In the middle of Secretary of State Blinken's African tour, Algeria and Russia have officially confirmed that the Desert Shield 2022 military exercises will take place in Algeria in November. The Russian Ministry of Defence issued a statement on Monday giving details of the military exercises, which were announced shortly after the war in Ukraine began.
At the time, the announcement also coincided with Blinken's visit to Morocco and Algeria. The timing of the announcement suggests an intention on the part of the Algerian and Russian governments to challenge the US and its allies in the region.
This announcement reinforces cooperation between Russia and Algeria, which continues to emerge as Putin's best ally in North Africa. The first round of these exercises took place in October 2021 in the North Ossetia region. These November manoeuvres would be the second step.
Algeria is a particularly opaque actor when it comes to its armed forces, but its military collaboration with Moscow is notorious. The Russian arms industry has always been the main supplier to Algiers, which only occasionally seeks other suppliers, with France regularly fulfilling this role.
According to a Russian Defence Ministry communiqué, the manoeuvres will take place in the province of Bechar, bordering Morocco. More precisely, they are planned to take place on the Hammaguir manoeuvre fields, only 50 km from the border with Morocco. There, the Algerian National People's Army (ENPA) has an airfield and some infrastructure planned for military manoeuvres.
The province of Bechar is the capital of the 3rd military region. Between 2004 and 2016 it was none other than the current Algerian Chief of Defence Staff, Said Chengriha, who was in charge of this sensitive military region bordering regional rival Morocco. During his time in Bechar, Chengriha, who previously headed the 8th armoured division, was in charge of completely restructuring the military region from the perspective of tension and confrontation with neighbouring Morocco.
According to the statement, the manoeuvres will involve approximately 200 members of the armed forces of both countries and will aim to reinforce the interoperability of the units in anti-terrorist matters.
According to the statement, the exercises will involve elements of the famous 'motostrelki' brigades, the mechanised infantry from the Russian Caucasus. The motostrelki is one of the backbones of the Russian armed forces and commonly use BMP vehicles, which Algeria also has integrated into its armed forces. The exercises could work on cooperation between the two countries' forces in the use and tactics of these vehicles, which combine the infantryman on foot with the armoured vehicle.
Algeria was recently reported to have acquired a hundred BMP-3s, the latest model in this saga, as well as having upgraded its BMP-1 and BMP-2 to newer standards, in particular to equip them with Kornet anti-tank missile systems, a direct competitor to the US Javelin.