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Kaan Devecioglu

July 27th, 2023

Algeria wants deeper relations with Russia

1 comment | 15 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Kaan Devecioglu

July 27th, 2023

Algeria wants deeper relations with Russia

1 comment | 15 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Despite Western condemnation of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Algeria has sought to deepen ties with Moscow. This move is based on strong-man politics and strategic decisions of realpolitik, writes Kaan Devecioglu.

Algeria is deepening its relations with Russia, especially in the military sphere. The intensification of Western influence in Morocco in recent years makes Algeria strategically important to Moscow’s Maghreb and Africa policy. According to the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, Algeria allocates more than 5 per cent of its GDP to military expenditure and Russia is in the top three exporters of security equipment to the country. Russia is an important security partner for Algeria, and Algeria is an important regional partner for Russia.

Dynamics of a bilateral relationship

In recent years, Algeria has attached great importance to joint production and diversity of supply when importing security equipment. The country buys significant amounts from Russia, China, Turkey, France, and India. But its relationship with Russia has developed beyond the purchase of weapons. A source close to the Algerian Presidential Office told the press that military cooperation was not even on the agenda when Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited Moscow on 14 June 2023. Instead, the two leaders were said to focus on discussing stronger economic and technological cooperation.

That technological cooperation is likely to have focused on energy production. Algeria currently operates two nuclear research reactors and has plans to build more. Cultural ties were also on the agenda. During Tebboune’s visit to Russia, Putin pointed out that Russia inaugurated a square named after the Algerian national hero Emir Abdelkader in Moscow. Not only is this a sign of Russia getting friendly with Algeria, but it’s also a message to France: Abdelkader fought against France’s colonial invasion of Algeria in the 18th century.

BRICS Agenda

One of the highlights of Tebboune’s visit to Russia was Algeria’s request to join the BRICS economic grouping of emerging economies. Algeria’s BRICS membership has the potential to offer significant opportunities for its economy and is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Tebboune administration.

BRICS membership could offer new trade and economic alternatives for Algeria, which has weak regional integration. It’s neighbour, Morocco, has developed strong political and economic ties with the US, France, and the Gulf countries. Possible BRICS membership for Algeria would offer the country significant regional leadership and economic opportunities.

Both Russia and China, two of the leading BRICS countries, have publicly expressed their support for Algeria’s membership and Brazil and South Africa are also thought to be supportive of the move.

Libya and the Sahel agenda

One of the main topics of discussion during Tebboune’s visit to Russia was the regional crisis on Algeria’s doorstep. There is an ongoing political crisis in Libya and the mobilisation of non-state actors and terrorist groups in the Sahel region.

Tebboune emphasised his support for the strong relations between Mali and Russia. Russia has considerable influence in both Mali and Libya, due to the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries.

Algeria is likely to support Russia at the United Nations in votes about the future of Libya. One of Russia’s most important aims is to continue to be a dominant actor in Europe’s gas demand. Both Russia and Algeria, as significant natural gas-producing nations, may seek to influence oil and natural gas production in Libya. Their primary objective is to prevent Libya from becoming an alternative energy source for Europe, which currently relies heavily on energy supplies from Russia. Algeria has previously supported Libya’s Western-backed government and adopted a pro-stability stance due to the potential terrorism and security issues along its borders. It may now incline towards closer alignment with Russia regarding energy policies in the foreseeable future.

The recent developments surrounding the Wagner Group, following the brief rebellion by its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, may draw Russia further into the region. The potential transformation of the group into an officially recognised entity of the Russian state or its dissolution and replacement with regular troops could formalise Russia’s involvement in the region. The Wagner Group has been active in Libya and at one point had 2,000 fighters around Tripoli.

Defining the relationship

For Algeria, the visit to Russia was based on a pragmatic and entrepreneurial new foreign policy approach. Through engagement, Algeria is consolidating its regional power in the Arab and African world against the Moroccan-Western alliance. It wants to build on its existing security-centred relationship with Russia to support it economically and diplomatically in this goal.  Russia’s erecting of a statue of Emir Abdelkader and Algeria allowing Russia Today to broadcast within its borders are indications of both side’s desires to deepen their relationship.

For Russia, Algeria is strategically important in the rivalry between the West and the East in international politics and the Maghreb region. With Morocco establishing close relations with Western actors, it makes sense for Algeria to get closer to Russia and China, but it runs the risk of increasing regional tensions.


Photo credit: Wikicommons used with permission CC BY 4.0

About the author

Kaan Devecioglu

Kaan Devecioglu

Kaan Devecioglu is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Medeniyet University in Turkey. He is a senior fellow in the North African Studies Department of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM). His research interest lies in the politics and international politics of the wider Red Sea Region, North Africa, Sudan, and Turkish foreign policy.

Posted In: International Affairs | Security

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