perceived ally

In the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Algiers wants to have it both ways

By Damien Glez

Posted on March 15, 2023 08:53

 © @Damien Glez
@Damien Glez

Perceived as a privileged ally of Moscow, Algeria has announced the reopening of its embassy in Kyiv “as soon as possible”.

In order to be courted by one camp without being condemned by another, various African countries, each in their own way, have cultivated their non-alignment in the Ukrainian crisis – choosing, for example, to abstain from certain votes at the United Nations or by using the empty chair policy. When these countries of the South decide not to condemn Russia head-on, they also have to throw the Western camp a pledge or two, like the South African finance minister who affirmed, on the sidelines of the recent G20 finance summit in Bangalore, that friendship “with Russia does not mean” that Pretoria is “for war”.

Clearly aware that declarations of affection must be accompanied by concrete proof of love, the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in late February that his country had decided to reopen the Algerian embassy in Kyiv, after a one-year closure “due to the deterioration of security conditions in this country”.

The text was confirmed by a statement by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune soon after during a televised meeting with the local press.

Pledge of non-belligerence

Led by a chargé d’affaires, the embassy in Ukraine will once again become operational, for “the safeguarding of the interests of the Algerian state in this country as well as those of the national community” and this “as soon as possible”.

To the cynics who might point to Algeria’s diplomatic proximity to Russia, the press release specifies that Algiers’ relations with Ukraine are “ordinary”. And the head of state short-circuited a debate on Algerian-Russian relations by describing them as “known to all”.

Algiers has never hidden the volume of its trade with Moscow  – $3bn in 2021 –, the quality of their cooperation within the framework of OPEC+ (an organisation of 23 oil-producing countries), the monitoring of relations within the framework of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and the nature of their military collaboration.

But authorities have reportedly tried to play down media coverage of recent military exercises, notably the joint “Desert Shield” manoeuvres in southwest Algeria.

According to several international sources, Algiers is the third largest importer of Russian arms in the world. Moscow is said to be the top supplier of the Algerian army in weapons and military systems.

One year after the onset of aggressions by Vladimir Putin’s Russia in Ukraine, an embassy in Kyiv, without an ambassador, is a pledge of non-belligerence that doesn’t cost much.

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