RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Argentine president Alberto Fernández announced the construction of an Antarctica Logistics Pole in Ushuaia, which will demand an investment of some US$300 million. It has long been an aspiration of the Argentine armed forces to mark a strong presence in the extreme south of the continent and Antarctica.
However, it is anticipated the logistics pole could cause a potential conflict with the United States, which believes China could be behind the necessary funding for a resources-short Argentina, in an area considered strategic in global affairs.
Fernández also anticipated the Military Defense Policy Directives, which establish basic strategic lines in the field, emphasizing the control and patrolling of maritime spaces.
“We will advance in the construction of the Antarctic Logistics Pole in Ushuaia, in such a way that we can take advantage of its strategic geographic location to supply Argentine Antarctic bases quickly and efficiently”, pointed out the Argentine president, standing next to his defense minister Agustín Rossi.
The ambitious investment will force planning in several stages, which means moving the Ushuaia Naval Base to new grounds in the city’s peninsula, where the old airport was located. A wharf will have to be built, housing for naval staff and a sewage treatment plant, among other improvements.
According to plans, resources to finance the works will come from the Public Works Ministry and the National Fund for Defense (FONDEF), specially created to support military re-equipment, such as refurbishing frigates and purchasing of frigates OPVs from France.
However, La Nacion newspaper, which broke the news, added that the Logistics Pole and its financing had caused concern in the United States. Both China and Russia have shown interest in participating in such a strategic undertaking.
Last April, when US Admiral Greg Faller, head of the Southern Command, was in Argentina, he requested to visit Ushuaia to learn where the Logistics Pole was planned. He allegedly privately not only expressed concern about the funding but also who will ultimately operate it.
Tierra del Fuego governor Gustavo Melella did not receive Admiral Feller but rather the mayor of Ushuaia, Walter Vuoto, and in the representation of the Defense Minister, the head of Strategy and Military Affairs attended, Sergio Rossi, cousin of minister Agustin Rossi.
According to Argentine lawmakers, the country assigns a huge geopolitical significance to the project since it means Argentina would have a supply base at the doorstep of Antarctica, particularly when Chile is involved in developing something similar for the port of Punta Arenas.
“Argentina is far behind in all this, we need an active policy, Chile plays in another league, they have for years managed Antarctic tourism and logistics from Punta Arenas, and most efficiently”, admitted a former Argentine lawmaker and expert in strategy issues, Carlos Gastón Roma, quoted by La Nación.
“The Chilean experience is a model to follow”, admits Roma, who adds the importance of having a Logistics Pole. “China already has four bases in Antarctica and is building a fifth, which has the Americans nervous and particularly suspicious”.