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Russia Deepening Ties with Sudan, Sets Sights on Establishing Naval Base

Russia’s proximal closeness with Sudan has concealed the Russian theft of Sudan’s gold.
Russian Navy ship RFS Admiral Grigorovich enters Port Sudan, Feb. 28, 2021 (Photo: Screenshot)
Russian Navy ship RFS Admiral Grigorovich enters Port Sudan, Feb. 28, 2021 (Photo: Screenshot)

By All Arab News Staff | August 10, 2022

Russia has set its sights on Port Sudan on the Red Sea “as a key naval hub” for itself, Al-Monitor reported on Friday. 

Russia has been deepening ties with Sudan, which became isolated internationally after Sudanese Army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took power in a military coup on Oct. 25, 2021. 

The United States, the European Union and the World Bank consequently stopped all financial aid to Sudan, which has been described as a failed state. It is rife for exploitation by international actors such as Russia, which reportedly has smuggled out of Sudan billions of dollars in gold.

An associate professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo, Hamed El Tijani Ali, said in December, “Sudan has become a failed state and one of the most corrupt states of the world.”

“The Sudanese government’s policies, poor economic plans, the tendency to rely on oil revenues, the destruction of the productive sector of [industry and agriculture], major spending on security and the army and the mobilisation of militias for the wars have led to a negative growth,” Ali said. 

According to Al-Monitor, “With the exception of the Syrian Port of Tartous, the only real foreign maritime facility where Russia really intended to have a serious presence was Port Sudan.” 

“The relevant agreements had been reached under Omar al-Bashir,” the report said. “However, in April 2021, the Sovereign Council of Sudan suspended the agreement with Russia to create a logistics center. This happened at a time when the Russian military had already started to deliver military equipment there.”

Facing increasing isolation after the military coup in October, Sudan is apparently ready to welcome a Russian naval base in the country. 

In March, the Sudan Sovereignty Council deputy chairman, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalu, Hemedti, visited Russia over eight days, where he welcomed a Russian naval base in the city of Port Sudan.

Russia has a deep interest in Sudan and gradually has embedded itself in the country especially through its paramilitary organization, the Wagner Group – CHVK Vagner. 

The private military company gained gold and other mining concessions, while conducting information-warfare operations on Russia’s behalf, wrote Stephen Blank, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute U.S. think tank, in April. 

“Russia’s operations in Sudan are part of a determined and comprehensive Russian strategy aiming at state capture in Third World countries and regions, including Africa,” Blank wrote. “By gaining leverage in one or more sectors or in a state – particularly one where civil war or inter-state conflict is occurring – Russia then aims to expand that leverage and obtain a ‘veto power,’ if not a permanent presence, for its pecuniary and security interests.” 

“In Sudan’s case, Russia entered through arms sales,” he stated. “Once so ensconced in Sudan, Russia then expanded into economic and bilateral ties through private military companies (PMCs) and again typically leveraged those presences into a naval base.”

CNN recently uncovered that Russia is robbing Sudan of its gold in order to finance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. According to CNN, at least 16 flights have smuggled gold covertly out of the country. 

There is “an elaborate Russian scheme to plunder Sudan’s riches in a bid to fortify Russia against increasingly robust Western sanctions and to buttress Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine,” CNN wrote. 

“The evidence also suggests that Russia has colluded with Sudan’s beleaguered military leadership, enabling billions of dollars in gold to bypass the Sudanese state and to deprive the poverty-stricken country of hundreds of millions in state revenue,” the media company stated.

Sudan is one of four Muslim states which normalized diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020 through the Abraham Accords. 

Unlike most Western countries, Israel did not condemn the military coup in Sudan, and in November and January, Israeli delegations reportedly visited the country.

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