Putin in ArgentinaSunday, July 13, 2014
CFK nurtures ‘strategic’ ties with Putin’s Russia
Both the political messaging and the agreements signed as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Buenos Aires underlined the “strategic” nature of the relationship linking Russia and Argentina. Nonetheless, it was the intangibles — mutual signs of appreciation for Russia’s “leadership” and Argentina’s “sovereign” positions — that most clearly suggested the further consolidation of a strengthening relationship centred around shared political and economic interests.
During meetings labelled “fruitful and productive” by both president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Putin significant accords addressing nuclear energy cooperation, legal cooperation and increased communications and cultural exchanges (see below and page 5) were reached during his visit to Government House.
Addressing the media after the signing of the agreements, both presidents emphasized the strategic value of the political and economic links between the two countries in a multipolar worlds, both as they stand now and going forward.
“As long as there are shared values, there is no chance of disunity,” said Fernández de Kirchner in her opening remarks, while adding that meeting had helped to establish a “strategic strengthening” of the relationship between Argentina and Russia.
Noting that President Putin had called Argentina a “key strategic partner” for the Russian Federation not only in Latin America but also within the G20 and the United Nations (UN), Fernández de Kirchner went on to speak of the need to reform international multilateral and financial organizations.
The president urged a new scheme that would oblige international bodies and actors to have utmost respect for “applicable international law” and that would also “regulate the global flow of capital... which has turned the world into a financial casino.”
Putin, for his part, hailed Argentina for “it’s sovereign position in international matters, which is rare in the world today” and noted that Argentina was a key interlocutor for the Russian Federation, considering it an “important partner.”
He added that “I would like to highlight the political, humanitarian and economic links between our countries.”
Special mention was given the cancellation of 90 percent of Cuban debt held in Russian hands, a move which the president “was not an act of charity” but rather one of “international responsibility.” Noting that most of the debt originated from the times of the Soviet Union, Fernández de Kirchner said that the debt forgiveness “was worthy of imitation” for highly-indebted countries of Africa while adding that “we don’t ask for such treatment, all we ask for is to be allowed to pay” in a reference to the ongoing legal battle with holdout creditors that is currently underway in New York City.
Although the president did not specify the precise nature of the financial reform, the BRICS summit in Fortaleza — which Argentina will be attending as an invited guest — will be discussing the final stages of plans to create of a new BRICS development bank and reserve fund. It was no coincidence that Fernández de Kirchner spoke of reform on the eve of an announcement of such a bank, which would provide counter-weight to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — one of the administration’s preferred targets of criticism — and as she stood next to Putin.
Recent Russian-Argentine relations have been boosted by shared positions on the Malvinas and Crimea conflicts, non-interventionism in Syria during the peak of its political crisis and most recently, by Russian Federation support for Argentina’s legal and political strategy against the bond holdouts. All of these issues have pitched the country against the United States and United Kingdom — to different degrees — and brought about increased understanding with Moscow.
Following the conclusion of the BRICS summit in Fortaleza next week, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will also play host to Chinese president Xi Jingping. China’s economic preponderance within the BRICS and specific interest in Argentina has already caused waves here — one of the reasons given by Central Bank president Juan Carlos Fábrega for the expedited passage through the Senate of a bill granting immunities to foreign Central Banks was that it would facilitate exchanges with the Chinese government. Chinese Central Bank president Zhou Xiaochuan will also be part of the trip to Buenos Aires.
Russia as a partner and supplier
Putin’s comments focused on the more concrete elements of existing Russian-Argentine relations and expressed his hopes that it they could be extended.
Noting that “more than 20 percent of Argentina’s hydroelectric power is generated using Russian equipment and we hope that they can participate in the modernization of the country’s power generation system” and the construction of new power plants.
“For us it is very important to continue cooperating in the technical-military realm. We have discussed supplying helicopters and military transport planes for use in the Antarctic,” Putin added.
“Today we have signed an agreement over mass communications sectors, which will help our respective news agencies to share information,” the visiting president said, while also emphasizing the importance of the arrival of the RT channel in Argentina in its spinach format and 130th anniversary of Russian-Argentine diplomatic relations to be marked in 2015.
RT, formerly known as Russia Today, is an international Russian-based television network specializing in 24-hour global news coverage. RT is a state-funded channel but President Putin in the past has denied that its content is defined by the government. It will now be available on the Open Digital Televison (TDA) network after having previously been available in Argentina online or by cable in select locations.
Putin was joined by his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and key figure such as Sergei Kirienko, president of Rosatom, the state nuclear energy company at Government House.
The presidential motorcade was headed by a horse-mounted Granaderos honour guard that was cheered on by La Cámpora and Kolina activists as it approached Government House.
On the opposite side, in Plaza de Mayo and separated by heavy barriers, members of the Ukrainian and gay community protested Putin’s presence. His actions in Crimea and against the gay community in Russia formed the basis of the complaints.