Argentina Applies for NATO Partnership

The Western sphere widens.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană meets with Luis Petri, Minister of Defence of Argentina

AP (“Argentina asks to join NATO as President Milei seeks a more prominent role for his nation“):

Argentina formally requested on Thursday to join NATO as a global partner, a status that would clear the way for greater political and security cooperation at a time when the right-wing government of President Javier Milei aims to boost ties with Western powers and attract investment.

The request came as NATO’s Deputy General Secretary Mircea Geoana held talks in Brussels on regional security challenges with visiting Argentine Defense Minister Luis Petri.

Geoana said he welcomed Argentina’s bid to become an accredited partner in the alliance — a valued role short of “ally” for nations that are not in NATO’s geographical area and not required to take part in collective military actions. NATO membership is currently limited to countries of Europe, Turkey, Canada and the United States.

The designation could allow Argentina access to advanced technology, security systems and training not previously available to it, the Argentine presidency said.

“Argentina plays an important role in Latin America,” Geoana said at the NATO headquarters. “Closer political and practical cooperation could benefit us both.”


Milei’s government is also seeking security benefits through warming ties with Western countries. On Thursday, the U.S. government announced it was providing Argentina with $40 million in foreign military financing for the first time in more than two decades — a grant that allows key U.S. allies like Israel to buy American weaponry.

The funds, intended to help Argentina equip and modernize its military, will help foot the bill for 24 American F-16 fighter aircraft Argentina bought from Denmark earlier this week. Defense Minister Petri hailed the acquisition of the advanced warplanes as “the most important military purchase since Argentina’s return to democracy” in 1983. The $300 million price tag has drawn criticism from Milei’s political opponents as he slashes spending across the government.

Formally partnering with NATO requires the consensus of all 32 NATO members. Argentina’s ties to key NATO ally Britain have been fraught since 1982, when the two went to war over the contested Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Other global partners of the Alliance include Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Currently the only NATO partner in Latin America is Colombia.

Conferring the status of “global partner” on a country does not mean NATO allies would come to the country’s defense in the event of an attack. That commitment — laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s founding treaty — is limited to full members of the alliance.

Argentina isn’t exactly a major player in defense circles but increasing the scope of the Western alliance is an unalloyed good. It deepens the working relationship without any security guarantees.

I must confess to not following the ins-and-outs of UK-Argentine relations on a regular basis and have no strong opinion on whether London will object. The larger, but related, issue is the mercurial nature of Argentine politics, which can swing rather wildly from election to election. Milei is a strong departure from his predecessor and swing back in three years is always possible. Then again, it’s unlikely that any Argentine administration would prefer to be aligned with Russia or China than the West.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bill Jempty says:

    Just what we need. Two more members of Nato- Argentina and GB – who could go to war aka The Falklands. We already have the Greeks and Turks at each other’s throats.

  2. Scott says:

    Interesting. Particularly because Argentina has a strong economic China connection. Is this a way to balance things out? To play one side against the other? Or is this a US/West initiative: to pry Argentina out of the clutches of China.

    With soy and lithium trade in the balance, Argentina’s Milei has a China conundrum

    Argentina’s President-elect Javier Milei has a China conundrum.

    The libertarian economist insulted communist-run China in a fiery campaign, but takes office on Sunday needing the country’s second-largest trade partner more than ever as a recession looms and foreign currency reserves run dry.

    Since he won the Nov. 19 election, Milei’s team have taken a more diplomatic tone, reflecting complex ties with China, the top buyer of Argentine soybeans and beef, a key investor in its lithium, and the provider of an $18 billion currency swap – effectively, a form of credit provision that has helped Argentina avoid default.

    China is providing financing for around a dozen ongoing infrastructure projects in Argentina, government data show, which range from railways and solar farms to space stations and fertilizer facilities. It also has a dozen mining investments, especially in electric-vehicle battery metal lithium.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    My question is why Argentina needs F-16s. Brazil? Uruguay? Is Chile coming over the Andes? The only defense-related issue they have is maybe the Falklands. And why are we giving them 40 million? While we’re at it, why isn’t Denmark sending those F-16s to Ukraine?

  4. @Bill Jempty: The Falklands issue is nowhere near the same as the other case you cite.

    On the one hand, it is a big symbolic deal for the Argentines. On the other, it seems all but certain that hostilities will not happen.

  5. al Ameda says:


    Argentina’s President-elect Javier Milei has a China conundrum.

    Evidently Milei, while running Argentina into the ground, isn’t so busy that he can’t come up with creative distractions like this.

    Also, shouldn’t his request be made to the South Atlantic Treaty Organization?

  6. Gustopher says:

    I would prefer allies that know the difference between North and South.

  7. Kathy says:

    All I know about the Argentine military is they were very good at repressing and terrorizing the unarmed population, and crumbled on contact with a competent opponent.

  8. Bill Jempty says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My question is why Argentina needs F-16s. Brazil? Uruguay? Is Chile coming over the Andes? The only defense-related issue they have is maybe the Falklands.


    I already raised the Falklands as an issue but Dr. Taylor is dismissive of that idea. I disagree with him.

  9. Bill Jempty says:


    I would prefer allies that know the difference between North and South.

