Strategic focus shifts as British troops land
The strategic focus has shifted.
With the landing of British troops on the island of South Georgia, it is no longer whether Britain will need to use force but how much force will be required to regain the Falklands Islands themselves.
Before Sunday's outbreak of hostilities on the rocky former whaling station 800 miles east of the Falklands, British strategy had been to use diplomacy, backed by force, to try to regain control of both island groups.
The search for a diplomatic settlement has by no means ended. But the strategy has shifted to force backed by diplomacy.
The British military action so far has three main aims:
* To take control of South Georgia, presumably as a staging base for moving on to the Falklands (see story Page 8). This was achieved successfully Sunday.
* To stop Argentine intelligence aircraft or attack planes from harassing the British naval forces.
* To deny supplies to Argentine forces on the Falklands.
The hope in London is that gradually escalating air and naval pressure will force the Argentines to yield before a costly and difficult amphibious invasion of the Falklands has to be faced.
Decisions have been being forced on London quickly, however, by rapidly worsening winter weather in the South Atlantic, where waves are reportedly reaching heights of 40 feet.
At the same time, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has to be seen to have exhausted all possible diplomatic avenues. That is why she sent a message to US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. late April 24 asking him to keep on with his mediating mission.
Mr. Haig did so when he met Argentine Foreign Minister Nicanor Costa Mendez in Washington April 25. He also discussed an Organization of American States meeting set for April 26 at which Argentina intended to invoke the Rio treaty, which calls for collective hemisphere defense against Britain.