Argentina Applies to Become a NATO “Global Partner” As Long-Time US Client State, Colombia, Eyes BRICS Membership

When it comes to foreign policy, Argentina’s Javier Milei government appears to have only one guiding principle: to align itself with the US and Israel as closely as possible, whatever the cost. As I reported on Tuesday, it seems intent on embroiling Argentina in conflicts thousands of miles away, including in Ukraine and the Middle East. Yesterday (Thursday, April 18), we heard further confirmation of that when the country’s Minister of Defense, Luis Petri, announced from Brussels that he had delivered a letter to NATO headquarters expressing Argentina’s interest in becoming a Global Partner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“I met with Mircea Geoana, deputy secretary general of NATO,” said Petri. “I presented the letter of intent that expresses Argentina’s request to become a global partner of this organization. We will continue working to recover links that allow us to modernize and train our forces to NATO standards.”

Here’s what NATO’s official website had to say on the development:

“It is a great pleasure to welcome Defence Minister Petri to NATO Headquarters,” said Mr Geoană. “Argentina plays an important role in Latin America, and I welcome today’s request to explore becoming a NATO partner. NATO works with a range of countries around the world to promote peace and stability. Closer political and practical cooperation could benefit us both.”

The two leaders exchanged views on European and Latin American security challenges. The Deputy Secretary General welcomed Argentina’s role in supporting Ukraine with lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including food, medicine, and support for refugees.

That’s right: Argentina, whose economy is in the grip of a brutal stagflationary crisis, largely of the government’s own making (though previous governments certainly played their part), where the ranks of the poor are growing at a rate of one million per month and where public spending and subsidies are being slashed, even for the increasingly in-demand soup kitchens and food banks, is sending food, medicine and other forms of support across the ocean to Ukraine.

NATO’s Global Expansion

NATO, the world’s largest permanent military alliance, currently has eight global partners, only one of which is in Latin America. That country is Colombia, which, ironically, is seeking to join the BRICS (more on that later), the nine-country intergovernmental organisation whose new members were supposed to include Argentina. But Milei cancelled Argentina’s entry. NATO’s other seven global partners are Australia, Iraq (which had little choice in the matter), Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Korea. Afghanistan also was a member, again with little choice in the matter, but it was suspended in 2021 after US troops’ disorderly withdrawal from the country.

The NATO press release notes that any decision on a formal partnership would require consensus by all 32 Allies, including the UK, Argentina’s historic rival which could, if it wanted, throw a spanner in the works, though that is unlikely. Far more of an obstacle is the fact that that before joining Milei have to seek the approval of Argentina’s Congress, and that is far from a given considering how little support his party enjoys in the two legislative chambers.

According to NATO’s official website, NATO’s engagement with global partners is taking on growing importance “in a complex security environment, where many of the challenges the Alliance faces are global and no longer bound by geography”:

NATO’s involvement in areas outside of its immediate region – including Afghanistan and Libya – has increased the need and opportunities for enhanced global interaction. Clearly, the emergence of global threats requires the cooperation of a wider range of countries to successfully tackle challenges such as terrorism, proliferation, piracy or cyber attacks. Dialogue with these countries can also help NATO avert crises and, when needed, manage an operation throughout all phases.

The NATO Agenda 2030 (defined in June 2021) sets out a commitment to strengthen NATO’s relationships with like-minded partners and forging new commitments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In November 2021, the Atlantic Council (NATO’s political arm) raised the possibility of Mexican accession.  As the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics CELAG noted in its 2022 paper, “What Is NATO Doing in Latin America?”, one key attraction of Latin America to NATO is manpower:

Brazil has 334,500 active military personnel, Colombia 200,000 and Argentina 51,309 (data as of 2018). NATO has 3.5 million active military and civilian personnel. Brazil and Colombia alone would contribute more assets than the European members annexed to NATO in the 1990s (North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary). Argentina has assets similar to those of Bulgaria (24,800) and the Czech Republic (25,000) combined.

