Putin backs Argentine call for 'multipolarity' on visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Argentine counterpart Cristina Kirchner Saturday, backing her call to curb Western dominance of international relations as they cemented a nuclear energy deal.
The Russian leader is on a six-day Latin American tour seeking to increase Moscow's influence in the region at a time when the Ukraine crisis has eroded East-West relations 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 US and Europe.
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.
The Argentine leader insisted that global institutions must be overhauled and made more multilateral, a call that Putin warmly endorsed.
"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 have a broader agenda that also targets global economic and financial regulation.
Putin refrained from taking digs at the West in his public remarks, but said Russia shared "a very similar, very close view of international relations" with Argentina.
Kirchner "has her own vision of international affairs, she has her own sovereign opinion, which is very important and very rare in today's world, and we highly value that position," he said.
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.
Details of the deal were not released.
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 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 -
Argentina said a dinner was planned with Bolivian President Evo Morales, as well as the leaders of Uruguay and Venezuela, Jose Mujica and Nicolas Maduro, all veteran leftists. But only Uruguay confirmed its head of state would attend.
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.
He will also watch Argentina play Germany in the World Cup final, crossing paths with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, both potentially fraught diplomatic encounters given the raging Ukraine crisis.
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.