1982 - “Falkland Islands”], Box 91284)

Document#17: May 19, 1982 –Questionnaire for Rentschler and Fontaine asking for the likely scenario should the British use force to reclaim the Falklands with response called, “Contingency  Planning for the next 24 hrs in the Falklands”.

This questionnaire was likely prepared by Deputy National Security Adviser McFarlane. It shows how seriously the National Security Council was taking the crisis in the Falklands, as well as the American realization that British use of force was imminent. The response shows that the American goal was to “assure the earliest British success with the least damage to our interests in South America” with a realization that the British would be unlikely as the costs of a quick victory would be unacceptable to the British. 

The memo is perhaps most important for its suggestion that the United States should deny any request from the British for direct combat support and that the U.S. goal is to “secure a peaceful and just solution to this problem, not support a military reconquest of the islands per se.”

Click here to download: 82.05.19 JR to RF.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26873)

Document#18: No Date – Unknown Author: “Falklands Strategy on Eve of Invasion”

This three page strategy paper, possibly prepared by the Department of State, argues that any diplomatic outcome is not possible until the British invade, if the British lose, the “Thatcher government will fall, and Labor will sue for peace,” and “the United States cannot afford not to try for a solution.” 

The third page of the document is a 10-Point plan titled, “UK-Argentine War.” The plan suggests there is an “immediate and urgent need for a dramatic new effort on the part of the United States in order to prevent huge losses on both sides with grave consequences for the entire free world (weakening of NATO, disruption of international financial systems, etc.).” The Plan calls for a Clark Mission “in order to provide for direct and instant communication between the decision-making centers in both countries.”

Both the Strategy Paper and the 10 Point Plan are significant in that they show the leanings of the United States toward British interests as well as the belief that U.S. intervention is necessary to “prevent huge losses.”

Click here to download: 82.05.00 Falklands Strategy....pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26875)

Document#19: 5 May, 1982 – Peruvian Peace Proposal.

The outcome of Haig's further efforts to find a diplomatic solution became the so called “Peruvian Peace Proposal”, an undercover Haig's plan for a final settlement. Everyone knew that Haig worked behind this initiative and the British did not hesitate to protest. Many American officials were also opposed to this initiative in a stage in which the most part of the Administration had taken a final stand on the British side.

(Document available at

Document#20: 26 May, 1982 – Haig's Memorandum for the President, “Falkland Crisis”.

In this two page memo Haig continues to argue for a diplomatic solution.

Click here to download: 82.05.26, Haig to RR.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26876)

Document#21: June 18, 1982 – Reagan's Telegram to Thatcher, “Congratulations for Victory”

Reagan, still worried about an Argentinian humiliation, asks for a “just peace”.

(Document Available at )

PART III: The Sovereignty Issue at the United Nations, (November 1982)

Document#22: November 1, 1982 – Telegram from Secretary of State Shultz to UN Ambassador Kirkpatrick: “US position on Falklands Resolution.”

In this telegram Secretary Shultz officially authorizes Ambassador Kirkpatrick to vote in favor of the UN Resolution on  the Falklands/Malvinas question as modified on October 30.  

Click here to download: 82.11.02 GS to JK re UNRes.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26897)

Document#23: November 1, 1982 – (Draft) Letter from President Reagan to Prime Minister Thatcher, “Your Concern over UN resolution on the Falklands.”

This letter (at this time it is unclear if the letter was sent or was just a draft) is likely a response to Prime Minister Thatcher’s October 25,1982 letter urging Reagan to vote against any UN Resolution on Sovereignty for the Falklands. President Reagan’s letter is to inform the Prime Minister as to why he is leaning towards supporting the resolution: “We believe that the resolution as currently written […] is moderately positive in reaffirming the fundamental obligations of the Charter […] we believe it reasonable now to vote for the substantially modified resolution.”

Click here to download: 82.11.02 RR to MT_0001.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26909)

Document#24: November 2, 1982 – Reagan's Letter to Thatcher, “I am truly sorry we disagree on this matter.”

After President Reagan informed Prime Minister Thatcher that the United States would support a UN Resolution in favor of Falkland sovereignty, Prime Minister Thatcher made it clear to President Reagan that she was very displeased with the decision. Reagan sends this letter to further explain why he supported the Resolution and to assure the Prime Minister that the United States will continue to support Great Britain, and always will “in defeating any effort to solve the Falklands dispute by force.”

This document set also contains a draft letter prepared by Dennis Blair. Blair’s draft suggest that the US vote would only be seen as anti-British if the British government portrayed it as such and also reminds the Prime Minister that the United States will always support the UK when “the chips are down.”

Click here to download: 82.11.02 RR to MT.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26905 and #26911)

Document#25: Unofficial Transcript of the UNGA Resolution A/RES/37/9, “Question of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands”, 55th Session, November 4, 1982.

This one page document is the official text that was recommended to the parties and which the United States supported over British objections.

Click here to download: 82.11.04 UNRes Text.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223, ID#26911)

The Official Text is available online at:

Document#26: Telegram from J. Kirkpatrick (USUN Mission, New York) to the Secretary, “Explanation of Vote on Falklands”.

This telegram from Kirkpatrick to Haig is fundamental to understanding the U.S. attitude toward the overall sovereignty issue. This text explains why the U.S. supported the Resolution and why this decision was not meant to take any stand on the outcome of the negotiations. 

Click here to download: 82.11.04 cable re UN Res.pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223)

Document#27: November 4, 1982 – Reagan's Letter to Thatcher, “The United States did not make a decision to support Argentina against Britain.”

In this two page letter from President Reagan to Prime Minister Thatcher, Reagan says that “the U.S. did not make a decision to support Argentina against Britain” in their vote in favor of Falkland sovereignty. Some historians argue that the vote also signaled that the Reagan administration considered Latin America one of the most important, if not the most important, theater of the Cold War.  

Click here to download: 82.11.04 letter from RR to MT .pdf

(Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Blair Dennis: Files, [Folder: United Kingdom, 1982], Box 90223,)


© Jason Saltoun-Ebin 2016