Another reason why NATO, like the US, is interested in Latin America is China, and to a lesser extent, Russia’s growing influence in the region. The Asian superpower is already South America’s largest trading partner. In recent years, the US has initiated an aggressive plan to reengage with its direct neighbourhood after decades of relative disinterest. China’s rise in Latin America coincided almost perfectly with the US-led Global War on Terror, as I noted in my August 2021 article, The US Is Losing Power and Influence in Its Own “Backyard”:

As Washington shifted its attention and resources away from its immediate neighborhood to the Middle East, where it frittered away trillions of dollars spreading mayhem and death and breeding new terrorists, China began snapping up Latin American resources. Governments across the region, from Brazil to Venezuela, to Ecuador and Argentina, took a leftward turn and began working together across various fora. The commodity supercycle was born.

China’s trade with the region grew 26-fold between 2000 and 2020, from $12 billion to $315 billion, and is expected to more than double by 2035, to more than $700 billion. In the last 20 years China has moved from an almost negligible position as a source of imports and destination of exports within the region to become its second trade partner, at the expense not just of the US but also Europe and certain Latin American countries such as Brazil whose share of inter-regional trade has fallen. According to the World Economic Forum, “China will approach—and could even surpass—the US as LAC’s top trading partner. In 2000, Chinese participation accounted for less than 2% of LAC’s total trade. In 2035, it could reach 25%.”

Spearheading Washington’s plan to regain dominance of South America is General Laura Richardson, the commander of US Southern Command whom the Argentine newspaper La Nación described in a recent headline as “the US general who works day and night to stop China’s advance in Latin America.” Richardson has visited the country twice in the past month alone.

Richardson’s mission is two fold: first, to counter Chinese and Russian influence in the region. Latin America is brimming with invaluable resources, including rare earth elements, lithium, gold, oil, natural gas, light sweet crude, copper, abundant food crops, and fresh water. And the US government and military, and the corporations whose interests they serve, have their eyes on all of them. As the Argentine journalist and news presenter Carlos Montero lamented in 2021, it would be nice to live in a would where the US wasn’t interested in Latin America for the riches it could plunder but to help it break free from being the world’s most unequal region.

The Ultimate Sell Out

General Richardson is not the only senior US official to have passed through the halls of Argentina’s Casa Rosada over the past two months. So, too, have the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and CIA Director William J Burns.

The results speak for themselves. In those two months, the Milei government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States allowing members of the US Army Corps of Engineers to operate along the Paraná-Paraguay Waterway, including large parts of the river Plata basin, upon which roughly 80% of all Argentine exports travel. It has agreed to buy $300 million of second-hand, 40-year-old F-16 fighters from Denmark, with the help of US financing. It has also announced the establishment of a US naval base in Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Tierra de Fuego, often described as the last stop before Antarctica.

Accused of selling out his country’s sovereignty for seemingly nothing in return, Milei argued, with a straight face, that allowing the installation of a US military base in Usuahia is the greatest act of sovereignty of the past 40 years since it will strengthen Argentina’s territorial claims over the Antarctic.

As if that were not enough, Milei has discussed sending weapons and even possibly military personnel to Ukraine. He has also expressed Argentina’s “unwavering support” for the State of Israel even as it commits genocide in Gaza. In a televised interview three days ago, Milei’s Minister of Interior, Patricia Bullrich, a senior member of the political caste whom Milei swore to take down, summed up Argentina’s geopolitical position in the clearest possible terms:

We are with Israel out of conviction. We are with Israel, with the US, with Europe, with the Western world, out of conviction. Because we believe in the philosophy of democracy, in the defence of human rights, in free countries where people can lead the lives they choose freely…

Neutrality is not Argentina’s position. Politically correct messages such as those calling for peace are not Argentina’s position. Argentina’s position is that it will on the side of States belonging to democracy (sic), to the Western world, which have shared values with Argentina, regardless of whether it goes well or badly.

And that, dear readers, is the Milei government’s approach to foreign policy — as defined by its security minister whose remit, of course, does not include foreign policy. Based on this reasoning, it makes perfect sense for the government to want to join NATO as a global partner.

