Between Moscow and Algiers, relations are more complicated than you think

Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Algiers at the end of August shook the Algerian authorities in their renewed relations with Russia. The French security and deployment of the ministerial companion of the French president is intended to ask for help in Algeria to stop the Russian advance in West Africa and its deployment in Mali. Between Paris and Moscow, the heart of Algeria is changing!

Algerian diplomacy, caught between France and Russia, cut the pear in two. During his three-day visit to Algiers a month ago, Emmanuel Macron did not get any significant progress in Algeria’s cautious position on the Ukrainian file. In Africa, on the other hand, President Tebboune stated publicly: “France, the first power in Europe and member of the UN Security Council, and Algeria, one of the first powers in Africa, must act together in many areas for the interests of Africa. This agreement will allow us to go very far. »

An unmistakable sign, a meeting took place with the presence of the two presidents and all the security services concerned and the chief of staff. A first!

This declaration put an end to the rumors about possible aid from Algeria to the private military company Wagner in Mali. Algiers, which no longer watches the activity of this company of mercenaries in Libya, will not remain on their sides.

A tortured love story

There remains a very special and long-standing relationship that the Algerian military maintains with the Russians. However, contrary to a quick cliché, relations between Algiers and Moscow are not and have not always been good. Historically, Algeria approached the Yugoslav non-aligned theses and tried to maintain good relations between the two sides.

The USSR supported the Algerian Revolution later, Krushchev wanted to save General De Gaule and appease him in his third way. It was only around 1960 that there was recognition of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) in Moscow and the beginning of cooperation, especially in the field of military and intelligence. It will provide the first generation of sailors, airmen and senior officers of the People’s National Army and the first promotions in the intelligence services of independent Algeria. A promotion, called “Red Carpet”, will also include the management of “Military Security” that will last until the 2000s.

The clarification of the 1970s-1980s

Very early on, the Algerian army chose the Warsaw Pact model to build a defense system without the risk of supply disruptions like the USA could. Which often use weapons as an instrument of political sanctions against their allies in the Third World.

From the 1970s and especially after the Yom Kippur War, the relationship between Algeria and the USSR experienced a clarification. Three main axes emerged.

-the excellent relationship between the two armies in the field ofhave training and equipment

– Algeria’s systematic refusal to welcome Soviet military base on his land, despite the insistence of Moscow.

continued purchase of weapons of the PNA to the Soviet military-industrial complex continued after the collapse of the USSR.

However, the Algerian intelligence services distanced themselves from their KGB counterparts. The interests of the Military Security (SM) at that time favored the relationship with France and the management of the nationalization of oil.

The interruption of services in Algeria during the 80s in the conflicts in the Middle East and the open conflict between the SM and the Mossad, did not favor the links between the Algerians and the Soviets. The war in Afghanistan somewhat restored cooperation. The Soviets were very interested in infiltrating groups of Arab volunteers who joined Pakistan to fight alongside the Afghan Mujahideen. But after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Algerian services bet on a rapprochement with the DST of France and the CIA after September 11, 2001.

Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation with Vladimir Putin

A renewal of cooperation in 1995

Faced with new challenges after the invasion of Crimea and the establishment of international sanctions against Russia, Putin took the opportunity to leave in 1995 the powerful boss of the former Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) General Mohamed Mediène, alias Toufik, to rebuild relations.

The January 2018 visit to Algeria by Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and coordinator of its intelligence services, was the beginning of a change between the services of the two countries. Cooperation in the field of training, establishment of a common database, exchange of information and integration of methods took place after this visit. Russia is looking for allies in many fields that it has opened, in Africa through Wagner’s work in the Central African Republic, in Sudan, in Libya and then in Mali and to support its presence in Syria.

Patrushev played an important role with other Russian political leaders for reconciliation between the two countries. Note the important role played by Valentina Matvienko, President of the Russian Federal Assembly, who made two visits to Algeria, Alexander Mikheev, king of arms sales to Algeria and great facilitator and defender of his strategic purchase and Dmitri Shugaev, Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, who has the rank of Minister and who played the wise role of mediator between Vladimir Putin and the two successive bosses of the ANP, Ahmed Gaid Salah and Saïd Chengriha. This strengthening of political relations, desired by Moscow, will reach its peak in 2020 with the official invitation and the special program of the late Abdelkader Bensalah, then interim President, in the ceremonies of the 75th anniversary of the victory of Moscow. Bensalah could not go there because of his health condition. Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s visit to Moscow, scheduled for December, should, according to the restrictions of Russian officials, mark this reconciliation process.

The thorny gas issue

In the eyes of the Russians, the gas dossier makes Algeria a competitor, even an enemy. Algeria burst into the gas market in the 1970s and in a visionary way invested in liquefaction and even gas pipelines linking Europe to Africa. This forward-thinking strategy has proven to threaten Russian interests and Moscow’s use of gas as a weapon to pursue its foreign policy. A competition where Algeria seems to want to stand up and go to the confrontation of the possible interests of Russia in this area of ​​Libya. The rapprochement between Algeria and Italy in this area and the Algerian promises to increase the flow of gas in this country with promises to invest in new gas pipelines, all parameters that weaken the Russia in its presentation to the European Union. Algeria is acting as a real lifeline for the EU this winter.

Relations between Algeria and Russia are described as good on both sides despite some serious disagreements: Russia’s presence in Libya; President Tebboune’s choice to support Turkey in electing Abdulhamid Dbeiba as Prime Minister; the presence of the Wagner company throughout Mali.

Another cause of tensions with Russia, Ukraine. Algeria, which has not yet recognized Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, continues to host an embassy in Ukraine and prefers not to play acrobats during votes on UN resolutions. Algiers finds itself facing the difficult choice of responding to calls from France, Italy and the United States, while consolidating its relationship with Russia and joining the alternative world economy around Brics (1).

President Abelmadjid tebboune must decide after his visit to Moscow at the end of the year.


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