LATAM, Argentina and global security.
Pursuing Libertad, in Great Power Competition
TAT today is part story, part background and part warning, regarding a cultural mistress of mine, the Spanish speaking world, more specifically, LATAM. This piece may meander a bit, back and forth between my own personal interests in LATAM and the national security portions, so please bear with me. Today’s information and personal musings are about a topic that I am professionally invested in, the peace, safety and security from immoral, oppressive and aggressive thuggery, such as Xi’s.
The lessons here matter not only to the Americas, but the stability of the world. If we do not start treating LATAM as full partners, instead of an afterthought, global realignment that began around the end of the Cold War, will not favor opportunity for the freedom loving world.
Below, the heroic General, Jose de San Martin, a contemporary and peer of Generalissimo Simon Bolivar, a humble hero with an extraordinary passion for freedom could honorably be any nation’s hero. Seen as the master of winning independence for Argentina, Peru and Chile’ from Spanish Colonialism. To me, some of his quotes are among my most inspiring. I see many parallels between his service to Libertad, freedom in Spanish, during war, as with General George Washington. Humility, guarded passion and brilliant leadership that was grounded in morality.
As during General San Martin’s times, it is precisely Libertad from modern colonial dominance, such as Xi’s that is the passion for LATAM. The US, NATO and others, far outside of their previous colonial and Cold War relationships in LATAM, must become yasolid, equivalent and willing partners, in staving off Xi’s intentions for global domination by 2049. This is Xi’s China Dream strategy, with his BRI as the mechanism for subverting freedom in LATAM and the world.
“The conscience is the best and most impartial judge that a righteous man has.” — José de San Martín La conciencia es el mejor y más imparcial juez que tiene el hombre de bien. Letter from Brussels (18 December 1827), quoted in La Rivista de Buenos Aires (1864) edited by Miguel Navarro Viola y Vicente G. Quesada, Vol. 4
- General Jose de San Martin
Here’s the premise; In a world that despite our current wars in Ukraine and Israel, is largely focused on what is termed, GPC or Great Power Competition, we cannot afford to ignore any corner of the world. LATAM for the US and NATO, has long been a problem that requires strategy, attention and nurturing. LATAM is an important front, in GPC. Historically, nurturing a strong relationship with our continental neighbors has been fraught with peril, partially due to colonialism, the Cold War and Oligarchism.
In the strongest possible terms, I advocate for changing these historical paradigms into sibling relationships. Yes, siblings may quarrel but there is never a doubt that they will come together, when there is an external threat to the family. China and Russia, among others in the now expanding BRICS Bloc, are just such threats. To new president Milei’s credit, he has declined to join the expanding bloc and this is a good sign of his foresight. There is very little Libertad, within BRICS, the original, or the now expanded bloc.
All nations within the Americas will benefit far better, in a world protected by the RBIO/ Rules-Based, International Order, from China’s march towards a tributary system that benefits only China. China, now with Putin’s Russia as a junior partner, sees LATAM as a strategic bastion in their efforts to use the continent as a piggybank and an exploitable economy with resources to be pilfered.
The rules-based international system"
"The post-World War II, rules-based international system, led by likeminded allies and partners, has produced unprecedented levels of peace, prosperity, and freedom, but it is coming under increasing strain. A foremost challenge to the system is the return of great-power competition with revisionist, autocratic states—especially China."
- Strategic context: The rules-based international system
- By Jeffrey Cimmino and Matthew Kroenig
We of course have the OAS and a variety of other tools to consider such a strategy, but without investment in time, money, resources and deep, honest and respectful collaboration, one of the pillars of Western, Liberal Democracy, is at severe risk.
In my opinion and that of other experts, LATAM is a key, insufficiently engaged, major player in not only thwarting Chinese aggression, but the march of far-right trends, not unlike the pre-WW II era. For example, Putin is just another high-profile far-right fascist. Communism is no longer the threat, but the global far-right which Putin generically is the core of, is. Whether Milei turns out to be by action, far-right is to me, still up in the air. At the moment, the new president doesn’t fit labels as easily as I and others, once believed. Is he right-wing…yes, but as far as Putin and some of his other contemporaries such as Modi, time will tell. For these reasons, I have followed the Argentine election with great interest. In fact, it has rekindled in me, a long-held passion for LATAM, especially Argentina.
In what seems a million years ago, my first long-term career after three years in the Army, in the early/ mid 1970s, was a long career building custom projects in the Los Angeles area. Daily, I spoke a mixture of Spanish dialects, along with conversational Hebrew. Not by intention, but most of my employees or subcontractors, either hailed from LATAM or Israel. Jobsites were always lively, multi-lingual and fun. I developed a long love affair with both cultures that endure to this day.
One of the few Spanish dialects that I did not encounter was Argentine Spanish, a lively blend of part Argentine, part native, part European and several other spices mixed in. Via my history and government teacher father, I have long had a historical interest in Argentina and LATAM in general. Now though and for professional reasons I have also found a national security interest there as well. I am hoping to one day to experience the language and vibrant culture of this and other LATAM nations in person. Having no talent for retaining language skills, I’m back to my Spanish 101 workbook, in order to have a clearer perspective of this region that is a primary battleground in GPC.
The newly elected resident of the Casa Rosada, President Javier Milei, has the potential to be a commanding general in the push and pull, between the Chinese, Russian and Indian contingent, and the Western Liberal Democracy of NATO and other nations. President Milei, although leading the third largest economy in South America, has found himself deeply entangled in the Chinese/ Russian sphere of influence, due to his predecessors. Now, he appears to want out, to the delight of the West.
Let’s look a little closer at the big picture, in the next section.
