Algeria has earmarked a significant part of its 2023 budget for military matters, 20% of the total, to be precise. This translates into 22 billion dollars out of a total of 90 billion dollars, much of which is expected to go towards the purchase of arms, equipment and missiles. The figure for defence is more than double the amount set aside for this purpose last year, a clear indication of the volatile situation in the North African region, with rival Morocco also making record defence investments.
In this context, Algerian President Abdelmajdid Tebboune has set his sights on Russia and the agreements that can be reached with the country presided over by Vladimir Putin. Arms contracts with Moscow could be worth between 12 and 17 billion dollars. However, it is worth recalling the draft law issued on 28 September that prevents parliamentarians from dealing with defence and foreign affairs issues as they are considered "sensitive".
The bill states that "members of parliament may question the government on matters relating to national import and on the state of implementation of laws, with the exception of matters relating to national defence and state secrets in foreign affairs". And it is not only members of the Algerian parliament who are affected. Tebboune also decided at the last Council of Ministers meeting to "restrict any media permission on issues related to national defence matters", further extending the secrecy surrounding any Algerian government arms deals.
It is no longer just the secrecy surrounding decisions on military matters or foreign relations. The opposition questions the reason for this massive increase in arms investment. Youssef Ajeisa, MP for the Society for Peace Movement, says that "it is the people's money and we have the right to ask why". And it is logical that this question should be asked in the Lower House because if we look at defence spending over the last few years, the growth is very large. In 2015 alone, military spending reached 13 billion dollars, a figure that decreased in the following years.
Now, with the increase in the arms budget and the growing tension with Morocco since the diplomatic rupture more than a year ago, Tebboune sees Russia as an asset that can strengthen his country. The agreements that Algiers wants to sign with Moscow would include obtaining modern defence systems, advanced aircraft and warships, as well as combat units. The Russian-Algerian understanding is nothing new. Already last November, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told Sputnik that they have "a broad cooperation programme and (...) Algeria and Russia are important to each other".
Lamamra is not alone in expressing the closeness between the two countries. The Russian ambassador to Algeria has also indicated that both are looking forward to "important events" and are striving "to strengthen the partnership in terms of energy, mining, industry and scientific research". However, strategic agreements are not the only thing that unites the two countries. On the horizon is Algeria's desire to join the BRICS organisation, of which Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa are already members. These new agreements with the Kremlin are a new step in relations between Algeria and Russia, which are expected to continue to strengthen in the near future.