Algeria and Russia continue to strengthen their military cooperation ahead of an upcoming visit by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to Russia in May. Algiers, which has wanted to hide its military links from the United States and the West to avoid sanctions in recent months, now fully assumes its privileged military relations with Moscow.
In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Algeria chose to keep a low profile for some time to avoid showing its military alliance with Russia for fear of appearing on the list of countries financially supporting the Russian war machine.
The alignment of Algiers with Moscow in this war was demonstrated during the vote of the UN resolutions condemning certain Russian actions in Ukraine, voted in majority by the West, and in which Algeria chose not to participate or to s abstain.
Algiers, the third largest importer of Russian arms in the world, has made Moscow its first supplier for the Algerian army in weapons and military systems. And the Algerian dinars will bail out even more the coffers of Moscow this year since for 2023, the military budget of Algeria has doubled to reach astronomical sums, 23 billion euros.
On February 27, the two countries publicly announced the strengthening of their military cooperation, during a visit to Algiers by Russian Security Council Secretary Nicholai Patrushev, despite threats of Western, particularly American, reprisals.
However, a few weeks back, there was panic among the Algerian leaders who feared to suffer the consequences of their alignment with Russia in the Ukrainian conflict. This situation precipitated a strengthening of ties with the “classic enemy” of Algeria, France, at the media and military level with the visit of the Chief of Staff of the Algerian army Saïd Chengriha in Paris.
The Russian official arrived in Algeria on February 27 accompanied by a large delegation to discuss with Mr. Chengriha “the state of military cooperation between the armies of the two countries and the means of strengthening it”, according to a statement. .
This visit “represents, for us, the expression of the firm and frank will that drives the two countries to further strengthen the strategic and historical partnership that characterizes their bilateral relations, particularly in the field of military cooperation”, said Saïd Chengriha. .
To avoid incurring the wrath of the West, Algeria tried to create a diversion by wanting to show its credentials on the subject of Ukraine. At the same time, Algiers announced the reopening of its embassy in Kiev, closed for “the safeguard of the interests of the Algerian State in this country as well as those of the national community” and this “as soon as possible”, except that the he embassy does not have an ambassador but a charge d’affaires.
In a television interview, the Algerian president announced the news 2 days ago, before the publication of the press release announcing the reopening of the Algerian embassy. “We have ordinary relations with Ukraine, and our relations with Russia, everyone knows them,” he said.
Asked about his planned visit to Moscow in May, and whether he will carry an agreement between Ukraine and Russia in his suitcases, Abdelmadjid Tebboune said: “Even if there is some truth I will not tell you, because Algerian diplomacy has always been underground. We talk about things when they appear, when they mature we don’t talk about them.
While his visit to Russia should be accompanied by the signing of new arms contracts, it is not excluded that the Algerian president seeks to show that he spares the goat and the cabbage especially that the bellicose intentions of Algeria in the North African region, are no longer to be hidden.
And the joint military exercises between Russia and Algeria which have multiplied in recent months demonstrate Moscow’s desire to expand its influence in a region dominated by the United States.
Last November, around 200 Algerian and Russian soldiers carried out the “Desert Shield 2022” exercise, organized in the Béchar region, on the borders with Morocco. Russia at the time claimed that these exercises were not targeting anyone.
Yet in a context of escalation sought by Algiers in its relations with Morocco, and the choice of the location of these military exercises is questionable, especially since it was the first time that Algeria hosted such maneuvers focused on the search, detection and destruction of terrorist groups.
Before that, in October 2021, other joint maneuvers took place in North Ossetia, as well as a four-day joint exercise, in the Mediterranean between the naval forces of two countries, and the Vostok 2022 maneuvers, in the east of Russia in which Algeria took part.
A sign of Algerian intentions, joint exercises planned between Moscow and Algiers have been announced as canceled by the Algerian authorities. Information from the investigative media Algérie Part revealed that it took place at the end of January 2023 in a locality in the wilaya of Béchar, once again on the borders with Morocco.
“A hundred Russian soldiers had landed at the end of January 2023 in a locality in the wilaya of Béchar in Algeria. These Russian soldiers secretly performed joint military exercises with Algerian army forces. These exercises lasted until the beginning of this month of February”, revealed Algérie Part.
“A very strict device has been deployed in Béchar to lock all access to the area concerned by these discreet military exercises. In addition, the Algerian authorities have imposed an information blockade surrounding the ins and outs of this military operation,” the media wrote, stressing that no data could leak to the press.