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Iberdrola

Opinion

Welcome to the southern flank

Sahel

NATO's coverage of the "southern flank" supports the position of the Kingdom of Morocco, which the West did not see coming either before or after the fall of the Soviet Union, perhaps believing that it had won the Cold War.

Equally neglected by a triumphalist West were Putin's moves after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, which culminated in the current unprecedented political and energy crisis, setting alarm bells ringing in the North and now in the South.

We knew that Putin thwarted that effervescence of Russian society towards a market economy at the beginning of the post-Soviet period. And, of course, the former KGB agent had never accepted the fall of the USSR, nor ceased to evoke the Russian empire, claiming more protagonism and more power in the face of Western disregard.

And in 1992, he inaugurated the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) with Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, his first step towards the reconstruction of his desired alliance, of a political-military nature, with the projection of becoming something similar to the Warsaw Pact.

To this end, in 2014 he embarked on its hunt by annexing territories such as Crimea, as well as stirring up separatists in the former Soviet republics within its geopolitical sphere of influence, such as Transnistria and the recently self-proclaimed Donbas Republics (Donetsk and Lugansk). And his territorial ambitions in the area are also unclear.  Because beyond its borders Putin is using the Wagner group as an outpost to extend his influence. He is present in Syria, Mozambique, Libya and Sudan, among others. His missions are preferably located around oil, gold and diamond fields, as well as providing advice to African military dictators.

Recently, and in collusion with Algeria, the Wagner group has set up operations in Mali, on the "southern flank" where the European forces stationed there are increasingly relegated. The invasion of Ukraine and its geopolitical consequences, as well as the presence of the Wagner group in the Sahel, set off alarm bells within NATO.

Notoriously, Algeria's military dictatorship is Russia's ally in the Mediterranean and supplies gas to Europe - to a lesser extent, but enough to worry the West at this stage of the game. It is also one of the countries that has regressed the most in the post-Soviet period. Others, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Estonia, Slovenia, Romania and Ukraine itself, have managed to throw off the Russian yoke and come under the umbrella of the EU and/or NATO or are in the process of integration.

The US, NATO and the EU are well aware that Algeria is a troublemaker that aspires to be the 'black sheep' in the Mediterranean, using gas and the instability of the Maghreb and the Sahel as political weapons. It does not give a damn about spoiling its partnership with the EU. So was Gaddafi's Libya, which ended in disaster, or Iran in the Middle East. Rightly the EU, as well as NATO, sees the hand of Russia in the Algerian attitude against the interests of Spain which, in addition to its adherence to Morocco's theses, is in Putin's sights for its firm support for Ukraine, for sending the frigate "Blas de Lezo" to the Black Sea and, subsequently, armaments for Zelenski.

Nor was it a coincidence that Algeria voted against any anti-Russian resolution, nor was Lavrov's visit to Algiers in the midst of the massacre in Mariupol, nor that of Venezuelan dictator Maduro in the middle of the Summit of the Americas to which he was not invited by Washington. Nor that the NATO summit in Madrid considered the "southern flank", namely Algeria-Sahel, as a potential threat.

Many analysts, including those who continue, to this day, to fail to understand Sánchez's turnaround and wonder in exchange for what, are wrong to see Morocco and Algeria as a regional, if not ideological, bloc rivalry. A Cold War that absorbed the historical and legal reasons for the Moroccan ownership of both Western and Eastern Sahara, the latter occupied by Algeria. The invented conflict of the Moroccan Sahara was substantiated as such by Libyan-Algerian logistical and financial support within this bloc struggle. And the Polisario was and still is this Algerian-style "Wagner" group, circumscribed to the Russian orbit.

Like Putin's fear of democracies and EU progress, Algeria's visceral animosity is because it sees Morocco as a threat that could shake its dictatorial regime. Indeed, Morocco's technological, economic and social development is holding up an unwelcome mirror to the military in Algeria's sister society. This is why Algeria has never given peace a chance, despite Morocco's outstretched hand. On the contrary, Algeria's military has found a home in the Moscow-Tehran axis.

And as NATO itself fears, there is every indication that Algeria will turn its only geostrategic advantage, gas, into an energy threat, thus aligning itself with a cornered Putin, who is determined to rebuild his anti-Western bloc. He obviously counts on Algeria as a foothold in the Mediterranean, with tentacles in the Sahel through the Polisario and the Wagner group.

Welcome to the "southern flank" where Morocco fought, for 16 years (1975-1991), the communist bloc when southern Algeria was a plague of Russian trainers, Algerian military, Polisario mercenaries and mercenaries from various pro-Soviet countries of the former East, as well as Cubans and Vietnamese, while the West limited itself to a pretended "neutrality" that in reality was not, since it fed Algeria's ambitions to bring the Sahel, the Moroccan Sahara, the Atlantic and the Canary Islands under the orbit of the then Soviet and now Putin.

It is up to the UN to put an end, without further delay, to the question of the Southern Provinces of the Kingdom of Morocco in order to redirect its efforts towards freeing the Sahrawi population held hostage in Tindouf.