Norms and Values
Argentina: Perestroika Under the New Government and Balance of Powers in the Region

It will soon become clear what results Milei’s new foreign policy will lead to. Based on the experience of Brazil under Bolsonaro, such a policy will only bring suffering to Argentina.

Libertarian economist Javier Milei’s victory in Argentina has had a significant impact on at least two major issues in Latin America: a new geopolitical realignment in the region that could have repercussions on the world stage, and the relative rise of the United States and the old power core of the Global North, striving, one way or another, to stop the inevitable fall of their hegemony within the framework of current historical and spatial changes in the world order.

It is important to consider that throughout 2023, from the very beginning of the election campaign until his inauguration as president on December 10, Javier Milei made changes (sometimes extremely significant) in his programme. However, the two aforementioned trends are currently underway: a dramatic restructuring of the political map of Latin America and the geostrategic success of the United States, which intends to slow down the crisis of its hegemony.

First, let’s analyse the connection with the United States. It is known that from the moment of the founding of the state, the American strategists understood that in order to implement expansionist plans and realize the dream of becoming a hegemonic power (first continental, then Western and, finally, a global one), a necessary condition was and is the absolute control over the Americas. In this context, the unity of the Latin American countries or any other form of alliances without the participation of the United States was and remains an existential threat. Since the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century and through the puppet governments and military dictatorships of the 20th century, as well as the hybrid wars and “soft coups” of the 21st century, the White House has continuously tried to sow rivalry and upset the balance of power between the Latin American governments in order to serve its interests.

From January 1, 2019 until now, Jair Bolsonaro’s success as President of Brazil and his smooth relationship with Donald Trump have been seen as a political drawback for both the BRICS countries and for South American regional integration. On the other hand, the return to power of Lula da Silva made it possible to slow down this rollback, strengthen relations and restore Brazil’s role on the world stage. Today, the country that has become a political obstacle for the region is Argentina, led by Javier Milei, who has openly expressed his submission to the United States, where he went immediately after his victory on November 19.

During his election campaign, Argentina’s new president promised to cut ties with “communist governments” such as those of Brazil and China. It will be very difficult to fulfil this promise, because these countries are two of Argentina’s most important trade partners (in the first 9 months of 2023, trade turnover with both countries reached $38 billion). Soon Milei was forced to retreat. A few days before taking office, the new president sent his current Foreign Minister, Diana Mondino, to mend relations with Brazil. On the second day of his presidency, Milei received, at the Casa Rosada, Wu Weihua, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the inauguration of the President of Argentina. As a presidential candidate, Milei declared: “I do not exchange my moral principles for money.” However, reality is implacable, and the politician had to approach China: Argentina urgently needs to unfreeze its $5 billion currency swap agreement.
Norms and Values
The Argentina of Javier Milei: A Return to the (Wild) 1990s?
Boris Perius Zabolotsky
In the Argentine context, deep economic instability, high inflation rates, unemployment, and increasing poverty have fuelled a widespread sense of indignation among the population. It is noteworthy that, amid these challenging conditions, candidates offering simplistic and inadequate solutions to complex problems often garner significant support, Boris Perius Zabolotsky writes.

Milei may be aligned with Washington on ideological grounds, but at the same time it is a forced step due to the huge debt burden Argentina owes as a result of the agreement between former President Mauricio Macri and the International Monetary Fund. This is beneficial for the United States for four reasons:

1) It helps revive the Monroe Doctrine. December 2, 2023 marked the bicentennial anniversary of this American strategy, the goal of which is to dominate the Americas, appropriate its resources and oust any potential foreign rival (today this means China).

2) It weakens Brazil’s leftist president, Lula da Silva. A friendly government in Argentina would be a great relief to the leader of the Workers’ Party. Moreover, against the backdrop of the hegemonic struggle between powers in the modern world, it would be extremely beneficial for Brazil and Argentina to be on the same page in order for them to coordinate policies with respect to trade, investment, world prices, as well as guaranteeing certain principles of autonomy and sovereignty in international platforms. Instead, the parties continue to pretend that they do not understand each other. A similar thing was observed when former President Alberto Fernandez was in power in Argentina. Then Brazil was led by Jair Bolsonaro.

3) It reorganizes the balance of power in the region. Until December 9, 2023, the four most influential and economically significant countries in South America—Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela—were led by leftist governments. Argentina has made a 180-degree turn, aligning with the libertarian right.

4) Argentina lost a great opportunity to join BRICS+ on January 1, 2024, an organisation that marks a certain strengthening of the positions of regional forces and represents a serious opportunity for the redistribution of world power. Such defections harm not only Argentina, but also the BRICS+ project itself.

Converting a Regional Map

In Latin America, there is a struggle between two models: 1) democratic programmes that promote the redistribution of wealth and the expansion of rights for the majority of the population; and 2) an emphasis on the concentration of capital and its subordination to transnational capital. In the current situation, it is not clear which model will prevail.

