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Algeria: military manoeuvres with Russia begin in Bechar

The exercises, which simulate counter-terrorist combat in a desert environment, involve Russian motorised infantry
Vehículo anfibio de combate de infantería BMP-2

REUTERS/MAXIM SHEME  -   BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (AFV-2)

The military manoeuvres that Algeria and Russia have been preparing for since last year have finally come to an end in Bechar, the 3rd military region. According to official Algerian government media, the exercises will last several weeks and will be held at the Hammaguir military base. The exercises take place only 50 km away from the border with Morocco. 

The timing of the announcement and confirmation of the exercises, during the months of 2022, coincided with visits to the region by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, which further frames these exercises in the context of the war in Ukraine and the division between Russia and the West. 

Russia maintains a strong policy of penetration in Africa, which it pursues with some success in many Sahel and West African countries. Thanks to its best ally in the region, Algeria, Moscow is fulfilling its aims. According to official communications, the exercises will involve around a hundred Russian uniformed troops along with a similar number of Algerian soldiers. 

These are not the first joint Algerian-Russian exercises this year. Of particular note are the Russian exercises Vostok 2022, one of the largest exercises organised by Moscow, for which it usually invites all its allies. In this latest edition, which simulates a coastal defence and attack in a Pacific scenario, Algeria's participation was a novelty.

maniobras militares de argelia y rusia cerca de la frontera con marruecos mapa
ATALAYAR/GOOGLE MAPS -  Venue of the exercises planned for November, in the Algerian province of Bechar

The military rapprochement between Russia and Algeria has been noticeable in recent weeks. After it became known that Algeria would increase its military budget by 130% by 2023, specialised sources point to a $12 billion military cooperation agreement between the two countries. Shortly after this information was made public, Russia's head of arms exports and military-technical cooperation, Dimitry Shugayev, visited Algiers last week to meet with the Chief of Defence Staff, Saïd Chengriha, along with a large delegation of military personnel and diplomats. 

Despite Shugayev's profile as head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation and his specialisation in exporting Russian military industrial products, official Algerian media presented Shugayev's visit as the latest step in preparing the details of the military exercises in Bechar. 

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.

Argelia-Rusia: el jefe de las exportaciones militares rusas se reúne con Chengriha
PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Dimitry Shugayec and Saïd Chengriha

The increase in the defence budget in 2023 could mean a qualitative leap in the means available to the Algerian army. According to what was seen at the grand military parade organised for the 60th anniversary of Algeria's independence, the Algerian armed forces need a series of equipment upgrades. 

In particular, in connection with these manoeuvres, they will be able to work with more modern versions of the widespread BMP, the infantry fighting vehicle most common in the armies with Soviet remnants. Algeria has a number of BMP-1s and BMP-2s, some of which have been upgraded to a more recent standard to be equipped with the Kornet anti-tank missile. Algeria is set to receive a batch of BMP-3s soon.