During his first official visit to South America, U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis described Argentina as a “partner and a friend.” Mattis and Argentine Minister of Defense Oscar Aguad held a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Buenos Aires, August 15, 2018.
“We want closer military collaboration with Argentina,” Mattis told the press. “Trusted and transparent military relations between democracies in our hemisphere are a positive factor in terms of stability and safety of our people.” Mattis is the first U.S. secretary of defense to come to Buenos Aires since Donald Rumsfeld in 2005. He arrived in the city after visiting Brasília and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as part of a regional tour that includes Chile and Colombia.
The head of the Pentagon said that the United States appreciates Argentina’s “growing role on the global stage, illustrated by your hosting the G20 Summit.” The event to be held November 30-December 1, 2018, in Buenos Aires, will gather the heads of state from major economies of the world. “As Vice President [Mike] Pence said in his visit last year, Argentina’s global leadership is good for our hemisphere,” Mattis said.
The visit, for Minister Aguad, favored talks about common interests and strengthened both countries’ strategic relationship. “The closeness of our nations is reflected in the U.S. collaboration during the ARA San Juan’s tragedy,” Minister Aguad said about the Argentine Navy’s submarine and its crew of 44 that went missing on November 15, 2017. “This country contributed the most to searches. We want to thank you once more for a gesture that will never be forgotten.”
Weapons of mass destruction
Mattis said the United States. and Argentina are working together in a wide range of measures, including humanitarian assistance, natural disaster relief, and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He highlighted the importance of the State Partnership Program (SPP), implemented in 2016 between the Argentine Ministry of Defense and the Georgia Army National Guard.
For Aguad, opportunities to improve U.S. and Argentina’s collaboration abound. “Although Argentina pulled away from its loyal partners and friends for many years, we are back on the track we should never have left,” he said. “Much was achieved in the bilateral relationship, yet much more can be done. As our President [Mauricio] Macri said during his visit to the White House, we are committed to a smart, mutually beneficial relationship. We have a lot to build. We will work today for the present and the future of our relations.”
The official program for the visit was not released. However, according to local media, Mattis and Aguad addressed cybersecurity, military sales, and cooperation in peacekeeping missions. The restructuring of the Argentine Armed Forces, which President Macri announced in July, was another topic of discussion. Service members’ new role will include logistics support for security forces in the fight against narcotrafficking, among other duties.
“I have come to Buenos Aires to listen, to learn. And I look forward to finding new ways to deepen our mutually beneficial defense relationship. Together we can help forge a brighter future for the next generation of Argentines and North Americans,” Mattis told the press.
According to Mattis, the meeting with Aguad perpetuates the bilateral relationship that started 200 years ago. He recalled Argentine air support to the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The U.S., he added, “won’t forget” that Argentina also sent naval ships to Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991.
“Today, the U.S. and Argentina are bound by ties of history and of our shared love of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, to guarantee personal liberty of our citizens,” he said. At the end of the conference, Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, thanked Argentines for their warm welcome. “Since arriving in Buenos Aires last evening, I have enjoyed the same warm, gracious hospitality that our vice president enjoyed in this city, hospitality that the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges called ‘as eternal as water and air.’”