Alberto Fernandez is in China. This Friday he participated in Beijing in the opening of the Winter Olympics and on Sunday he will meet with Xi Jinping. The meeting will be the epilogue of an alliance in which Argentina intends to accelerate Chinese investment in infrastructure projects, a long list that includes hydroelectric and nuclear power plants and renewable energy developments. Fernández’s previous scale was, instead, more political. It lasted less than 24 hours and was intended to thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for selling the Sputnik V vaccine at the start of the pandemic, when doses were scarce and the producing countries hoarded all the doses for themselves. Fernandez, however, went further. In his talk alone with Putin, he offered himself as a “gateway” to Latin America and charged against the United States, which he accused of having a negative influence on the International Monetary Fund, Argentina’s main creditor.
Fernández and Putin had lunch alone on Thursday in Moscow. The content of the conversation emerged from a transcript of the official Argentine news agency, telam. “We have to see how Argentina becomes a gateway for Russia in Latin America in a more determined way,” Fernández told Putin. Russia now has an indirect presence in Latin America through military collaboration with Venezuela and Cuba, which runs counter to US interests in the region. Fernández’s proposal did not go down well in Washington, where they already considered it a bad idea for him to visit Moscow in the midst of the conflict between NATO and the Kremlin over Ukraine. The United States was also key in the agreement reached between Argentina and the IMF to refinance a debt of 44,000 million dollars.
The Joe Biden government gave its support after intense efforts by the Argentine Foreign Ministry, which included a visit by the Foreign Minister, Santiago Cafiero, to his counterpart from the United States, Antony Blinken. As the largest shareholder in the IMF, any understanding must have the approval of the White House. Fernández, however, charged from Moscow against her. “Argentina has set its sights, has turned its sights very firmly on the United States. And the Argentine economy depends a lot on the debt it has with the United States, with the Monetary Fund and the influence that the United States has in the Fund”, he said. The president’s idea is that Argentina should not be a satellite of Washington, and for this he needs the help of Russia. “I am determined that Argentina has to stop having such a great dependency that it has with the Fund and the United States, it has to make its way to other sides and Russia has a very important place there,” he told Putin, quoted by the State Agency Telam.
Putin appreciated the gesture, but limited himself to highlighting the “potential there is” for “bilateral trade.” “In the last year we have seen a good rate of growth,” he said, recalling the contract signed for the provision of vaccines, estimated at 30 million doses. This Tuesday, Argentina announced that it would no longer buy Sputnik V from Moscow because it is ready to manufacture and export the doses from a local laboratory.
While Fernández charged in Moscow against Washington and the IMF, in Buenos Aires they did damage control. The Chief of Ministers, Juan Manzur, visited the United States Ambassador, Marc Stanley, this Friday to “discuss the strengthening of bilateral ties.” “We have great expectations to continue articulating and deepening projects in areas of common interest for the benefit of our peoples,” Manzur wrote on Twitter. “Great meeting,” Stanley replied in the same way.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.