by Kevin Chong
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Algeria is facing backlash, causing Western countries to reevaluate their partnerships with the North African country following the recent joint military exercises between Algeria and Russia in the Hammaguir region of Bechar from 16 to 28 November 2022. 

Conducting such military activities at the doorstep of Southern Europe at a time of proxy war between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is deemed a message to the West, demonstrating Russia’s ability to deploy its forces close to the Western Mediterranean. 

It was reported that shortly before these exercises commenced, the Director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Dmitrii Chougaev, traveled to Algeria where he met with the chief of the General Staff of the Algerian National People’s Army, Saïd Chengriha. 

This consolidated visit between the two armies took place against the backdrop of the 120 percent increase in Algeria’s defense budget, from $10 billion to $23 billion by 2023, which would be beneficial to Russia’s arms sales should Algeria become a military partner and finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the purchase of firearms.

The military cooperation between Algeria and Russia is not a recent engagement. In November 2021,  the two countries conducted joint military exercises in North Ossetia, in which an Algerian contingent participated. Additionally, in September 2022, a unit comprising 100 armed soldiers from the Algerian army took part in the Vostok 2022 exercises in the Russian Far East, arousing further questions about the North African country’s true intentions of facilitating Russia’s military presence in the African continent. 

To top it off, Naval military exercises between the Algerian and Russian armed forces have been conducted regularly over the past two years. As of this point, it appears that Algeria is benefiting from its energy contracts with the West while at the same time enhancing its military strength through Moscow. This, of course, causes a discrepancy in the official Algerian discourse that has been advocating non-alignment and neutrality. 

Experts are looking into the possibility of Moscow utilizing Algeria as its extended front in a military confrontation with the West, rendering the Algerian-Moroccan border a demarcation line between the zone of Western influence and that of the former socialist clan. 

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