A geopolitical shift is currently taking place in relations between South America and the rest of the world. Argentina and Brazil are taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the increasing confrontation between China, Russia and the West.
by Alexander Busch, Latin America correspondent for Handelsblatt and Neue Zürcher Zeitung
For example, Argentine President Alberto Fernández has been on a state visit to China and Russia in recent days. In China, he concluded an investment agreement as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the next few years, China plans to invest $23 billion in the infrastructure of the Pampas region, including Argentina’s fourth nuclear power plant.
This makes Argentina the number 20 country in Latin America that is closely linked to China. Among the major countries, only Mexico, Brazil and Colombia are not linked to China via a BRI agreement.
In Russia, Fernández declared that Argentina would disrupt the dominance of the United States and the International Monetary Fund. He also touted his country as a bridgehead for Russian investment in South America.
This was a diplomatic faux pas: A few days ago, Argentina concluded an agreement with the Fund that was extremely advantageous for both the government and the economy of the South American country. This was done with the express blessing of the USA, but also of the EU, which calls the shots at the Fund in Washington.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro also plans to visit Russia’s President Vladimir Putin next week. No concrete agreements are currently planned. It seems that the two heads of state want to use their meeting primarily as a welcome opportunity to show that they are not isolated in the world.
If you look at the diplomacy of the two South American heads of state, it can certainly be justified strategically: Both states want to be independent, talk to everyone, trade and attract investment.
Moreover, in the Corona crisis, they just realized that China and Russia, with their vaccine supplies such as Coronavac and Sputnik V, made the first vaccinations in South America possible in the first place. For a long time, no support in the pandemic came from Europe and the USA in the form of vaccines.
So it all looks like Brazil and Argentina are currently moving away not only from the USA but also from Europe. Both states are the most important South American economies. They also dominate Mercosur, with which the EU has concluded a free trade agreement. The agreement could be called into question simply with Argentina’s accession to the BRI – as with Uruguay’s before it.
This is not good news for the European-South American relationship.
COVID-19 in Latin America
Development of case numbers in the region
Currently reported cases in the countries
COVID-19 vaccine doses administered
Share of people vaccinated by country