Russia questions Britain’s claim to the Falklands as garrison reinforced

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the Islands will be ready to repel “any potential threat” following reports that the Kremlin is preparing to lease 12 Su-24 long range bombers to Buenos Aires in exchange for beef and wheat.

Some £180 million will be spent over the next decade in upgrading the island’s defences, Mr Fallon told the Commons.

Two Chinook helicopters, which were sent to Afghanistan in 2006, will return and allow troops to respond to possible incursions more quickly, while a new system will replace the Rapier air defence missiles when they go out of service at the end of the decade.

The Mount Pleasant garrison will get a new communications system, while Mare Harbour will be upgraded.

The troop levels will remain at around 1,200, and a British patrol vessel – currently HMS Clyde – will remain stationed off the Islands.

It followed a review that found the Islands’ defences are “broadly proportionate” to the current threat level.

Mr Fallon said: “We will continue to defend the right of the islanders to determine their future and defend their way of life against whatever threats may arise.”

David Cameron added: “The assurance that I can give the Falkland Islands is that we will always be there for them, we will always defend them.”

The Russian intervention came in response to Philip Hammond, who used the first anniversary of the Crimean annexation to condemn the “sham” referendum as a “fig leaf” for Putin’s “land grab”.

In a statement, the embassy said: “In its rhetoric Foreign Office applies one logic to the referendum in the Malvinas/Falklands, and a different one to the case of Crimea”…

Related: How would we save the Falklands this time? Any lingering doubts that defence should take centre stage as an election issue must now be laid to rest following the announcement by Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, that he is beefing up Britain’s military commitment to the Falkland Islands to counter a “heightened” invasion threat from Argentina.

At a time when our dwindling Armed Forces are already struggling to deal with the very real challenges from Russian aggression in Europe and the rapidly-expanding menace of Islamic State in the Arab world, no doubt the last issue Ministry of Defence planners expected to reappear on the horizon was defending the Falklands.

For all the excitable rhetoric and dire threats that we have heard from Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the Argentine president, about forcibly reclaiming Las Malvinas, no one in Whitehall has believed that Argentina poses a serious threat…

h/t Marvin