Question: In 2022, you met several times with your Algerian counterpart. He visited Moscow several times. You were on a working visit to Algeria on May 10, 2022. The energy, defence and agriculture agencies from both countries maintain extensive contact as well. What is the current level of cooperation? Is it safe to assume that Algeria is a key Russian partner in the Arab world?
Sergey Lavrov: Friendly relations between our countries go back a long way and inspire respect and pride on the part of the Algerian and Russian peoples. We supported Algeria in its struggle for decolonisation, freedom and independence. We recognised the Republic of Algeria in March 1962, several months before the country’s independence was officially declared in July 1962.
Since then, we have promoted close ties across all areas. An intensive political dialogue is underway. In April 2022 and January 31, 2023 President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had in-depth telephone discussions with President Vladimir Putin, and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, whom I know from the time I served in our Mission to the UN in New York, visited the Russian Federation in April 2022 as part of the League of Arab States’ delegation. In May 2022, I was on a working visit to Algeria and held in-depth talks with Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. I also had a long discussion with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The Algerian leader has a genuinely firm grasp on the nature, history and future of our strategic partnership.
Algeria was the first country in Africa with which we signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership in 2001. This document remains the foundation of Russian-Algerian relations and ensures the special privileged nature of our ties.
Speaking of political contacts, I had another meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2022.
In 2022, events were held that showed the existence of a solid material base underlying our political interaction. In particular, in September, Algiers hosted the 10th meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Shortly before this, in August 2022, the 25th meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Algerian Commission on Defence Cooperation was held. In September 2022, the Vostok 2022 military exercises with the participation of Algerian military personnel took place in Russia. In November 2022, Russian units took part in command and staff exercises in Bechar Province, Algeria.
A busy dialogue is underway in all areas of life, government, and personal relations, including humanitarian and educational ties.
We can and should do more, primarily in the sphere of material cooperation. We boast fairly impressive trade and economic cooperation numbers. Algeria is one of Russia’s leading partners in Africa, but the potential has not yet been fully tapped, especially so in energy, agriculture, and the pharmaceutical industry. The Intergovernmental Commission I mentioned earlier is working to this end.
Question: Speaking of Russian-Algerian relations in the energy sector, including at OPEC+, are we partners or competitors? What do you think?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are partners at OPEC+ and beyond. In addition to OPEC+, there’s a Gas Exporting Countries Forum, of which Russia and Algeria are active members.
Not long ago, the most recently held ministerial OPEC+ meeting adopted a resolution that confirmed the coordinated and shared approach of all members of this association towards regulating the oil and refined products market based on a balance of interests between producers and consumers. This step caused a morbid reaction on the part of the quarters that wanted this market to serve exclusively their interests to the detriment of oil producers. OPEC+ has upheld its position and proved that this format is a serious, independent and reliable association of responsible states.
The same can be said about the Gas Exporting Countries Forum which is used to agree on the fundamental approaches of the suppliers of pipeline and liquefied natural gas to global markets. Russia’s and Algeria’s positions fully overlap. We strive to make the markets stable. To make this happen, we do not need to try to juggle prices or artificially send them one way or the other, as the United States and its allies are trying to do with respect to Russian oil and gas.
Question: Despite the West’s pressure, Algeria has not joined sanctions on Russia. Voices are now heard in the United States to impose penalties on Algeria because of its cooperation with Russia. Do you think this would affect Algeria’s policy on Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: I heard that a group of 27 members of the US Congress had sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing indignation over Algeria’s failure to join the sanctions on Russia. They suggested “punishing” Algeria and holding Algeria accountable under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
In Russia, there is a set phrase about not really knowing who you are messing with. The Algerians are not the kind of people you can “dictate” to, expecting that “at the snap of a finger” from across the ocean they will obediently carry out someone’s instructions that are at outright odds with their national interests. Similar to the vast majority of other states, Algeria is a country that has respect for itself, its history and interests. The republic builds its policies on this foundation, and does not rely on backroom agreements with someone who promises to give carrots, but in fact only tries to infringe on the legitimate interests of its partners.
Question: Algeria has applied to join BRICS. How soon can it be allowed to join and how would the accession of a strong regional player like Algeria affect the association’s status?
Sergey Lavrov: BRICS has received official membership applications from several countries. There are more than five requests to join BRICS, which exceeds the original number of BRICS members. Algeria is among these countries. At the most recent meetings held by this group of five countries this year that were chaired by China, we agreed on the importance of developing common approaches to these applications. As a first step, we will agree on the criteria, variables and terms and conditions for admitting new members to our association. With its qualifications, Algeria is a leading contender.
We are doing more than promoting theoretical and conceptual agreements that will determine the parameters and criteria for the admission of new members. We are concurrently developing practical cooperation with countries that are interested in this as well. In June 2022, the 15th BRICS Summit chaired by Xi Jinping was held online. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was among the invited guests and took part in this event. An interesting discussion unfolded. There were three times more guests than BRICS members. The better half of them wish to have stable ties with our association. We must identify a format that will take account of these countries’ legitimate interests in promoting, together with BRICS, the principles of justice and democracy in international political and economic relations. Future cooperation framework will not depend on the whims of just one group of countries, especially one sovereign, as is the case with the United States, which grossly abuses the role of the dollar in the international monetary and financial system and its other monopoly positions that have been built under the slogan of “globalisation” for many years. It has been proven that for the sake of obtaining a fleeting advantage in foreign policy or a chance to implement its imperial ambitions, Washington can, in an instant, forget about free market and fair competition principles, the presumption of innocence and much more that has for many decades been promoted as bedrock foundations of the very “globalisation” into which everyone was drawn with so much enthusiasm. Now the United States is trying to abuse its monopolistic position.
BRICS reflects a deep-running trend to counteract this injustice and to build mechanisms that will sidestep the harmful dependence on the tools owned by those who think about their own benefit at the expense of the interests of others.
I’m convinced that in the coming years we will see concrete results regarding BRICS expansion and a greater number of its partners who will advance the goals and objectives that have been agreed upon by all members.
Question: Will the name change?
Sergey Lavrov: This is a separate issue. That’s possible, but BRICS is an established brand.