Milei Allows US to Construct Naval Base in Strategic Southernmost City of Argentina

Orinoco Tribune, April 6, 2024 —

The president of Argentina, Javier Milei, announced that the United States will construct an “integrated naval base” in Ushuaia, the southernmost city of Argentina, known as “the city at the end of the world.” The city has an extreme geopolitical importance, as it is located where the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans meet, in addition to being the “point of entry” to the continent of Antarctica.

On Thursday, April 4, Milei traveled to Ushuaia, in the province of Tierra del Fuego, after midnight to expressly meet with the commander of the US Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.

However, the meeting was a delayed one. Although Milei’s arrival was scheduled earlier, as was announced on the channels of the Argentinian Presidency, and the official TV channel of the presidency remained on hold for more than two and a half hours, the Argentinian Air Force plane that transported the president from Buenos Aires landed in Ushuaia shortly after midnight local time.

Milei’s special travel to Ushuaia to meet with the US general contrasts sharply with his refusal to travel to the same province on the eve of April 2 to participate in the vigil commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Malvinas War.

At the midnight meeting on Thursday, after the national anthems of Argentina and the United States were played, as if it was a meeting between officials of equal rank, Milei gave a speech addressing the military officials present there, reiterating the importance of strengthening the “strategic alliance with the United States and the countries that defend the ideas of freedom.”

He also highlighted the importance of the Integrated Naval Base as a “great logistic center that will be the closest port to Antarctica” and “the gateway to the white continent.”

Milei stressed that the presence of that port, which will be used for repair and resupply work for cruise ships and commercial vessels that sail those waters, “is the way to continue ensuring Argentina’s sovereign rights in Antarctica,” in which continent Argentina has been present since 1904.

“We are convinced that sovereignty is not defended with isolationism or bombastic speeches, but with political conviction and building strategic alliances with those with whom we share a vision of the world,” he said.

Milei’s spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, defended the president’s decision to involve the US in the strategic military base. “The integrated naval base turns Argentina and the United States into the gateway to the white continent,” Adorni said. “This is part of our integration to the western and developed world, to strengthen our sovereignty against the invasion of foreign ships that for years had a free hand plundering our seas,” he added, forgetting to mention that it was precisely American and European ships that plundered Argentina’s marine resources and continue to do so.

The political opposition to Milei, represented by the center-left Unión por la Patria (UxP) and the parties to the left of it, did not agree with the Milei administration’s curious association between “sovereignty” and “integrated naval base operated by the United States.”

Although Milei did not mention this, the base had already begun to be constructed during the government of Alberto Fernández. According to Fernández’s former Defense Minister Agustín Rossi, the initiative was an old project of the Armed Forces of Argentina that was planned more than 15 years ago. “It was a strategic project for the geopolitics of our country because it would be the southernmost military port in the world,” he explained to the Argentinian media Página12. “We were only able to carry out the preliminary tasks… but we always insisted that the base had to be built by Argentina and operated exclusively by the Argentinian Armed Forces.”

As previously reported by the US Embassy in Argentina, General Richardson is scheduled to interact with Argentinian military personnel and learn about their missions and the role they play “in safeguarding vital maritime routes for global trade.”

The US Army general began her visit to Argentina on Wednesday, April 3, where she held meetings with several members of the government to discuss bilateral relations in matters of “regional defense cooperation.” However, the governor of Tierra del Fuego, Gustavo Melella, refused to meet with her, saying, “We are not going to receive formally, officially and in any way the chief of the US Southern Command because they carry out military practices together with Great Britain in the South Atlantic.”

Britain has been occupying Argentina’s Malvinas Islands and South George and South Sandwich Islands (in the Antarctic region of Argentina) and their contiguous waters for more than 190 years. The British military base in Puerto Argentino of Malvinas Islands is used by NATO.

However, regarding the military base, various parliamentarians opined that only Congress has the power to authorize the entry of foreign troops into the country, so the construction of a combined naval base has to be first approved by Congress as a law. “An integrated military base in the south requires authorization from Congress and an exhaustive explanation of the intended interests as well as the non-violation of our sovereignty,” explained UxP Senator Carlos Linares.

Milei, however, does not appear to be concerned about Argentina’s sovereignty. In fact, he met with General Richardson twice within 12 hours, the second meeting taking place on Thursday afternoon at the Jorge Nebwery Airfield in Buenos Aires. There Milei again exhibited his government’s geopolitical alignment with US policies, declaring that “our alliance with the United States is a statement to the world.”

“I want to announce a new foreign policy doctrine for Argentina,” Milei said in his speech at the airfield. “Defining strategic alliances is a central element of an intelligent foreign policy, but these alliances cannot be based simply on economic interests, they have to be anchored in a common vision of the world.”

The message seemed to have been addressed to both the US and Chinese governments, as China has several public works and scientific projects in Argentina, in addition to being the largest destination of Argentina’s agricultural products.

During General Richardson’s visit, the United States transferred a C-130H Hercules transport aircraft to the Argentine Air Force, following a meeting between the SOUTHCOM chief and the defense minister of Argentina, Luis Petri, who was also present in Ushuaia.

This is Richardson’s third visit to Argentina, and it follows two other visits to Argentina this year by high-level officials of the US government: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit in February, and CIA director William Burns’ meeting with Milei’s cabinet chief Nicolás Posse and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich in March.

The presidential spokesman, Manuel Adorni, announced that Richardson’s visit is part of “the excellent relations that Argentina is having with the United States” with the arrival of Milei to the presidency of Argentina. As part of these “excellent relations,” the USS George Washington aircraft carrier of the US Navy will arrive in Argentina in May, after 13 years.

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