What does the future hold for Argentina’s bilateral relations with Russia and Brazil?

While the Argentine-Chinese bilateral relationship under Javier Milei has already been widely covered, little has been said about the relationship with other countries.

The self-defined “liberal-libertarian” Javier Milei has been elected as Argentina’s new president. With over 55% of the votes, Milei defeated the Peronist Finance Minister Sergio Massa in 20 out of 24 provinces in last Sunday’s runoff. Milei skillfully channelled the anger and desire for change of millions of Argentines who currently suffer from rampant inflation, increasing levels of poverty, the plummet of foreign reserves, and a political class unable to represent its electorate—referred to by Milei as “the caste.”

During his first speech after winning the presidential elections, Milei was cheered by thousands of his followers chanting “Long live freedom, damn it!”. The newly elected President stated that “Today starts the reconstruction of Argentina,” assessing the current situation of the country as critical and thus requiring drastic changes.

Regarding foreign policy, Milei stated, “To all the nations of the world, today we say that one Argentina ends and another begins. We are going to work with all countries.” This came as a surprise since the president stated multiple times during his campaign that he would not foster relations with “communist” countries.

While the Argentine-Chinese bilateral relationship under the eventual government of Javier Milei has already been widely covered, little has been said about the relationship with other countries falling inside the elected president’s understanding of the term “communist.” Among these, we can find Russia and Brazil, which received the news with mixed reactions, ranging from distant congratulations to warnings.

Given this limited coverage, in this article, we will review the responses of Brazil and Russia to Milei’s victory and predict how their bilateral relationship with Argentina may evolve.

Russia: From Strategic Cooperation to Confrontation over Ukraine and Full Alignment with the West

On one hand, Russian Foreign Minister spokesperson Dmitri Peskov avoided directly congratulating Milei but rather stated that Russia respected the Argentine people’s decision and remarked that Argentina was an important country in South America with whom Russia maintained “very good relations.” However, it also warned Milei about his past declarations during the electoral campaign. “We are waiting for many issues to be clarified that will affect bilateral relations,” stated Peskov. On the other hand, Ukraine’s Volodimir Zelenzky took to X to congratulate Milei for his victory, remarking on the newly elected president’s “clear stance in support of Ukraine” and his prospects to strengthen cooperation and “restore international order based on international law.”

These reactions come after Milei declared several times that, under his government, Argentina would not foster relations with so-called “communist” countries—a definition that includes Russia—and would seek full alignment with the West, represented by the United States and Israel. Moreover, the newly elected president was one of the most critical voices in the political landscape against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, defining it in terms of “the free world against those against freedom” and defining Putin as an “autocrat.”

In the last decade, Argentina and Russia have deepened their bilateral relationship, establishing close cooperation in various strategic areas. For instance, Argentina was part of Russia’s “vaccine diplomacy” during the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the first countries to receive the Russian Sputnik V. Moreover, Putin has been a firm supporter of Argentina’s entry into BRICS. Regarding the Russian invasion, Argentina has followed the posture of Latin America, condemning Russia’s actions but not participating in the sanctions against Putin’s regime.

However, under Milei’s government, this may change. It is plausible that Argentina adopts a more energetic posture against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This would mean not only continuing the condemnation of Russia’s actions but also participating in the sanctions from Western countries.

Moreover, the possibility of sending weapons—as German PM Olaf Scholz tried at the beginning of this year but was immediately met with a negative response—should not be completely ruled out. This would result in a disentanglement from Russia, a break from Latin America’s posture in the conflict, and an alignment with Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States.

Brazil: The Strengths of an Institutionalized Bilateral Relationship

Lula Da Silva took to X to congratulate the Argentine institutions and people and wish luck to the new government, while he avoided mentioning Milei. What’s more, Lula will not attend his presidential inauguration due to feeling “personally offended” by the libertarian’s past declarations, according to his foreign policy advisor, Celso Amorim. On his part, former president Jair Bolsonaro has confirmed his attendance at the official event, a situation that may raise tensions between the mandataries even more.

In the past, Milei not only made it clear that he would not engage with “communist” countries in the region, but he also harshly criticized Lula Da Silva. In a recent interview, Milei said that he would not have a meeting with the Brazilian president, describing him as a “thief,” “corrupt,” and a “furious communist.” Moreover, the newly elected President went as far as to justify Lula’s imprisonment.

For context, Da Silva was imprisoned two times. The first time for leading a massive strike by Brazilian metalworkers in 1980 during the military dictatorship, and the second time in 2019 for the Lava Jato corruption scandal, which was then annulled by the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF)—with Lula being freed.

Will this tension between Javier Milei and Lula Da Silva affect the Argentine-Brazilian bilateral relationship? Since the 80s, both countries have pursued a continued process of cooperation that has culminated in a close and strategic bilateral relationship, consisting of a set of shared values and a plethora of agreements.

Both countries have developed a shared set of goals and understandings such as regional peace and trade, disarmament, continental representation, and the promotion of the integration of Latin America. These visions have been enshrined in the spirit of several measures and agreements of cooperation between both nations. For example, Argentina and Brazil are founders and driving forces of various regional organizations such as the trade bloc MERCOSUR and the now-revived UNASUR. Another example is the cooperation in nuclear energy, consisting of the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, collaborative nuclear projects such as nuclear power plants, reactors, and research, and sustained by multiple bilateral agreements.

These shared visions and cooperation agreements have remained and deepened throughout the decades, resulting in an institutionalization of the bilateral relationship that overcomes contrasting political signs of the governments in power in both countries. For instance, in spite of the rising tensions during the Bolsonaro period, the foreign policy experts of both countries managed to maintain amicable and fluent relations between both nations. Therefore, the existing resentment between Lula Da Silva and Javier Milei will most certainly not interrupt the normal development of friendly relations.

In conclusion, despite these “communist” countries receiving the news of Milei becoming the elected President with mixed reactions, they have also expressed their will to sustain and continue developing friendly relationships with Argentina. Thus, the upcoming government still has room left to engage and sustain the existing relations with these nations, despite Milei’s past declarations.

However, the challenge of fulfilling the promise of “working with all countries” varies in the bilateral relationships with Russia and Brazil. On one hand, it is more plausible that Argentina takes a stronger stance against the Russian invasion, disentangling from Moscow and aligning with Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union. On the other hand, considering the profound institutionalization of the bilateral relationship with Brazil, it is less probable that Buenos Aires will interrupt the normal development of relations with Brasília.

Nevertheless, in both cases, Argentine policy experts must navigate Milei’s ideologically driven approach to international relations, mitigate the uncertainty around Argentina’s commitments with these countries, and develop a pragmatic international conduct that alleviates the existing tensions in the bilateral relations. Will the new administration be able to achieve this? Only time will tell.

Salvador Lescano
Salvador Lescano
Salvador Lescano holds a bachelor's degree in international relations with a minor in government from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella (Argentina). He works as an investigation assistant and has contributed articles covering main political events in Latin America for several outlets, including The Diplomat, Global Americans, EUI's LATAM Focus Group, NACLA, and London Politica.