My first professional introduction to Argentina and LATAM in general, from a national security perspective, came via an opportunity to be part of a panel, organized by, Co-organized by Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA)’s Centro de Estudios Internacionales (CEI) and Asia Power Watch, in September of 2021. From this moment on, my long interest in LATAM and Argentina, had been rekindled.
President Milei leads an extraordinary country with a complicated but fascinating history. Like most nations, the US included, there are darker times, but which are overshadowed by accomplishment, enlightenment and a beautiful but often neglected soul, due to what most call politics. Like today’s US, the Argentine good outweighs the bad, but we are both transitioning back towards, the better angels of our nature. Both futures are still somewhat up in the air due to the strength of the fascism that defines the global, far-right movement of the past decade.
Both nations have religious freedom, but both have long struggled to keep religion out of politics. Both have economies with great potential, so long as resident oligarchs and their foreign benefactors can be excluded from politics and pay their fair share. Both have staggering debt, but sadly, and one of the reasons for Milei’s ascendency to office, has been the nation’s inability to not only pay its bills, but its own workers, living wages.
This leads to the problem that has plagued the globe, for a century or more, the threat of some form of Marxist governance. For the record, such governments have no record of compassion towards their citizens. Corruption and nepotism are just as strong or stronger in such governments and the oppressive regimes, have left a long, deeply triggering pain in the nations, who have lived under such rule. LATAM, still suffers from the trauma of so-called “leftist” regimes. Being leftist in LATAM or Eastern Europe, is very different from what we recognize here in the US as the left side of the aisle, so let’s make sure that we don’t confuse the US version with the LATAM version.
Let’s not get caught up in labels like leftist, rightist, fascist etc. and for the sole purpose that the current situation globally and in LATAM, no longer fit the labels of the Cold War and current populist politics. What matters is how and if, President Milei continues to engage with China. The current landscape is murky at best and Milei’s anti-leftist campaign platform (in Cold War terms) has confused China and the rest of the world. Milei, a chainsaw wielding showman, prefers to play his cards, close to his chest.
His speeches, especially his debut at Davos, was far more a campaign speech, only understood in Argentina, than a substantive introduction to the world stage. His speech mired in Cold War terms of left vs. right have little to do with today’s world. Still, there is some substance to the new president. He knows full well that he has an opportunity to cut a legacy for himself as a highly sought after player in GPC. His loud discussion about a threat from socialism matters only to those who lived under it during the Cold War and no one else.
With wise choices, he could become the third most famous Argentine in the world today, behind Pope Francis and Lionel Messi.
Socialism, Marxism, Communism etc. are no longer a threat due to their overt, authoritarian and corrupt failures. Still, like Trump and other populists, he knows which issues still trigger his audiences. In this case, he is correct. He is far smarter than Trump and also has a chance to take on a leadership role in GPC. This is a valuable role, to Milei, Argentina, the OAS, the West and especially, the RBIO. Will he capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity?
It would take a very thick book to explain Argentina’s current economic malaise but Milei, an economist, does have his own agenda, politically, economically and strategically. Since his loud rhetoric is still campaign speech, it will be his actions that tell who he is and what he wishes for Argentina’s future. Xi’s BRI has already made significant inroads with the past Argentine administration and somewhat dangerous ones at that. This applies to defense technology, mining, resources and bases, to business ventures. A deep look at Chinese BRI investment in Argentina and whether or not it is a stable avenue for Xi’s China Dream, is very much, murky water.
In a December article, CSIS, the Center for Strategic International Studies provided a detailed look at this situation, dear to all involved in Great Power Competition.
Argentina is a natural fit for proponents of empowering the RBIO against Chinese influence operations in support of Xi’s China Dream. Her location is by default, strategic. Her economy, unstable as it is, constitutes one of the most important in LATAM. Her staunch opposition to the so-called leftist leanings of certain nations and blocs, is a plank of Milei’s campaign. Still, when Milei addresses global leadership at Davos, as he recently did, he must learn that the leftist thorns of historical LATAM politics, no longer exists. His language must be modified to discuss the reality of today’s world. If he’s trying to bring Argentina to the forefront internationally, the language of the modern world matters… a great deal.
Milei somewhat relishes the ambiguity of his global positions and in truth, it offers him a great deal of operating room as he charts a way forward for the nation. As Chinese, Russian and to some extent, Indian tenacles find their way more ominously into LATAM, Argentina is a welcome wild card for hope, among the Western World. How this story ends, is a long way from being written, but considering the last administrations’ Chinese leaning trends, there is hope for the future. Some of the questions remaining are;
What exactly are Milei’s actual foreign policy planks?
How will his drastic economic policies impact the people of Argentina?
Can he shed the language of the Cold War in LATAM?
Can he stay closer to the middle regarding his far-right rhetoric of the campaign?
Can the US and the West, make the effort to stop treating LATAM, as the stepchild of the continent?
Can we collectively, with our OAS brethren, become a family instead of separate hemispheres, actually and politically? Considering the wildly cycling history of US and LATAM American relationships, can we build a family that protect each other and the RBIO that staves off the aggression of the current BRICS bloc, nearly devoid of human rights and Libertad?
Time will tell, but Argentina’s current approach to stabilization and current Western leanings, are tentatively, a good sign for progress along democratic lines. How about we dispense with Cold War labels for a while and just evaluate facts? Sound, factual analysis, the first victim of politics, must become part of the solution before ideology ruins it for everyone.
Finally, I am still fascinated to which corners that LATAM in general and Argentina specifically will turn, with their new president. For the first time since I’ve begun analyzing GPC, there is a ray of hope, south of our US border. The faint tune of that success is Tango. Godspeed Argentina’s success and friendship.
My very best for your week,
Paul or in honor of today’s post… Pablo