Russia - Argentina: Will the Strategic Partnership Continue?

Russian - Argentine relations knew better times, than today, especially under the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). At that time, Argentina was simply attributed by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the category of strategic partners, along with some Latin American countries. In the full sense it was still premature to talk about this. Nevertheless, the positions of both sides coincided on a number of issues. The president of Argentina, unlike most other countries in the region, openly supported the will of the Crimea population and, accordingly, the re-unification of the peninsula with Russia. The trade turnover has clearly grown, reaching in 2012 a record number of over $ 1.5 billion. New areas of cooperation emerged, such as the construction of nuclear power plants in Argentina. In general, the obvious distancing of Argentina from the US has expanded the areas of dialogue and cooperation with Russia, in particular within the G20.

With the advent of the neo-conservative Mauricio Macri in December 2015, Argentina's foreign policy has dramatically changed. A course was taken to overcome a certain isolation of the country, which was limited by the Common Market of the States of the South American Continent (Mercosur). Argentina developed relations mainly with the remaining leftist regional regimes (Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia).

The government of Macri decided to restore relations with the West, and above all with the United States. In particular, it was announced about progress towards signing a free trade agreement with Washington, as well as joining the Pacific alliance initiated by the United States. Moreover, the policy of "demalvinization" was proclaimed. The claims of Argentina over the UK-held Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), which are quite reasonable according to the international law, were at the center of the foreign policy of previous Argentine governments.

As for relations with Russia, in a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mauricio Macri after his election as president a mutual desire was expressed to "expand the strategic alliance", as well as the interaction between the EAEU and Mercosur. Moreover, Macri assured his Russian counterpart, that Argentina is ready to become a reliable supplier of food for Russians in conditions of embargo imposed by the Western countries. At that time the trade turnover between the two countries was about $ 1 billion.

A little later, the President of Argentina criticized the sanctions against Russia.

Macri expressed the idea to transform Argentina into a unique link between Russia and the Latin American region, in particular, bringing Russia closer to the regional integration organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of Latin American Nations (UNASUR).

In an interview with the leading Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra noted that both states intensified their cooperation in the scientific and technical areas, in particular, in the exploration of the outer space. At the same time, during her visit to Moscow in April 2016, Malcorra confirmed the existence of a "strategic partnership" between Russia and Argentina.

Since then, almost two years have passed. A certain intensification of relations, in particular between the businessmen of the two countries, indeed did take place. A number of agro-industrial and energy projects have been proclaimed, which are still under negotiation. However, despite encouraging statements, especially from the Argentine side, the trade turnover in 2016 did not increase, but, according to Russian customs statistics, fell to 847 million dollars.

So is it possible today to talk about a full-fledged strategic partnership? It seems that this is one of the main topics that the two leaders should discuss during the visit to Moscow by the President of Argentina on January 22-23.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.