The leading countries include economically significant states with vast territory, such as Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Mexico. In these countries, representatives of the so-called internal and external “real power”, based on transnational corporations, pro-American media and the judiciary, periodically try to destabilize social democracies through “soft coups”, political persecution and the use of the legal system. These actions are aimed at creating an atmosphere of general despondency, causing the public condemnation of major popular leaders, and polarising society so that progressive governments are unable to use all available tools to meet the enormous demands of the population.

In the third decade of the 21st century, this group of states (despite the fact that they represent a clear majority) found themselves at a dead end. Chilean President Gabriel Boric has failed to deliver on major election campaign proposals: tax reform and replacing dictator Augusto Pinochet’s constitution with a new, more democratic one. In Bolivia, the domestic situation is hardly less tense. In Colombia, Gustavo Petro has faced serious attempts to undermine his leadership. Next year, in 2024, presidential elections will be held in Venezuela and Mexico.

On the other hand, with Milei’s victory in Argentina, a second group gained support, represented by governments that support the neoliberal dependency project, such as Ecuador (where power is in the hands of a new right-wing president, millionaire Daniel Noboa) or Peru (where the de facto president is Dina Boluarte).

The Reactionary Internationale

Milei’s victory was celebrated not only by the City of London and Wall Street, but also by members of the global far-right, referred to in some scientific circles as the “Reactionary Internationale.”

“I would like to work together with a true patriot,” tweeted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who attended the inauguration at the Casa Rosada. The European leaders present included King Philip VI of Spain and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

The leader of the Freedom Advances party also received congratulations from Donald Trump, who urged the new president to “Make Argentina Great Again,” paraphrasing his slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again.” In late November, before his inauguration, Milei travelled to the United States, but neither Trump nor President Joe Biden received him there, only former president Bill Clinton, who was paid for this meeting.

There were few current high-ranking officials at the inauguration of the new president. The absence of top officials indicates the international isolation that awaits Argentina during the four-year term of the self-avowed “anarcho-capitalist” Milei, whose actions are marked more by ideological obsession than by concern for the interests of the state.

Among those who had held high positions in the past, Jair Bolsonaro stood out. The Brazilian politician was received with obvious cordiality, and the meeting itself was very well prepared. Expressing his hopes for future right-wing victories in the presidential elections in the United States (2024) and Brazil (2026), Bolsonaro assured that Milei’s election promises “tailwinds for Brazil and the United States.”

Based on the analysis of academics from King’s College London, Pablo de Orellana and Nicholas Michelsen, some characteristics of the Reactionary Internationale are refusal of, or outright opposition to, multilateralism, environmental activism, gender equality, social justice, and scientific thinking on all issues related to climate change and the environmental movement.

Although the scope of research of the mentioned authors extends to extremely diverse processes and numerous political leaders of the Global North (Italian Giorgia Meloni, French politician Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party, Brexit leaders from the United Kingdom, Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, and other politicians who failed to come to power, such as Santiago Abascal from the Spanish Vox party), a number of characteristics are also applicable to Bolsonaro and Milei. For example:

1) a worldview based on Manichaeism (a radical opposition between good and evil, the free world and authoritarianism);

2) the semblance of a messiah: it is believed that the leader is endowed with higher powers to fulfil a certain mission; he is presented as a bearer of truth, threatening persecution of those who hold different views;

3) opposition to integration (rejection of the European Union and MERCOSUR);

4) dogmatism: the leader claims that he adheres to the correct faith and knows the only and effective path to a bright future;

5) focus on reorganisation: the leader seeks to restore the idyllic (lost) past and promises to create a new system that would destroy the existing one. In this regard, such a leader questions and really does not recognize already existing treaties, such as international peace agreements or organisations like the United Nations.

In Milei’s case, the goal of the reorganisation is to end Peronism and recreate the Argentina of a century ago, when Julio Roca (1898-1904) was in power. At that time, Argentina did not yet have universal suffrage and was autocratic. Among other dangerous moves, the new government, where vice-president Victoria Villarruel represents the military caste that operated during the 1976 military dictatorship, is seeking to annul the “Never Again” report presented by the National Commission on Disappearances (Conadep). The organisation was founded in 1983 to investigate acts of genocide committed by members of the military junta from 1976 to 1982. The new government also wants to pardon those responsible for the genocide and reframe events that occurred in Argentina in that dark past and in the decades that followed.

At the level of foreign policy, already in the first days of the new government, it has become obvious that Argentina is making a 180-degree turn. We are talking about a country that throughout history has supported dialogue, peaceful negotiations and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. At the UN, in less than 48 hours, Argentina joined Israel in abstaining from voting on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. When the Argentine government was led by Alberto Fernandez, the country usually voted in favour of a ceasefire. Now, at the vote at the UN General Assembly on December 12, 153 states out of 200 countries expressed their support.

It will soon become clear what results Milei’s new foreign policy will lead to. Based on the experience of Brazil under Bolsonaro, such a policy will only bring suffering to Argentina.
Norms and Values
New Offensive of the Ultra-Right: Argentina, Netherlands, Then Everywhere?
Oleg Barabanov
The refusal to support the old elites in favour of both right-wing and left-wing non-systemic politicians can be seen working in tandem all around the world. The key thing for voters is precisely the protest against the old system, and who they choose in retaliation, right or left, is determined only by the specifics of the moment, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.