An Algerian news outlet said Morocco’s recent F-16 purchases motivated Algeria’s decision.
Rabat – Algerian media are reporting that Algeria signed a contract to purchase 14 Russian Su-57 fighter jets because of Morocco’s military strength.
The media are quoting Russia’s Sputnik News, which reported that Tebboune’s government bought the jet fighters from Russia for nearly $2 billion, citing Avia.pro.
According to Sputnik’s reporting, Algeria and Russia signed the deal more than a year after announcing their intent.
In 2019, Algerian outlet Menadefense announced the news about the potential agreement with Russia. According to Menadefense, Morocco’s decision to order 25 F-16 Vipers “would have motivated Algeria’s rapid decision-making.”
In August, the US announced finalizing the contract for Morocco’s F-16 aircraft purchase.
The US is Morocco’s main arms supplier.
Recent data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that Morocco leads the MENA region in terms of the percentage of arms it acquires from the US.
The US supplies 91% of Morocco’s arms. The remainder comes from France (9%) and the UK (0.3%).
After the US, Russia is the second-largest arms supplier to the MENA region.
Algeria is one of the most loyal arms clients of Russia, which supplies 67% of Algiers’ arms.
Algeria sources the remainder of its arms from China (13%) and Germany (11%).
Menadefense said that the rumored purchase would make Algeria the first country on the “southern shore of the Mediterranean to have stealth aircraft and 5th generation aircraft after being the first to introduce 4th generation aircraft.”
Algeria ranks 28 out of 138 countries in terms of potential military strength, according to Global Fire Power.
The North African country seeks to maintain the position through multiple purchases to upgrade and expand military equipment. The newest purchase comes amid a crisis, with the COVID-19 pandemic weighing down the country’s economy.
Data from Statista shows the unemployment rate stood at 11.53% in 2020.
Calls for reforms swept the country in the past few years, leading to the collapse of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime.
Protests continue despite the election of Abdelmajid Tebboune as president. Tebboune served as a top official under Bouteflika’s administration.
The country continues to face an economic crisis due to unstable oil prices. Algeria’s economy depends heavily on its oil and gas sector.
Understanding the motive pushing Algeria to purchase the jets amid Morocco’s decision to upgrade its military equipment requires a look at relations between the two countries.
Morocco and Algeria share cold relations due to several political issues, including Algiers’ position on Western Sahara.
While Morocco seeks to defend its territorial integrity against Polisario’s provocations, Algeria continues to arm and finance the separatist group and backs its independence claims.
Algeria also hosts the Polisario Front in its Tindouf territory and supports its maneuvers, which regularly defy UN resolutions.
Recently, Algeria condemned Morocco’s peaceful actions in Gueruerat, near the Moroccan-Mauritanian border, but turned a deaf ear to Polisario’s maneuvers in the region.
Algeria repeatedly condemned Morocco’s actions through sharing hostile statements, intervening in Morocco’s domestic affairs.
On November 13, Morocco announced it mobilized members of its Royal Armed Forces in Guerguerat after Polisario sent civilians to protest in the region. The illegal protests caused a three-week blockade at the vital crossing point for trade.
Despite the UN’s repeated condemnatory statements, Polisario’s protesters refused to leave the buffer zone.
The Moroccan government said that the situation forced it to act to ensure the safety of civilians and the flow of goods in the region.