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Morocco increases its defence budget

The unstable regional situation has prompted the Kingdom to increase its efforts to secure its influence
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 -   Mohamed VI, King of Morocco

Morocco is undergoing a transition in its government that is perhaps not the smoothest its leaders could wish for. The Kingdom's regional leadership, while not under threat - at least for the time being - must be protected due to the continuous movements that take place daily on the geostrategic chessboard. Morocco's privileged location means that many countries look to Rabat for an ally in North Africa. However, the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Algeria has shaken up the African continent, affecting external countries such as Spain, whose gas supplies are in danger.

The Alawi kingdom has not stood idly by in the face of the escalating tension in the region. The budgets for next year already point to a historic increase in the budget allocated to defence and armaments. And it is historic because for the first time it will exceed 50 billion dirhams - just under 5 billion euros - for these purposes. King Mohammed VI, commander and chief of staff of the Royal Armed Forces, is leading an initiative that aims to preserve Moroccan power at a very complex strategic moment due to the growing number of actors in the region.

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There have already been some recent moves along these lines. Following the consolidation of ties between Morocco and Israel, the Kingdom intends to enter the kamikaze drone manufacturing industry in cooperation with the Hebrew state. It is also interested in acquiring short- and medium-range missile systems, armoured vehicles and tanks from Israel to reinforce its armaments. A month ago, during an event celebrating the anniversary of the Abraham Accords, Moroccans and Israelis expressed their firm conviction to continue strengthening their ties, for which the United States has been and continues to be very important.

The treaty promoted by Washington - at the time with Donald Trump in the White House - marked a turning point in geopolitics. The Americans' help with their Israeli ally has been vital in boosting their influence even further. All of this, coupled with the good relationship between the Americans and Moroccans, means that the three countries are doomed to understand each other. In fact, the country presided over by Joe Biden does not hesitate to ratify its good relations with Rabat and its special interest in gaining influence in a location of great importance as a gateway to the African continent.
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"Morocco is the only country in Africa with which we have a Free Trade Agreement, and we and our companies see Morocco as a gateway to the continent," said Joey Hood, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East. Moreover, a few days ago, an event was held to announce the creation of the first digital platform (Laayouneconnect.com) aimed at the territorial revaluation of the Moroccan Sahara region at the initiative of the United States. Washington has shown a firm position of support for Moroccan authority over the Sahara, despite pressure from many neighbouring countries, such as Algeria, one of the main causes of the rift between Algiers and Rabat.

Although the situation outside Morocco's borders is complex, there is good news inside the Kingdom. Economic growth of more than 15 per cent in the last quarter and the relaxation of measures against COVID-19 due to the decline in cases and the acceleration of the vaccination process show that things are going well in Rabat. The new government led by Aziz Akhannouch will have to maintain this positive trend while facing the challenges that continue to come from abroad.