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Algeria and Russia cancel military exercises in the Sahara

Desert Shield manoeuvres were announced for last week
AP/ANIS BELGHOUL  -   La multitud aclama a los soldados de un tanque durante un desfile militar para conmemorar el 60º aniversario de la independencia de Argelia

AP/ANIS BELGHOUL -  -   Crowds cheer soldiers in a tank during a military parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Algeria's independence

The Desert Shield 2022 military manoeuvres have not taken place. This is the announcement made by the Algerian Ministry of Defence on national television last night. The Tebboune government statement rejects that military exercises with Russia will take place in the region of Bechar, in the southwest of the country, very close to Morocco. 

The news comes as a surprise when the alleged exercises were supposed to have ended. Official Russian and Algerian communications confirmed them and dated them for the second and third week of November.  The announcement of the Desert Shield dates back to October 2021, following the participation of Algerian paratroopers in Russian military exercises in the North Caucasus. 

maniobras militares de argelia y rusia cerca de la frontera con marruecos mapa
ATALAYAR/GOOGLE MAPS -  The site of manoeuvres planned for November, in Algeria's Bechar province

Desert Shield would have been Russia's first military exercise on Algerian soil. The reasons for its cancellation have not yet been clarified. According to Algerian defence analyst and author of the blog MENA DEFENSE, Akram Kharief, the cancellation may be due to reasons related to the war in Ukraine, which is occupying Russia too much. 

According to details provided by the two governments, Desert Shield was supposed to bring together two hundred uniformed motorised infantry units to train in a desert environment on counter-terrorism tactics. 

The holding of these exercises seriously alarmed various political sectors in the European Union. Since its announcement, Desert Shield has prompted several letters signed by MEPs and addressed to the Commission to review the EU-Algeria Association Agreement. It is unclear whether the cancellation of the manoeuvres has any bearing on the diplomatic balance Algeria is trying to maintain between the various world powers. 

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

The same pressure came from the United States, where some 30 parliamentarians called on Secretary of State Blinken to apply CAATSA sanctions against Algeria because of its military closeness to Russia. 

While the Tebboune government is expected to expand and fortify its bilateral cooperation with Russia, especially on the military side, thanks to a 127% increase in defence spending by 2023, the Algerian government is expected to increase its bilateral cooperation with Russia, especially on the military side, thanks to a 127 % increase in defence spending by 2023. In early November, Algeria's chief of staff, Said Chengriha, received Dmitry Evgenyevich Shugayev, head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.