Of course, there are a whole bunch of reasons why the US and its NATO allies would want Argentina as a partner. Here are a few provided by Sacha Llorenti, a former Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations:

  • Destabilise the region.
  • Prevent any regional integration efforts.
  • Expand the military presence of the United States and Israel.
  • Appropriate one of the vertices of the lithium triangle.
  • Muddy the waters of Israel’s genocide in Gaza and establish a NATO presence in South America.
  • Involve the region in present and future armed conflicts.

This last point is important. As we have reported over the past two years, Latin American countries, like the lion’s share of the so-called “Global South, have wanted zero involvement in the Ukraine conflict. The only government in the region that has supported EU-US sanctions on the Russia to any great degree is Costa Rica. Now, there are two new governments — Argentina and Ecuador, both of them in hock to the International Monetary Fund — that are determined to do the collective West’s bidding on foreign policy, not only in Ukraine but also in the Middle East as well as in their direct neighbourhood.

An article in The Intercept reveals how Daniel Noboa’s embattled government in Ecuador, currently a temporary member of the UN Security Council, was deployed by the Biden Administration to lobby other countries on the Council to not support Palestinian statehood in the upcoming vote. The Biden administration was reluctant to use its veto on the Council to block recognition of Palestinian statehood since in public it claims to support a two-state solution. Instead, it used proxy members like Ecuador to try to get other countries to change their vote in the hope that a majority would vote against the resolution:

A second cable dated April 13 sent from the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, relays Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld’s agreement with the United States that Palestine should not be recognized for statehood. In cooperation with the United States, according to the cable, Sommerfeld instructed Ecuador’s permanent representative to the United Nations José De La Gasca to lobby Japan, Korea, and Malta (all rotating members of the Security Council) to reject the proposal. Lobbying of permanent member France is also mentioned.

Sommerfeld agreed, according to the cable, that “It was important any proposed resolution fail to achieve the necessary votes without a U.S. veto.” The cable says, “Ecuador would not want to appear isolated (alone with the United States) in its rejection of a ‘Palestine’ resolution (particularly at a time when the most UN member states are criticizing Ecuador over its April 5 incursion into Mexico’s embassy in Quito).” Ecuador finds itself in an escalating conflict with Mexico over its decision to arrest the former Ecuadorian vice president inside the Mexican Embassy…

“This really shows the extent to which the [Ecuadorian President Daniel] Noboa administration is beholden to the United States,” Guillaume Long, senior fellow at the D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research and former foreign minister of Ecuador, told The Intercept when shown the cable. “On top of this, it is quite shocking to see the United States, which condemned Ecuador’s April 5 storming of the Mexican embassy and its violation of international law … making the most of Ecuador’s isolation in the hemisphere to get it to do its bidding. Ecuador is just buying its way out of its crimes by committing more crimes. Truly shocking,” said Long, referring to Ecuador’s rejection of Palestinian membership in the U.N.

In the end, the US used its veto power to block the United Nations Security Council resolution to accept Palestine as a full member of the UN, claiming at the same time that it still supported Palestinian statehood.

Rumours About Hezbollah

As I reported on Tuesday, one of the outcomes of the recent visit by CIA Director Burns to Buenos Aires was an agreement that Argentina would conduct intelligence on terrorism threats in the region, primarily from Hezbollah, drug trafficking and the “Triple Frontier,” a tri-border area along the junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where the Iguazú and Paraná rivers converge. It looks like the Hezbollah part of that agreement is already in full wing. From Página 12 (translation my own):

The Minister of Security (Patricia Bullrich) ran off the mouth in an interview saying that the Argentine position regarding the conflict between Israel and Iran is not to “ask for peace” but to support Israel and all of its belligerent actions. In the middle of that, Bullrich said that Argentina “is in an area where there is an active presence of two forces that are allied, one directly, with Iran. One of them, Hezbollah, is on the triple border of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.”

Bullrich also alleged that the Lebanese fighting group had been detected in Iquique, in the north of Chile, in São Paulo, Brazil, and Peru. She also claimed that “Iranian members of the Quds Force, one of the armed branches” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are present in Bolivia and that the Argentine government is checking its borders with Bolivia to see if “people who do not speak Spanish and who have Bolivian passports enter.” She then had to clarify that nobody had actually been seen trying to enter Argentina “but it is a hypothesis that we are treating as a possibility” — in which case why mention it, apart from to sow discord?

