Putin, Kirchner seek 'multipolarity' in Argentina visit

AFP
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin before a meeting at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires on July 12, 2014
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Buenos Aires (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Argentine counterpart Cristina Kirchner called for a multipolar world order as Moscow sought to boost ties with Latin America amid heightened East-West tensions.

Putin is on a six-day tour seeking to increase Moscow's influence in the region at a time when the Ukraine crisis has eroded Russia's relations with the United States and Europe to their lowest point since the Cold War.

His itinerary includes meetings with a string of leftist leaders critical of the United States and a summit of the BRICS group of emerging countries -- an agenda that neatly aligns with his push for a multipolar world less dominated by the West.

Kirchner is meanwhile waging her own fight against Washington, battling a US court ruling that Argentina must pay more than $1.3 billion by the end of the month to hedge funds refusing to accept the restructuring of the country's defaulted debt.

Putin said Russia shared "a very similar, very close view of international relations" with Argentina.

He also voiced his support for Argentina's long-standing territorial claim to the Falkland Islands, the British territory it calls the Malvinas, which sparked a 1982 war between the two countries.

"We favor the principles of a multi-polar world, which are equality, indivisibility and security. Russia continues to support the need to find a solution to the dispute over the Malvinas Islands at direct negotiations between Great Britain and Argentina," he said at a dinner in his honor.

The Argentine leader for her part insisted that global institutions must be overhauled and made more multilateral.

"We firmly believe in multipolarity, in multilateralism, in a world where countries don't have a double standard," Kirchner said after the pair toured the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.

"We need to globally regulate the flow of capital that has turned the world into a financial casino where many countries are drowning in huge debts."

She called for the next meeting of G20 major economies to set a broader agenda that also targets global economic and financial regulation.

The pair looked on as their delegations signed a series of bilateral deals, including one on nuclear energy that comes as Argentina ramps up work on its fourth nuclear plant, the $3-billion Atucha III reactor.

Kirchner said members of the Russian delegation would also visit the massive Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas field, potentially one of the largest finds in history, which cash-strapped Argentina -- locked out of capital markets since its 2001 default -- needs investment to develop.

The pair also discussed military cooperation, including the prospect of Russia providing transport planes for use in Antarctica.

- Cold War echoes -

Putin's six-day trip will next take him to Brazil, where he will participate in a summit of the BRICS emerging nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Russian strongman has invited Argentina, which is keen to join the group, to attend the meeting as an observer.

He will also watch Argentina play Germany in the World Cup final.

There were distinct Cold War echoes in the former KGB spy's travel itinerary.

He launched his tour Friday in Russia's Cold War ally Cuba, where he met with President Raul Castro and his 87-year-old brother Fidel, father of the island's communist revolution.

He then made a surprise stop in Nicaragua for talks with President Daniel Ortega, a former guerrilla whose government was close to the Soviet Union during the Sandinista regime of the 1980s.

But Putin also had plenty of modern-day business on his agenda.

In Havana, he oversaw the signing of a dozen bilateral deals, including for oil exploration off the island's coast.

In Nicaragua, he vowed to strengthen economic ties with the Central American country, which earlier this month finalized the route for a planned alternative to the Panama Canal, a Chinese-backed plan that promises to reshape the global shipping industry.

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