On the one hand, Algeria would undoubtedly like to take advantage of the explosion in energy prices following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia to sell more of its gas in Europe. But that would be, on the other hand, to incur the wrath of its Russian ally.
Toufik Hakkar should have held his tongue. Chairman and CEO of Sonatrach, the Algerian national energy company, he had granted the Algerian daily Liberté Algérie an interview published in the edition of Sunday February 27, 2022 of the latter where he had implied that Algeria was ready to meet Europe’s gas needs in the event that the Russian authorities were to turn off the tap. “The company has unused capacity on the trans-Mediterranean gas pipeline, which could be used to increase supplies to the European market,” he said, while adding that “Sonatrach’s contribution could extend to countries not served by gas pipelines linking Algeria to Europe through sales of LNG (liquefied natural gas)”.
Problem, Russia is currently the biggest ally of the Algerian regime, which it regularly supplies with arms to such an extent that Algeria has for several years been the first customer of Russian arms in the world. And the fact of saying that it is ready to supply Europe is equivalent to abandoning Moscow, because the latter is precisely counting on the lack of alternatives in the countries of the Old Continent to put pressure on them and lead them to accept the objectives of its intervention in Ukraine, namely that the latter does not integrate the European Union (EU) and especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This means that we had to expect the backpedaling of Mr. Hakkar, who the day after the release of the interview accused Liberté Algérie of having “manipulated and distorted” his remarks and announced the launch of legal proceedings against against the newspaper. But no one is of course fooled, because it is easy to imagine that in reality Mr. Hakkar has simply had his suspenders pulled up in high places and especially by the military hierarchy, which is keen on its relations with Russia and counts in particular on his support in his crusade against Morocco.
At the same time, instead of taking advantage of an opportunity that would allow it to fill its coffers, which gradually dried up from the beginning of the fall in the price of oil internationally in July 2014, the Algeria finds itself almost bound hand and foot. It must be said that as Mr. Hakkar himself detailed, the eastern neighbor has “a shipping capacity of 42 billion cubic meters of natural gas and in liquefied form thanks to a production capacity of more than 50 million cubic meters of LNG and a fleet of 6 LNG carriers”.
In addition, Algeria’s alignment with Russia could cost it dearly in the future, insofar as the isolation to which the Eurasian country now seems doomed means that the Algerian side will itself end up becoming a pariah in the within the concert of nations if it persists on the same path; which, moreover, would benefit Morocco and the cause of the completion of its territorial integrity, contested since November 1975 by the Algerian junta in the Moroccan Sahara.