Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 124

Russia and Argentina moved to strengthen bilateral ties late last week in both their signing a broad agreement setting out principles of relations and their outlining a package of more specific intergovernmental cooperation accords. These accords came on June 25 during a visit to Moscow by Argentine President Carlos Menem and followed Kremlin talks between Menem and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Menem’s visit to Russia was the first by an Argentinean head of state. It was announced after the talks that Yeltsin would pay a return visit to Argentina in March of 1999. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, meanwhile, told Menem that Russia “regards Argentina as a partner of major importance in Latin America and as an independent economic and political center in a multipolar world.”

According to a Moscow daily, such observations reflect Russia’s hope that it can use friendly relations with Argentina in order to gain access to the broader South American market. With that goal apparently in mind, the two sides were said to have signed an agreement aimed at increasing cooperation between the CIS and Mercosur, the largest of the Latin American trading blocs. According to the same paper, however, Menem’s visit was not all smooth sailing. Moscow reportedly expressed dissatisfaction over Argentina’s maintaining close relations with NATO. Argentina, in turn, was said to be unhappy over an absence of Russian support in Argentina’s dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands. (Kommersant-Daily, June 26)

The Russian-Argentinean agreement calls for both closer contacts between their governments at all levels, and annual consultations between their foreign ministers. The two sides also signed agreements on air transportation, cultural and educational exchanges, and mutual protection of capital investments. (Russian agencies, June 26) In addition, the Argentinean and Russian Interior Ministries inked an accord calling for increased cooperation in combating drug trafficking and economic crimes. The two sides reportedly also agreed to broaden contacts between their military establishments, but there was said to have been little talk of military-technical cooperation. (Kommersant- Daily June 26) Moscow is anxious to increase its arms sales to Latin America.