On her third visit to the country, the commander of the Southern Command of the United States Armed Forces (Southcom), General Laura Jane Richardson, was able to visit the Argentine city of Ushuaia, something that only her predecessor, Admiral Craig Faller, had done. Both shared the same Pentagon concern: avoiding possible Chinese financing for the construction of a logistics port with access to Antarctica and the Strait of Magellan.

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The current head of Southern Command will return to headquarters in Miami, Florida, with a definition that she would not have had on previous visits. Argentine President Javier Milei unexpectedly traveled to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego province, to welcome her and announce at midnight on Thursday the installation of a naval base integrated with the United States in the southernmost city of Argentina.

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The military project will require Congressional approval, but the unusual gesture closes a cycle and opens another in the relationship with the United States, seven months before the next presidential elections in that country.

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Law 25,880, approved in March 2004, establishes that troops or elements coming from a foreign country for military purposes must be approved by Congress, based on a bill sent by the Executive.

In the government they say that they could get around the military issue with the idea of ​​a Logistics Center that has US funding, but after the announcement and the photo with the military representative of the US government, everything indicates that it will be a joint military base, in an area that, In addition to access to Antarctica, it is 670 kilometers from the Falkland Islands, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.

The cost to build the base in Ushuaia could exceed US$400 million (more than R$2 billion) and would seek to take advantage of the facilities that the Argentine Navy already has in the existing port. The project would require major works in the surrounding area.

“If you want to have a port where you can enter and exit safely with your boats, we must understand the challenges that the Navy is facing at the moment and, possibly, the collaboration with which we can help the Navy”, the general said this Saturday to portal Infobae, in a suggestive preview of the plans. The Pentagon is considering collaborating with the Argentine Armed Forces.

If the government confirms the construction of a military naval base, the debate will inevitably move to Parliament. If the project includes a cooperation agreement between the two countries that is only civil, it will also have to pass legislative scrutiny, as happened with the Chinese space station installed in Bajada del Agrio, Neuquén.

The installation was always in the sights of the Southern Command, as was the potential Chinese presence in Ushuaia. Before the general’s latest arrival, sources close to the Chief of Staff, Nicolás Posse, spoke of sending an inspection to the space observation station. The coordinating minister plays a fundamental role with Washington: he was in all meetings with US officials. From Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who was at the Casa Rosada a month ago, to the head of the CIA, William Burns, who visited the same office two weeks ago.


After these meetings, the idea of ​​reconsidering the Chinese station was strengthened, although it received frequent visits, including from diplomatic delegations from Europe and also the United States. The facilities that were built in Neuquén suggest that the idea launched by Milei this Thursday will require time and political negotiations with the opposition.

The agreement that allowed the Chinese base was authorized by the Senate in December 2015 and by deputies three months later. The current legislative fragility of the party in power in both chambers reveals that it will not be easy for it to fulfill the project it announced before Richardson in a short time.

The issue does not go unnoticed by the vice president, Victoria Villaruel, who invited the general to the Senate. Richardson was in Ushuaia with several military activities, listened to Milei and then returned to Buenos Aires to donate a Hercules C-130 aircraft to the Argentine Air Force, worth US$30 million.

She then moved to the first floor of the Senate, in the same office where she was received last year by then vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Richardson and Villarruel spoke for an hour and a source close to the conversation confided that they discussed “food, lithium and hemispheric policy issues”. The third topic seems like a euphemism, but it reveals that they talked about the Ushuaia naval base and the impact it would have on the Falklands, one of the Senate chief’s obsessions.


A possible joint base with Washington 670 kilometers from the Islands has a direct impact on the geopolitical table and also on Argentina’s claim to sovereignty. The United States and the United Kingdom are founding partners of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The collaboration of NATO and North America was decisive for the British victory in the Falklands War. The cooperation bond has not lost validity. The last test dates back to February 18, 2021, when the United States Navy nuclear submarine USS Greneville received assistance from a helicopter from its British counterparts off the coast of the Falklands, coming from the Mount Pleasant military base, located 80 kilometers from Porto Argentino.

Argentina is a non-NATO ally, but the connection of the base announced by Milei with the Falklands claim raises political questions. The gesture confirms that the president is committed to delivering the relationship with China, built 20 years ago by Peronist governments, but the big question is: in exchange for what?

“I believe that economic security is national security,” Richardson said in the interview he gave when he used the acronym “DIME” to explain the four instruments of power of the United States: Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economy. The definition triggers hypotheses within the Argentine government.

Sources consulted maintain that Washington’s response arises from Milei’s proposals, which would have resolved to satisfy the repeated demands that the Southern Command has been making for a decade. During his previous visit to the Southern Cone, Richardson also flew over and visited the Chilean city of Punta Arenas. If Argentina did not accept Ushuaia’s proposal, the US would try to reach an agreement on the other side of the border.

Who wins?

The Argentine concessions will strengthen the bilateral bond, but there is no certainty that the American compensation will be economic, although the Milei government’s aspirations involve this. They could also have an impact on the Falklands issue, based on a precedent recorded in March 2010 by the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit she made to Montevideo to participate in the presidential inauguration of José “Pepe” Mujica.

“Our position is that this is an issue that must be resolved between the United Kingdom and Argentina. If we can help in any way in facilitating these efforts, we are ready to do so,” said the then head of the State Department. The gesture went down very badly in London.

Now there is also a Democratic administration, in the hands of Joe Biden, who is fighting for his re-election against Republican Donald Trump on November 5th. If the Republican wins, perhaps Milei’s wishes, which foresee his victory, will be fulfilled, but the Argentine president is determined that his connection with the United States be a bipartisan coincidence, as happened during the government of Mauricio Macri, who initiated the his tenure with Barack Obama in the White House and ended it with Trump in the same position.

Richardson also spoke about Argentina’s imminent purchase of 24 used US-made F-16 aircraft from Denmark. It is expected that the next trip by the Minister of Defense, Luis Petri, to Copenhagen will speed up the operation that he has already agreed with his Danish counterpart, during his recent visit to Buenos Aires.

The decision ended the possibility of acquiring Chinese JF-17 aircraft and is accompanied by two other decisive decisions: the suspension of financing to the National Atomic Energy Commission for the construction of the CAREM nuclear reactor, entirely Argentine, and also the works of the Nuclear Power Plant Atucha III, which would have a Chinese Hualong reactor.

At the same time, the Casa Rosada approaches the United States on security and defense issues. Prior to Richardson’s visit, the General Administration of Ports (AGP) agreed to US collaboration for control of the waterway, reactivated the military training understanding with the Georgia State National Guard, which was implemented during the Macri era.

It is possible that the USGC, Coast Guard ship Stone will travel through the Argentine sea and dock in Mar del Plata in a protocolary manner, which it could not do in 2021 because the Argentine Foreign Ministry did not authorize it to carry out pursuit exercises for fishing vessels Chinese. Last year the ship was only authorized to resupply in Puerto Madryn, but now it would be received with full honors.

If this happens, it will be a preview of the arrival of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which will depart the Argentine coast in May. For the occasion, Argentine authorities have already been invited, such as Villarruel, who accepted the invitation that Richardson proposed, accompanied by the North American ambassador Marc Stanley.

Source: www.brasildefato.com.br

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