Algeria has been neutral in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite wanting to upset neither the Kremlin nor the West. Algeria was the only Arab state to abstain from the US-drafted resolution and has taken neutral positions at the UN on other votes concerning the conflict. Western pundits and lawmakers in Washington accuse Algeria of backing Russia in this war, but Algeria has not aligned with Russia and the two countries do not see eye-to-eye on the conflict.
Algeria’s state and society are sensitive about maintaining independence on the international stage. Algeria has maintained close ties with Moscow due to widespread suspicions among Algerians towards France and other NATO members’ intentions. The Western Sahara issue is central to Algerian foreign policy decision-making, and the Ukraine war has served Algeria’s interests. Algeria’s natural gas exports to Italy have risen 20% this year, and Slovenia has turned to Algeria for help staying warm this winter.
However, this has not harmed Algerian-Russian relations, as it has been a beneficiary of the conflict without having to compromise its foreign policy principles. Algeria’s refusal to align with the West against Russia has caused some officials in the US to call for sanctions. Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Lisa McClain have accused Algiers of “diplomatic support for Putin’s tyrannical regime” and are unhappy with Algiers’ support for rehabilitating the Syrian government and opposition to the Abraham Accords.
However, the Biden administration likely would not take such action against Algeria, which cooperates with Washington on counterterrorism and other areas. Algeria’s strong stance against nuclear weapons and its refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion and theft of Ukrainian land could lead to a shift in its position on the war in Ukraine. This could be due to growing sympathy for Ukrainians, especially the country’s Muslim minority, which could trigger sensitivities among Algerians that may later manifest in either official positions.