For 18 weeks, mass protests have continued in Algeria. The protesters, who had initially forced the ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to withdraw his candidacy from the elections, and then to resign, now are pushing for large-scale reboot of the country’s political system. The latter implies the complete removal from power of all groups of the elite, one way or another connected to the former head of state.
Algeria plays a big role not only in North Africa: the experts of Council on Foreign Relations consider this country as one of the most important «strongholds of the fight against terrorism». Rome and Paris are concerned with the situation in the republic. The local politicians are worried that a new refugee inflow will be provoked if Algeria is destabilized. The aggravation of the crisis can also affect the situation in Nigeria, which can lead to significant fluctuations in oil prices. Algerian elites have an extensive contact network at the international level as their representatives managed to build a reputation of reliable intermediaries who can find a way out of even the most difficult situations. Finally, one should not forget that Algeria is an oil and gas power that controls a significant part of the European hydrocarbon market.
Therefore, foreign powers are actively interfering in the Algerian crisis. Saudi Arabia invests in Salafists, and Qatar – in the local structures of the “Muslim Brotherhood” (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation). Both Middle Eastern monarchies are counting on the fact that in the event of the overthrow of the ruling regime, power will quickly transfer from the hands of secular protest leaders to Islamists. This scenario has already been implemented in Egypt and can be repeated in the land of Algeria.
However, in any case, the future of Algeria will largely depend on the will of another world politics actor – the United States. The formal US presence in Algeria is often rated as rather weak. However, a careful acquaintance with the work of both government agencies of the United States and American NGOs makes one doubt this thesis as well as the absence of the United States instruments of influence on the protest movement.
For the 2014–2017 period the United States, through various government departments, transferred more than $ 30 million (in constant prices) to Algeria. National Endowment for Democracy Foundation for the 2014–2018 period implemented 6 projects in Algeria with a total cost of $ 466 thousand. In particular, they trained female political and trade union activists and launched two online radio platforms designed to promote “democratic ideals” among young people. Also, trainings were organized in the framework of the development of “citizen journalism”. A mission was formed with the money allocated by the foundation, the purpose of which was to detect the involvement of the authorities in the abductions of the opposition members. At the same time, the training of lawyers was launched to protect the interests of the families of “abducted”. Over $ 200 thousand was spent on consolidating the business community around the concept of neoliberal reforms in the economy.
The US Embassy in Algeria has also been actively involved in the process of building civic activism and directing its energy. In particular, it facilitated the involvement of Algerian non-governmental organization leaders in the MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program. Within the framework of the latter, young leaders from Algeria (the age of the program participants is 28–35 years old, they should have a bachelor’s degree, have at least 5 years of professional experience and 3–5 years of experience in civil and social projects) undergo a 4-week theoretical training at the American University of Beirut, and then undergo an 8-week internship in non-governmental organizations – partners of the program.
There are English and Arabic versions of the program, given separately from each other. English-speaking fellows are trained in the United States. They have internships at political, non-governmental, or community-based organizations in Washington, DC.
The work is conducted not only with carriers of secular values and representatives of the democratic wing of the opposition. Thus, the United States Embassy implemented the Imam Exchange Program, an exchange program for the imams of Algeria and the United States.
The likelihood of U.S. involvement in the 2019 protests is indirectly confirmed by the words of the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bruce Riedel (now he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution). According to Riedel, the Obama administration was discussing the option of removing Bouteflika from power back in 2013, but the Algerian establishment strongly opposed it. And when you consider that at the moment, Riedel accuses Donald Trump of not wanting to support the “Algerian spring”, there is a strong feeling that many in the American establishment did not accept the refusal.
Thus, America actively intervenes in the internal affairs of Algeria, but does not use direct forms of work for this. Judging by a number of indirect signs, at least part of the American political establishment might be interested in destabilizing the situation in Algeria and participated in the preparation of protests. President Trump is obviously not interested in turning Algeria into another hotbed of instability. However, representatives of the Democratic Party and, probably, some of the Republicans are of the opposite side. The work of the Americans to form a new Algerian elite and strengthen control over the opposition continues even at the present moment.
Leading analyst of the National Values Protection Fund, Nikolay Ponomarev