Russian-Argentinean relations: a new round of cooperation

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Argentina were established as far back as 1885 and have long-standing and solid roots. Argentina is today one of the priority partners for the Russian government in Latin America. It should be noted that the total volume of trade turnover in recent years has decreased, however, there is also a relative increase of 3.1% for 10 months of last year 2017. Many Argentinean experts note that at this stage, relations with Russia are quite diversified, and there are many directions for long-term cooperation.

The authoritative in the field of economics, the Argentinean edition “El Cronista Comercial” just days before the official visit of Argentinean President Mauricio Macri to Moscow substantiated the main goal of his trip to the Kremlin – attracting Russian investments to Argentina and increasing the share of Argentinean exports to Russia. Traditionally, the Argentinean government is still interested in developing cooperation in the fields of energy, agrarian industry, infrastructure development, logistics, mechanical engineering, including in the railway sector. The main legal basis for expanding the borders of bilateral cooperation is the agreement on establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership between the countries, which was signed in 2015. It is worth recalling that in the period from 2008 to 2015, according to official data, Russian investments in the Argentinean economy still fell sharply from $ 23 million to $ 4 million.

The Argentinean government over the past year has repeatedly stressed its intention to increase the supply of beef, poultry and seafood to Russia. The newspaper “El Cronista Comercial” also cites the data that Argentina, in the period from January to November of 2017, delivered about $ 479 million worth of products to the Russian food market. The positive trade balance of the Argentine part for this reporting period was $ 153 million.

During the official visit on the 23rd of January of 2018, the leaders of the two countries managed to discuss a number of topical issues of bilateral cooperation, exchange views on the entire range of issues of Russian-Argentinean cooperation, new tasks and long-term objectives were outlined, and a number of topical issues on the international agenda were touched upon. A special topic of the meeting was the assistance rendered by Russia in the search for a sunken Argentinean submarine. This accident again demonstrated that Russian-Argentinean relations can be characterized not only by the numbers of trade turnover or the frequency of meetings of the diplomatic corps, but also by the well-known Russian worldly wisdom “friends are known in trouble”. On the 15th of November of 2017 in the Atlantic Ocean, the Argentinean submarine “San Juan” disappeared. During the last communication session, the seamen (there were 44 people on board) managed to report an emergency situation. On its own, Argentina could not find a submarine, in turn, Russia sent its ships to the other end of the world to help.

The main area of ​​cooperation between the two countries is still energy. A number of the largest Russian companies also held the business breakfast with the President of Argentina, during which new ways of interaction were outlined.

The Russian company “Gazprom” intends to sign an agreement on exploration and production of gas in Argentina. The signing of this agreement is planned during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2018), scheduled for the end of May, as a result of the business breakfast with the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, said the Deputy Chairman of the Board of the company Alexander Medvedev.

The main objective of the planned agreement is the participation of “Gazprom” in the project for exploration and production of gas at the field “Estación Fernández Oro”. According to official data, the Russian company is interested in deposits in four provinces of Argentina. It is worth recalling that in September of 2015 the agreement on cooperation with the Argentinean gas company “YPF” was signed, it is aimed at cooperation in the field of geological exploration, production and transportation of hydrocarbons in Argentina and for sale to third countries.

The another Russian energy company “Rosatom” has expressed its intention to build the nuclear power plant in Argentina that will meet the most advanced and safe technologies. This topic was also widely discussed at the meeting in the Kremlin. The “Russian Railways” are ready to participate in the program of modernization of the Argentinean railways, to arrange the supply of modern rolling stock. Such large enterprises as “Transmashholding” and “Sinara” declare their interest in investing in the construction of service facilities and the production of railway equipment. The presidents also noted the positive dynamics in the participation of “Gazprombank” in the construction of the largest logistics complex in the port of the province of Buenos Aires. One of the leading Russian power machine building companies, “Power Machines”, continues to service the units at the five Argentinean hydroelectric plants and plans to participate in the tender for the supply of equipment for six more Argentinean hydroelectric power plants.

For its part, the Argentine newspaper “La Nación” on the 23rd of January has reported that the President Mauricio Macri, during the meeting with Vladimir Putin, expressed concern about the situation that has developed to the present in Venezuela. The Argentinean part shares the point of view that the current regime of Nicolás Maduro is authoritarian dictatorial, while Moscow’s official position is aimed at maintaining a strategic partnership with Venezuela. The prospects for the fact that the parts can bring their positions on the Venezuelan alignment of forces closer together and unify them are very vague. Venezuela and Cuba are still viewed by the Kremlin as a kind of “gateway” for strengthening Russian influence in the Latin American region.

Within the framework of the meeting, there was an exchange of views on global and regional issues. The leaders of the states confirmed that for most issues on the international agenda positions and opinions are close or coincide. Also, the presidents announced their intention to continue expanding coordination in such international organizations as the UN, the World Trade Organization, and further develop cooperation through integration associations – the Eurasian Economic Union and the South American Common Market. Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia will participate in the G20 Summit, which will be held in Argentina in 2018, and noted that the Russian part shares the Argentinean priorities in the G20 and is committed to practical cooperation in their promotion.

On the 24th of November of 2015, the elections of Mauricio Macri as the President of Argentina not only served as the end of the established “left regime”, but also became an important moment for the reassessment of Argentinean international partners. A well-known supporter of transnational corporations, a businessman, ex-Mayor of Buenos Aires and former president of the football club “Boca Juniors”, has since initiated the series of important economic and social reforms for Argentina. Moscow’s fears about Argentina’s reversal towards Western partners immediately began to dictate a kind of “cooling” in Russian-Argentinean relations. However, the President Mauricio Macri’s current visit to the Kremlin again forced the Russian government to rethink foreign policy approaches to cooperation with Argentina. The Argentine leader himself stressed that this visit to Moscow was his first, but as he himself put it, “the first of many”. In 2018, he intends to visit Russia at least twice more – to the World Cup with his daughter and always to the final, which, as Mr. Macri hopes, Argentina will be able to break through “with the help of God and Messi”.

Should we wait for the resumption of strong partner relations between Russia and Argentina? It is unambiguously difficult to predict. However, the fact that the Argentine leader’s visit to Moscow demonstrated a new round in cooperation between the two countries was a clear confirmation of the Russian part’s readiness to strengthen its positions in the Latin American region. Will the foreign policy interests and priorities of Argentina and Russia meet, already in the summer will show the G20 Summit, which will be held this year in Buenos Aires.

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