Algeria cancels upcoming military exercise with Russia due to threat of Western sanctions
The Algerian-Russian Desert Shield 2022 military exercise was cancelled last month, announced Algiers' Ministry of Defence Monday night.
In a statement to the state's television, the ministry denied that any military exercises with Russia had taken place in the region of Bechar, in the southwest of the country, near the Moroccan borders.
Both Moscow and Algiers have confirmed previously the exercises' schedule.
The abrupt announcement came as a surprise when the alleged exercises were supposed to have occurred from November 16 to 28. Russia has yet to address the alleged cancellation.
The two armies were scheduled to launch a two-week military manoeuvre in November, focusing on counter-terrorism operations.
Algiers, which abstained from voting against Putin's offence on Kyiv in The UN, has reportedly carried out its military partnership with Moscow despite the worldwide boycott of Moscow and sanctions against its allies.
The North African state is one of Russia's most important military allies on the African continent and also one of the largest customers of Russian weapons in the region.
In October, Russian warships docked in the port of Algiers for a joint exercise with Algerian naval forces in the Mediterranean. In September, Algerian soldiers took part in the "Vostok 2022" manoeuvres in the Russian Eastern Military District.
Desert Shield would have been Russia's first military exercise on Algerian soil. The ministry did not articulate further the reasons for the cancellation.
Commentators debate whether the cancellation might be due to Western pressure on the North African state to halt the military cooperation with Russia's Putin amid its offence on Ukraine.
Once announced, Desert Shield has prompted several condemnations, namely from Members of the European Parliament (MEP), who addressed the Commission to review the EU-Algeria Association Agreement.
A group of 17 MEPs called on European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to re-open the European Union's association agreement with Algiers in a letter which expresses ‘deep concern’ at Algeria's close political and economic ties to Russia.
In September, twenty-seven Democrat and Republican lawmakers called on the Biden administration to use the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to sanction Algeria's purchase of Russian arms.
CAATSA allows the US government to impose sanctions on those who are engaged in "a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defence or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation."
Despite the cancellation of the military manoeuvre, Algerian-Russian military partnership is far from over. Instead, it is expected to expand and strengthen next year with a 127% increase in Algiers' defence budget in 2023.
Algeria is considering signing a new 10-year-long arms deal with Russia worth US$17 billion for the purchase of submarines, Su-57 stealth fighters, other warplanes, and advanced air-defence systems including the S-400, according to Russian state channel RT reported.
The 10-year contract may be finalised during a visit to Moscow in December by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, according to Bloomberg.