    Well Argentina is Northern South America if you use Tierra Del Fuego for the reading of a compass.

  10. Kathy says:

    @Bill Jempty:

    It’s unlikely El Loco Milei will want to do something that would tarnish Lady Thatcher’s legacy. The Reconquista de las Islas Malvinas was her big foreign policy success.

  11. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    They have a dispute with Chile over territorial waters. Fishing is big biz down there.

  12. Bill Jempty says:


    They have a dispute with Chile over territorial waters. Fishing is big biz down there.

    I remember a fishing dispute between the UK and the 1970s.

    F16s seem like unlikely weapons for this kind of dispute. It is about as subtle as using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    Milei is a libertarian, aka a mercurial fantasist who lives in his own head and has no connection to the real world. We should make nice with his initiative, but bear in mind in 5 years he will either be long gone, a dictator for life, or Argentina will be an economic basket case.

  14. Kathy says:


    He could possibly hit all three within five years.

  15. Michael Cain says:

    If I were looking for geopolitical problems in South America, I’d be more inclined to look at the NE corner: Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana. All of them have border disputes with one or more of the others, or their larger neighbors. Venezuela is saber-rattling. All of them have small/tiny populations. If the European Space Agency and assorted European governments large enough to send up satellites figure out that it’s faster, easier, and cheaper to launch on SpaceX/ULA/Blue Origin rockets from Florida than use the Ariane 6, French Guiana’s a ghost town.

    French Guiana is officially part of France. I always find it amusing to say, “the land border between the European Union and Brazil.” Simple things and simple minds.

  16. Bill Jempty says:

    @Bill Jempty: There was a fishing dispute between the UK and Iceland in the 1970’s.

    Again I left out a word in what I’m trying to write. Be happy you’re not editing my two upcoming books.

  17. dazedandconfused says:

    @Bill Jempty:

    I can understand it. Air superiority is naval superiority, and the Ukraine war is teaching that ships are vulnerable to more than planes these days.

  18. @MarkedMan:

    Argentina will be an economic basket case.

    Too late to avoid that part–it more or less how he got elected.

  19. @Kathy: Indeed. While I can see Argentines spouting off about the Malvinas, I do not see any additional confrontations of a military nature. It is not like the Cyprus situation at all, say that islands are involved.

  20. Slugger says:

    I have a friend who lives in Argentina and has tolerated several visits from me. He is like me a libby-lib liberal. He thinks that we tend to view Milei through an American lens. He thinks that the important thing is what Milei is not. Milei is not a Kirchner branch of Peronism. Milei’s appeal is that he is not Cristina. Peronism is populist-fascist-corporate capitalism. The rule of the Kirchners has not been fruitful for the country. The country wanted a change. Libertarian ideas are glib, easy to swallow.
    If Argentina joins NATO the division of the world into two camps, NATO vs Russia-China-Iran, will continue.

  21. Lounsbury says:

    It seems strangely pointless to either celebrate or even much care about an Argentine engagement with NATO unless and until it survives at last one Argentine administratio change.

    @Steven L. Taylor: As indeed Argentina from its erratic politics has swung between Left Populist and Right Populism – in effect by inaccurate but evocative analogy between what the ‘Progressive’ Left here would desire and what the MAGA right populists might desire (taking the MAGA interventionism à la Disney as indication that state corporatism falls squarely in their desire if under their thumbs).

    A basket case of recurrent rounds of hyper inflation (100-200% counting very well for hyper) and sovereign defaults. The new President came in on 200+% inflation (peaking at 254% to date) – so already indeed basket case economy.

    @Kathy: you mean the explusion of the Argentine invaders in benefit of the Falklanders.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @al Ameda: @Gustopher: As noted in the quoted article, global partnership is, well, global, and thus not limited to the North Atlantic space:

    Other global partners of the Alliance include Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Currently the only NATO partner in Latin America is Colombia.

    More from the NATO website:

    *The NATO 2030 agenda agreed by NATO Leaders at the NATO Brussels 2021 Summit seeks to strengthen NATO’s global cooperation with like-minded partners, especially with its global partners, to defend the rules-based international order and institutions, to set international norms and standards in space and in cyberspace, and on new technologies and global arms control.
    *Since 2016, NATO has increasingly engaged politically with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand – notably through meetings of the North Atlantic Council, including a first meeting at the level of foreign ministers in December 2020, to discuss the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China.
    *NATO is also intensifying dialogue and cooperation with Colombia.
    *Global partners have access to the full range of activities NATO offers to all partners guided by an Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme. They work with NATO on a range of common cross-cutting security challenges such as cyber defence, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and resilience.
    *Some partners participate in NATO’s military operations, while many have benefited from NATO’s expertise in areas such as building defence capacity, and defence training and education.
    *NATO also consults with other non-member countries, which have no bilateral programme of cooperation (for example, China, Brazil, Ghana, India, Singapore) in particular on regional security dynamics.
    *At the NATO Brussels Summit in June 2021, Allies agreed to strengthen NATO engagement with key global actors and other new interlocutors beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, including those from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    There’s also a footnote answering a rather obvious question: “The partnership with Afghanistan is currently suspended following North Atlantic Council decisions related to the security environment.”