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The dangers of Argentine foreign policy under Javier Milei

Milei is departing from Argentina's traditional foreign policy of pacifism, reason, and balance to project his own image on the global stage, harming the country's reputation.

In his renowned work on foreign policy, David Baldwin points out that policy-relevant knowledge is one of the most important components, along with creativity, when studying international relations. Considering Argentine foreign policy under President Javier Milei, is difficult to find any practical example of policy-relevant knowledge or competence. The same can be said of Foreign Minister Diana Mondino, who has demonstrated her diplomatic skills by showing supposed analogies regarding the Chinese population after visiting Beijing to address the difficult SWAP issue. However, foreign policy in Latin America is not usually the subject of joint action by the executive, even less does it offer agreement with national congresses, a characteristic of Latin American systems of Presidentialism. In other words, it is the head of state who designs and acts for the country in the global arena. 

Far from debating the negative and positive effects of such tradition, in Milei’s case, it seems that his creativity, impulsiveness, and highly personal ideology drive Argentina’s foreign policy. If diplomacy was created to avoid conflict, promote peace, and benefit the peoples of the world, Milei has chosen another path for Argentina. His creative foreign policy is not based on facts, data, or pragmatism. An obvious example is offered by the purchase of the 24 Danish F-16 fighter jets for a nation that is not in danger of neighboring or global wars, but which above all fits into a strategy to please the United States and fulfill the role that Washington has wanted for Argentina for years. That is to say, in the international dispute between the United States and China, Argentina should forge an army trained by the United States and the United Kingdom, limiting Chinese influence

It is difficult to understand how Milei’s economic ideology and his commercial libertarianism can explain the armament predilection when it comes to moving in international scenarios. In all liberal variants, whether libertarian or neoliberal, leaders tend to give preeminence to business. Regionally, Marcos Robledo has already detected this almost mercantilist pragmatism in the foreign policy of neoliberal Chile. Particularly under Sebastián Piñera, the business impulse prevailed in foreign policy decisions, keeping a low profile whenever possible. 

In contrast, the Milei government’s foreign policy has turned out to be reactive and declarative, in the sense that the diplomatic bureaucracy has had to operate in reaction to the president’s explicit statements. Instead of a defined institutional agenda or planning of foreign action, it is hugs (with Trump and U.S. businessmen) and insults (to AMLO, Lula and Petro) in defining the destiny of today’s Argentina in the world. In fact, Alejandro Frenkel speaks of a true international doctrine of Milei, attached to a confused “Westernism”, subordinated to the United States and Israel (apparently part of the West), which could prove counterproductive for Argentina’s interests. The new Cold War, a reading of the world geopolitical chessboard shared by Milei and internationalists, seems to be an unfortunate conformation longed for by Milei himself, where Argentina would be “the new Mecca of the West”

The problem is that the West praised by Milei is not running in the same direction. The United States itself is trying to cushion its involvement in the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, it poses a forced protectionist re-industrialization, peculiarly under a possible Trump administration, and Washington’s foreign policy has become intertwined with civil and social rights. For his part, Milei vigorously defends Israel, both in words and at the United Nations and differentiates between economic and socio-political globalism, promoting the former but fighting the latter. 

If in his understanding of social globalism he includes reproductive and social rights, then coexistence with the Democratic sector and a good part of the American establishment will be impossible. In a dilemma of the balance between threat and peace with China, Milei promotes the opening of military bases and militarization of the South Atlantic that might not necessarily be configured in the will of the United States. Milei’s map of the world is a remake of medieval Eurocentrism with the insertion of the United States and Israel, but it completely forgets Latin America. 

Those emancipating processes that have been attracting the region, such as BRICS and CELAC, do not persuade Milei, who prefers to stick to traditional forums, including Davos, which have not facilitated the realization of Argentina’s global needs. The Latin American component is not even limited to the neighborhood: Milei looks to the G7, IMF, and OECD, rather than meeting with Latin American leaders. The thorny issues of Cuba and Venezuela have already received a strong rejection of any form of collaboration from Milei, unlike AMLO, Lula, Petro, and other rulers. 

On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether Bukelism and the rise of the right in Chile, Ecuador, and Paraguay could legitimize some kind of regional conservatism that would push Milei to play his Latin American cards. In conclusion, one of the real dangers of Milei’s creative foreign policy is the exclusion of Argentina from a privileged place in the Latin American political context, with risks also for the economic-commercial sphere. The lack of pragmatism reduces Milei’s foreign policy to dichotomous interactions, and friend-enemy, which may entail negative consequences for the already precarious condition of the country. In a Global South that bets on multipolarity, Argentina runs the risk of remaining in the funnel of economic stagnation, dependence, and inflation, without the capacity to diversify its international projection. 

The open subordination to Washington does not guarantee a favor in the complex distribution of powers of the U.S. Congress, and the international course of the U.S. empire after November 2024 is also a question mark. Milei is breaking with a pacifist, reasoned, and balanced tradition of Argentine foreign policy to project his own image in the world, not that of the country. Supposedly, six months have been enough to quickly implement these changes, but in case of failure, it will be impossible to get rid of his creative foreign policy. 

*Translated by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva from the original in Spanish


Political scientist with a Master's Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from the Diplomatic School of Spain. He is a Master's student in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, where he is a Teaching and Research Assistant.


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