The United States

The United States

Historically, the United States and Algeria have had competing foreign policy objectives that have come closer only gradually. Algeria's commitment to strict socialism and to a global revolution against Western capitalism and imperialism antagonized relations with the United States, seen, in Algerian eyes, to embody all that the revolution scorned. United States maintenance of good relations with France precluded close ties with Algeria in the years during and following the War of Independence, although the United States sent an ambassador to Algeria in 1962. Algeria broke diplomatic relations with the United States in 1967, following the June 1967 war between Israel and most of its neighbors, and United States relations remained hostile throughout the next decade. United States intervention in Vietnam and other developing countries, Algerian sponsorship of guerrilla and radical revolutionary groups, United States sympathies for Morocco in the Western Sahara, and United States support for Israel all aggravated a fundamental ideological and political antagonism. Official relations resumed in the mid-1970s, although it was not until the late 1970s that relations normalized. By then Algerian leniency and passive tolerance for terrorist hijackers drew enough international criticism that the government modified its policy of allowing aid and landing clearance at Algerian airports for hijackers.

In the 1980s, increased United States demands for energy and a growing Algerian need for capital and technical assistance lessened tensions and resulted in increased interaction with the United States after the relative isolation from the West during the Boumediene years. Liberalization measures undertaken by Benjedid greatly facilitated the improved relations. In fact, an economic rapport with the West had been growing throughout the previous decade despite tense political relations. Algeria was becoming an important source of petroleum and natural gas for the United States. In 1980 the United States imported more than US$2.8 billion worth of oil from Algeria and was Algeria's largest export market.

Algeria's role as intermediary in the release of the fiftytwo United States hostages from Iran in January 1981 and its retreat from a militant role in the developing world as its domestic situation worsened opened the path to peaceful relations with the United States. Algeria's domestic situation was becoming increasingly critical because its traditional source of economic assistance, the Soviet Union, was threatened by internal problems. In search of alternative sources of aid, in 1990 Algeria received US$25.8 million in financial assistance and bought US$1.0 billion in imports from the United States, indicating that the United States had become an important international partner.

On January 13, 1992, following the military coup that upset Algeria's burgeoning democratic system, the United States issued a formal but low-key statement condemning the military takeover. Twenty-four hours later, Department of State spokesmen retracted the statement, calling for a peaceful resolution but offering no condemnation of the coup. Since then, the United States, like many of its Western counterparts, has appeared resigned to accepting a military dictatorship in Algeria. The military government has reaffirmed its commitment to liberalizing its domestic economy and opening the country to foreign trade, undoubtedly accounting for some of the Western support for the new Algerian regime.


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