Which is precisely what happened. Bullrich’s words elicited a fierce response from the governments of both Chile and Bolivia. The Chilean President Gabriel Boric asked Bullrich “to be responsible and not make such reckless statements”. In fact, the Chilean government summoned the Argentine official through its diplomatic representation, telling her: “If you have serious accusations, you should hand them over to Chile’s legal authorities and let them communicate through the Foreign Ministry.” 

From the Bolivian Foreign Ministry: “We deny and emphatically reject the allegations that Bolivia harbors on its borders people who spread terror, insecurity and anxiety. These accusations lack evidence or documentation and are made without any basis.” La Paz also described the allegations as provocations intended to poison “relations between States and peoples who share the same roots” and aspirations.

Interestingly, Bullrich was quick to apologise to her Chilean counterparts but has shown no inclination to do the same with the Bolivian government.

Colombia Looks to BRICS Membership

Lastly, it is worth noting that geopolitical alignments are not just shifting in Washington’s favour. The left-leaning government of Colombia, a long-standing US client state with at least eight military bases on its territory, has expressed a keen interest in joining the BRICS grouping. After a meeting with Brazil’s President Lula da Silva during the inauguration of the 36th edition of the Bogotá International Book Fair, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro announced his attention to apply for BRICS membership “as soon as possible”.

President Lula welcomed the news saying he will do all he can to promote Colombia’s application. Lula has already suffered the embarrassment of Argentina’s eventual rejection of its invitation to join the BRICS but he is clearly keen for another Latin American country to take its place. Colombia, with the fourth largest economy in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Chile, makes for an obvious choice. Other Latin American countries interested in joining the bloc include Bolivia and Venezuela.

At the same time, Colombia remains firmly in the grip of US Southern Command. The US currently has seven formal military bases in Colombia, according to CELAG. Other reports I have come across suggest it may be eight. What’s more, a new military project is under way on Gorgona National Natural Park, a pristine island located in the South of the Colombian Pacific. The project is for the construction of a Coast Guard substation financed by the U.S. Embassy through the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section, and it is strongly opposed by local residents, NGOs and environmental groups.

Nonetheless relations between Washington and Bogotá have soured in recent months, in large part due to Petro’s fierce condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and his refusal to condemn Hamas’ Oct 7 terrorist attack. A couple of weeks ago, the US responded in kind by excluding Colombia from the “select group” of countries that benefit from additional US funds. According to US Republican Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, the decision was taken in response to the recent words and actions of the Colombian Government which go against US strategic interests.


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  1. Joker

    My crystal ball tells me that Milei will align with UK in regards to Falkland Islands. Still, he is far from being a Pashinyan.

  2. The Rev Kev

    The signs are not looking good for South America. After Bush went on his Middle East binge, Washington dropped South America onto the back-burner and it was only about a decade later that they started to pay attention to this region again. I had thought that with the coming confrontation with China that the same might happen but it looks like Washington wants to claim all of South America’s resources for itself. BRICS may make inroads to South America but the US will do what they do in the far east and encourage local gangs to attack any of their people or infrastructure. So we may see a series of dirty wars take place in different nations in an effort to take control of this continent.

  3. Susan the other

    Hard to keep the lid on all this glasnost going critical. I’ve been wondering why nothing but crickets on Venezuela after Bojo’s little visit to discuss British Guyana’s suddenly discovered massive oil reserves right next door. Who could have imagined? And, what luck since Venezuela is as close to Western Europe as is the Mediterranean. So I guess there is more incentive for Venezuela to become a NATO “partner” than an BRICS member. It isn’t that hard to imagine. Especially since the drought in Panama (a rain forest) has completely dried up the Canal and China is SOL. And, since so many Cold War confessions have now come katzenjammering out of the bag, it seems absurd to continue to hold Julian Assange in prison. In terms of economic blocks, one thing I think should be discussed is just how much oil and other resources are consumed by the military, all the militaries, the West and the BRICS. And reconsider best uses.

  4. Nigel Rooney

    Interesting perhaps that Millie’s apparent love for Israel mirrors that of his German counterparts…

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