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Media: Milei calls off Argentina’s planned BRICS ascension

New Argentinian President Javier Milei notified BRICS leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China that he was withdrawing the country’s bid to join the bloc, despite its planned entry on 1 January.
President of Argentina Javier Milei during his Inauguration Ceremony on 10 December 2023 in Buenos Aires. Credit: artnet

Argentina has retracted its bid to join the BRICS alliance, according to a letter sent by new President Javier Milei to the leaders of the bloc’s existing members, Argentinian media TN reported on 29 December.

BRICS, created in 2009, consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as major emerging economies seeking more significant influence globally. However, they have some competing interests among the group, according to BBC. China sees BRICS as a way to challenge Western dominance, while Russia views it as support against Western sanctions over Ukraine. India is a rival to China and partners with the US to balance China’s influence in Asia.

Over 40 additional countries have requested to join BRICS. Argentina had been slated to join on 1 January 2023 as part of a broader expansion that included Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. However, this week, Argentina’s new President, Javier Milei, withdrew the country from its planned entry into the expanding BRICS bloc.

Milei said his foreign policy “differs in many ways from the previous government.” He added that although he did not consider it “appropriate” for Argentina to become a full BRICS member, he remained committed to strengthening bilateral ties, “particularly intending to increase trade and investment flows.”

The BRICS alliance is economically dominated by China, which accounts for over 70% of the bloc’s GDP. While Argentina’s bid under former President Alberto Fernández had Beijing’s backing, Milei has openly criticized the Chinese government, describing them as “assassins” and stating he would not work with “communists.”

Why is it important for Ukraine?

Argentina’s refusal to join BRICS is strategically valuable for Ukraine and weakens Ukraine’s adversaries, Zaborona media explains.

The expansion of BRICS by inviting countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates would only increase the influence of the anti-Western coalition in the world. It could also lure neutral countries to the side of Russia’s allies. For example, Iran’s possible accession, given its missile supplies to Russia and attacks on US bases, would significantly boost the bloc’s hostility towards the West. Without Argentina, this expansion is less likely to succeed, maintaining pressure on Russia.

In addition, without Argentina’s membership, BRICS would lose economic and political influence. Argentina has had close ties with BRICS member China for years. Moreover, media reported, that 40% of Argentinian exports went to BRICS countries, with Brazil and China being the leading consumers. Such a step could weaken the BRICS countries’ position and prevent the anti-Western coalition from spreading its influence to another 45 million people.

This refusal also helps prevent Russia and China from circumventing sanctions through the bloc. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has used the bloc’s connections to evade sanctions, Zaborona reports.

Earlier, Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, demonstrated support for Ukraine, waving a Ukrainian flag and meeting with Ukraine’s ambassador. His election also shifted Argentina’s foreign policy to align more closely with Western countries backing Ukraine.

On 10 December, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his first trip to Latin America to meet regional leaders as the country sought support from the world amid Russia’s war, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty informed.

Zelenskyy also met with the President of Argentina, claiming Ukraine would continue bilateral cooperation with Argentina.

“The support and strong united voice of Latin American countries that stand with the people of Ukraine in our fight for freedom and democracy is very important for us,” Zelenskyy said after meeting with the leaders of Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay in Buenos Aires.

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