Suspicion and unease are creeping back into relations between Algeria and Morocco. An undeniable shift in power has occurred between the neighboring countries, as Algeria's military spending outpaces Morocco's. Large-scale Algerian arms purchases in 2016 reinforce the likelihood that Algiers will continue investing heavily in its military. And as Algeria bolsters its forces, Morocco's position in the region will only get more precarious, especially if a crisis or conflict erupts. To counter Algeria, Morocco will seek alternative strategies to retain its security. But whether Morocco chooses to do so through select military procurements or through alliances, there is no guarantee its forces can match Algeria's new weaponry.
Given its long-standing animosity toward Algeria, Morocco has historically formulated its strategic defense plans around a potential conflict. These plans require not only a large standing army, but also considerable investment in military hardware capable of withstanding an Algerian attack. For more than a decade after the end of the Western Sahara War, Morocco was largely able to maintain a sufficient balance of force with Algeria. But Algiers steadily began pushing ahead of Morocco around 2003, using its abundant hydrocarbon resources to invest in its military. While Morocco's military budget largely matched or even surpassed that of Algeria's at the turn of the century, the country can no longer afford to keep up.
By 2009, Algeria had surpassed South Africa as the continent's largest defense market. In 2013, it became the first African country to spend more than $10 billion on its military, an increase of 176 percent since 2004. Algeria now spends approximately $10.5 billion a year on defense, more than three times as much as Morocco.
As Morocco uneasily prepares for the shifting balance of power with Algeria, it will have to increasingly rely on its alliance network to counter Algiers' military spending. Military spending, or advanced weaponry for that matter, is not the only thing that defines military strength. Still, it is evident that Algeria is steadily tilting the balance of power with Morocco in its favor. And, while Morocco can make strategic investments in its armed forces, it is clear that it will also have to rely on other measures to ensure its security and interests.