Military training between Algeria and Russia International | DW

Since November 16, Russia and Algeria have started joint military maneuvers called “Desert Shield-2022”. They are about 80 members of the Russian special forces and a hundred Algerian soldiers to take part in these exercises in the city of Bechar in southwestern Algeria, more precisely at the Hammaguir base, about fifty kilometers from the border. Morocco. Troops in the field specifically simulate the detection and destruction of terrorist groups during these exercises.

Before these operations on Algerian soil, the soldiers of the two countries had already participated in joint military maneuvers. In October, Russian warships approached Algerian waters for a joint naval exercise.

Before that, in September, Algeria, the only representative of Africa, took part in Russia’s “Vostok” military exercise held in the east of the country with the soldiers of China and Belarus.

And it is no coincidence that these military operations are taking place between Algeria and Russia. Algeria is indeed one of Moscow’s most important military allies in Africa. It is the largest customer of Russian arms on the continent, followed by Egypt, Sudan and Angola, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The Algerian armed forces are almost entirely equipped with Russian-made weapons and military systems. According to the latest agreement concluded in 2021, Algeria is expected to buy $7 billion worth of defense equipment from Russia.

Algerian soldiers taking part in military maneuvers in Vostok in August 2022

Russia is Africa’s main arms supplier

Most of the military equipment in Africa is provided by Russia. Not only does Moscow have strong historical ties, arming African nations during their liberation struggles in the 1950s and 1960s, Russian arms deals also come with fewer political demands.

For example, when the United States pulled out of a 2014 deal to supply Nigeria with attack helicopters citing human rights concerns, the country turned to Russia, as did Egypt, which cut off arms supplies after the 2013 coup.

According to defense analyst Moses B’s article on the impact of the war in Ukraine on African armaments, Russia’s current exports to Africa include major weapons such as tanks, warships, fighter jets and helicopters, and small arms such as pistols and assault rifles. Khanyile, director of the Center for Military Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.


According to experts, the dependence of Algeria and other African countries on Russian weapons now puts their defense systems at risk.

Russia’s defense industry is struggling to replenish the country’s own arms stockpile, already depleted by the war in Ukraine. In addition, access to components used in the country’s weapons systems is restricted by sanctions.

This means they will not be able to fulfill existing orders, Moses Khanyile told DW.

Then there are maintenance and repair issues. “You have a bunch of African countries like Algeria that depend solely or mostly on Russia for their military equipment,” explains Moses Khanyile. According to him, “they need to be serviced, repaired or replaced if something goes wrong; they need spare parts.”

Russian tank

Russia is a supplier of weapons to a number of African countries

But export controls limit the coins’ availability: Russia’s suspension from global financial systems also makes it “very difficult” for African clients to buy and pay for such services from Moscow.

The American magazine “Foreign Policy” came to a similar conclusion, analyzing Russia’s arms exports after the war in Ukraine, saying it expects “a significant slowdown in arms supplies from the Kremlin to Africa” ​​and that sanctions are “already eroding.” Kremlin’s ability to restore complex parts.

There is also the threat of US sanctions against countries that buy Russian weapons. For example, Senator Marco Rubio in September called for sanctions against Algeria under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act because the “flow of money” from its arms deal would “further fuel the machine.” Russian war in Ukraine.

Secret fighters for hire

The second pillar of Russia’s defense diplomacy is providing private military contractors to countries that are often among Africa’s most fragile states. For example, mercenaries of the private Russian military company “Wagner Group”, financed by an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, first appeared in Libya in 2015, then in Sudan in 2016 and in the Central African Republic in 2018.

In the CAR, mercenaries first acted as trainers, then expanded their influence into politics, intelligence and resources. In exchange for supporting the regime of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, Russian mining companies received concessions on gold and diamond mining, as well as forestry rights.

According to the US Center for Strategic and International Studies, Wagner has also worked in Chad, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Madagascar.

About 1,000 Wagner mercenaries have recently operated alongside national forces in Mali, reportedly costing more than $10 million a month.

Wagner fighters at their headquarters in St. Petersburg

Wagner’s mercenaries are currently present in several African countries

Profitable business

Given the lucrative nature of these deals, Ovigwe Eguegu, a policy analyst at international consultancy Development Reimagined, said private military contractors with a vested interest in these African countries will not be leaving the deal anytime soon.

Ovigwe Eguegu, who published an article examining Russia’s private military diplomacy in Africa, says the threat to African countries is the “high diplomatic cost” of partnering with Russia since the war with Ukraine began in February.

“If an African country chooses Russia as its security partner, it is no longer considered a suitable partner by Western countries.

Regardless of the war in Ukraine, Ovigwe Eguegu believes that Russia will continue to provide security for certain regimes on the African continent, as it serves the Kremlin’s strategic interests. Despite the military challenges at home, security will not bring long-term benefits.”

According to the analyst, “Russia does not provide a comprehensive solution to Africa’s security problems.” “What he has done is ensure that the troops have access to weapons and training (..). There is little or no effort to reform the security sector or to build peace,” he said.

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