Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has revealed during an interview with Russia Today that his country and Algeria held military manoeuvres in Béchar last November. "In September 2022, the Vostok 2022 military exercises took place in Russia with the participation of Algerian military personnel. In November 2022, Russian units took part in command and staff exercises in Béchar province, Algeria," Lavrov said, speaking about bilateral relations between the two nations.
Lavrov's statements contradict the Algerian Defence Ministry's statement of 28 November 2022 released by state media in which the Algerian authorities assured that such military exercises would not take place.
The government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune lied. "This deceptive act is further irrefutable proof of the hypocrisy and fickleness of Algeria, a country that cannot be trusted," say North African experts.
In addition to confirming last November's manoeuvres - dubbed 'Desert Shield' - Lavrov has also announced that the two countries will hold military exercises from 16-28 November 2023, also in Béchar, near the Algerian-Moroccan border.
Despite the war in Ukraine, Algeria remains Russia's main partner in the region. However, Western powers have pressured Algiers to distance itself from Moscow, and the US has even called for sanctions against Tebboune's government on the basis of CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
This, according to analysts, is why Algiers has been lying and trying to confuse international public opinion.
"Algiers, adopting an opportunistic stance, did not want to damage its relations with the West, its main energy customer, by falsely anticipating the cancellation of the Algerian-Russian manoeuvres", they explain. With Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Algeria has emerged as a potential energy partner for European countries seeking to reduce their dependence on Russian gas. However, it is very likely that, like Moscow, Algeria will use gas as a political weapon.
Experts consider that this situation confirms, once again, "the dilemma Algeria is facing". Tebboune is trying to strengthen relations with the West in sectors such as energy while keeping its strategic and historical relations with Russia intact.
However, within this complicated balance, Algeria's balance continues to tilt more towards Moscow. "Despite warnings to Algiers, Algeria's policymakers remain determined to serve Russia's interests by offering it strategic access to the western Mediterranean," warn analysts.
Lavrov's interview took place a few days after the visit to Paris of the Algerian army chief of staff, General Said Chengriha. His statements can therefore be interpreted as a message to the West about the unchanging nature of Russian-Algerian ties and the relevant cooperation between the two countries.
After Chengriha, President Tebboune is scheduled to visit France in May, when he will also visit Moscow. "Algeria will falsely present itself as a non-aligned country and place itself equidistant between the belligerent powers", analysts predict.