Russian-Algerian ties in limbo on Sahel divergences
The worsening ties between Algiers and Bamako unveiled a silently brewing crisis between Algeria and its main arms supplier Russia, which seeks to undermine the west in Africa using a panoply of soft and hard power measures.
Algeria has for long claimed to be Russia’s “best friend” in Africa with President Tebboune calling Putin a “friend of all humanity” in an awkward comment during his visit to Moscow last year.
Tebboune grabbed the visit as an occasion to campaign for his country’s bid to join BRICS, a promise he gave to his people on multiple occasions, much to his disappointment later when Ethiopia and Egypt joined but not Algeria.
The BRICS debacle showed that Russia views Algeria as a client rather than an ally, in view of the diverging foreign policy choices notably in the Sahel.
Russia was also aware of Algeria’s diplomatic ambiguities and double speak which proved true in the Sahel, where Moscow set the goal of pulling the rug from under France’s and the West’s feet.
Russia through the Wagner group managed to empower the Malian military which later would emerge as a kingmaker in the country kicking out France and the UN.
The Malian army backed by Wagner launched in the second half last year an offensive on Tuareg rebels taking their key strongholds and leading to the fall of the West-backed Algiers agreement.
In the wake of the Malian army’s inroad, Algeria found itself unwanted in the Sahel. Algiers indirectly accused Wagner in a condescending statement that reflects a worsening regional isolation.
A country whose president Tebboune has vowed in front of Putin to undermine the dollar-dominated international trade, has also been discredited in the eyes of the West who look at Algeria as an ideological anachronistic regime and a threat for regional security.
Losing both Russia and the West, Algerian diplomacy is in disarray as Moscow, which supplies Algeria with the bulk of its weapon needs, has most leverage.