A look at the Argentine defense situation and its relationship with the Southern Command

A look at the Argentine defense situation and its relationship with the Southern Command

By Guillermo Martín Caviasca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Interview with General of the Argentine Army (RE) Fabian Brown, who served as director of Operational Education, director of the National Military College and director of Army Education and Rector of the Army University Institute. He is currently president of the Federation of Mutual Insurance of the Armed and Security Forces. He has a degree in history from UBA.

Good morning general, I am going to ask a series of questions about the situation of Argentina’s relationship with the United States and the question of our sovereignty. General Laura Richardson has made a series of visits and statements about the intentions of the United States regarding the region, and specifically about Argentina. She raises a series of conflict hypotheses or common defense needs in broad areas that affect national sovereignty, and mentions a series of adversaries and enemies on a comprehensive level. What analysis and opinion can you give us on this matter?

Good morning, Guillermo. Yes, I will try to answer as clearly as possible. Generala Richardson has made several trips to Argentina in recent years. We have photos of her with Cristina Fernández, being vice president, and Minister Taiana. It should be noted that her rank corresponds in the Argentine state’s hierarchical level to that of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Commander of Joint Operations. Interviews with the President, Vice President or Ministers exceed Richardson’s rank, despite representing the Armed Forces of the United States.

It is also true that the Generala, on several occasions, made political assessments regarding the natural resources of the region, the Chinese base in Neuquén and, recently, in Ushuaia on the possibility of a comprehensive base with Argentina to supply and project towards Antarctica.

A final point: The Southern Command is an agency of the United States of America that, although its primary responsibility is Latin America, does not necessarily represent the political thought of its country, which has other spaces of power, some being more important. That is, we can think that US policy may have different tendencies regarding what to do in the South Atlantic. And how to position itself vis-à-vis England. We could say that one thing is the State Department that looks from a more global vision, and another (not antagonistic, but with nuances) is the Southern Command with a more personal vision.

Collective security in Latin America

There were a series of proposals about defense at the regional level in the first decades of the century, which included UNASUR and its defense council. Similarly, documents called “books” were written, where medium-term intentions for national and regional defense were indicated. What assessment do they deserve, and what specificity did they have? What changes can be noted in new times regarding these guidelines, both in defense and in international relations?

Since the end of the 20th century, South America has been progressing in the construction of cooperative security spaces that successfully sought to minimize existing conflict situations and prevent others.

MERCOSUR managed to configure a space for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and progress was made, together with Brazil and Chile, in the non-proliferation of chemical weapons as well as in arms transparency.

UNASUR was the first time that all South America integrated a cooperative security space that attempted to articulate with CELAC and the OAS. In addition, it tried to structure spaces for common action, among them the South American Defense Council, which even considered a Center for Strategic Studies that was going to operate in Ecuador. Unfortunately, starting in 2016, due to pressure from the USA, this space was dismantled, causing a conceptual setback, which South America will have to rework to integrate as a true international actor and not continue behind extra-regional interests.

Currently, there is evidence of growing autonomy in the foreign policy of the countries in the region, with constant friction between governments and divergent strategic positioning, such as Argentina and Brazil.

General, what meaning do you give to the agreements with the US regarding military policy? Both in general and of the current government. And in relation to the current geopolitical situation of reconfiguration of the world order and highly conflicting military situation.

The southern cone region never had strategic relevance for the USA, with the South Atlantic being an area of British domination. Little conflict, beyond the Malvinas issue.

The current Argentine position seeks to reissue the Carlos Menem government’s relationship of alignment with the USA and alliance with NATO that led us to participate in the 1991 Gulf War. Also to be victims of the terrorist attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA.

Interference in Middle East issues and unrestricted support for the State of Israel on the Gaza issue do not belong to our tradition in IR matters and expose us unnecessarily.

How do you consider the issue of financing and development of national defense and the current acquisitions of war material such as the F16 bloc 15. What implications do they have for national defense? Do they mean the intention to strengthen the Armed Forces? What would be the strategic orientation of these acquisitions? Do they mean substantial changes?

Years ago, Argentina began efforts to acquire weapons. The acquisition of aircraft began with the previous government, leaving the Chinese offer and that of the USA with F16 from Denmark, for which this government has opted for. I see more continuity than rupture. I’ll give you an example: The plane that the government announces that the US has given to Argentina for free as a success of the alignment. This is not like this. It was a plane that was on lease, and the agreement made by the previous government with the United States implied that this transfer would be done in the way it was done.

On the other hand, it is important to have a presence once again in the South Atlantic. That some plane can fly. With very little (four planes) Britain had absolute hegemony at the lowest cost. Although they are not a strategic threat, England will have to reinforce its military spending on the islands. The issue is that we had absolutely no capacity, compared to nothing this is something.

Evaluating a US military base in Argentina

Can you give an assessment of the announcement to install a common military base in Ushuaia with the US? What implications does it have for Argentina? Will a strengthening of our sovereignty in the region operate positively regarding the recovery of sovereignty in the Malvinas, South Atlantic and strengthening our claims in Antarctica?

It is a topic to analyze. The current Status Quo only serves Great Britain, which is advancing in generating infrastructure in the Malvinas to monopolize Antarctic logistics and tourism. An integral base with China or the USA or Russia, or whoever in Ushuaia could provide strategic relevance to Argentina, if the United Kingdom does not participate in it. If, as has happened historically, the USA privileges Great Britain, the option is not a good one. But let me clarify: Since 2015 we had decided to install the Argentine Antarctic base in Ushuaia, we traveled, we had land, spaces, etc. And since that moment nothing substantial has been advanced.

Regarding the current military deployment of the USARMY, it may refer to the new geopolitical scenario. Since the Second World War, the Pacific was the priority in the US military deployment, and I do not think it will change in the 21st century. Perhaps it refers to the new domains of war or the need to have a greater presence in South America. I think this is under discussion in the USA and the next elections could be a cleavage.

The United States will continue to be a leading world power in a multipolar world where the post-Cold War order is no longer existing. China disputes technological preeminence, and Russia slowed NATO’s advance towards the East. Zones of influence are being settled, and South America could have a new strategic value for the USA. It is in this context that we can insert these issues that we are talking about.

These fights between China, Russia and China, each with its culture, represent a fight for the domination of the people. Our path is the same as always, the defense of natural resources, effective territorial sovereignty and self-determination, regional integration being the historical legacy of the emancipation movements that can lead us to achieve autonomy.

Thank you very much, General.

Greetings Guillermo.

United World International

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June 2024