Algeria President Tebboune ignores US outcry with Russia visit

Algeria President Tebboune ignores US outcry with Russia visit
Algeria is the third importer of Russian weapons, while Moscow is considered the first financier of the Algerian army with weapons and military systems by more than 50%.
3 min read
15 June, 2023
Russia and Algeria have had strong ties for decades [Getty]

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for a three-day state visit, vowing to strengthen "friendship and cooperation" with its ally amid tight US and European sanctions on Russia.

Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev and a guard of honour welcomed Tebboune at Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow. The Algerian president will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday. 

Putin's invitation was conveyed to Tebboune by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Algiers in May 2022 with the aim of developing bilateral military, economic and humanitarian ties.

Tebboune attended an economic forum at St. Petersburg on Wednesday and met Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow.

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A source close to the Algerian presidency told The New Arab's Arabic-language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that military cooperation is off the agenda for this trip. Instead, the two leaders will focus on discussing stronger economic and technological cooperation.

Algeria has been strongly criticised by Europe and the US for maintaining close relations with Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Some Algerian media believe the country could pay a heavy price for Tebboune's "uncalculated" symbolic trip to Moscow.

"The timing is not at all appropriate, as this visit by the president could be understood as a bias in favour of Russia in its conflict with Ukraine, whereas officially, it has a position of neutrality," the Maghreb Emergent website wrote on Monday, raising concerns about a potential backlash from Western countries. 

Tebboune responded to the issue during his last appearance on state television last month.

"Russia is a friendly country which helped our revolution and with which we have historic political, diplomatic and economic relations, but we also have good relations with the United States and the countries of the European Union," he said.

On Wednesday, Tebboune inaugurated a memorial to the renowned national resistant and founder of the modern Algerian state, Emir Abdelkader, at a Moscow square.

Sofia Boulmani, a political science researcher in a statement to The New Arab, that gas-rich Algeria has been put in a complicated position since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.

"Located at the gates of a Europe in an energy crisis, while also being a key importer and military cooperator of Russia, is why this state is now at the centre of geopolitical conflicts and energy interests," Boulmani said.

International reports indicate that Algeria is the third biggest importer of Russian weapons in the world with around half of Algerian military hardware coming from Moscow.

At the same time, European leaders are increasingly seen in the capital Algiers in a bid to make up for lost Russian energy imports, cut since the invasion.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukrainian war, Algeria has avoided voting on anti-Russia UN resolutions while welcoming senior officials from Washington, Moscow and European countries in an effort to confirm its neutrality.

For political researcher Boulmani, the challenges for Algiers are tremendous but the gas-rich country is also in a strong position to negotiate better partnerships with both sides.

"There are pressures coming from American and European lobbies and deputies who demand sanctions against Algeria because of the import of Russian weapons and military cooperation with Moscow," said Boulmani.

"But Washington and the EU leaders are adopting a more friendly approach with Algeria, because it is a key oil and gas producer in the world."