On the eve of the sensational news about Sudan breaking the agreement on the construction of a military base (MTO point) by Russia on the Red Sea coast, the Russian Black Sea Fleet reconnaissance ship Priazovye entered Port Sudan. His photo, taken on April 27, was posted by the American photo agency Getty Images.
Since then, there has been some clarity. According to the Russian Embassy in Khartoum, our diplomats have not received any notifications from the Sudanese side. They stressed that the agreement on the naval base and the deployment of Russian military in Sudan comes into force only after it is ratified by both parties. Since this has not happened yet, there is nothing to tear apart.
The professional optimism of our diplomats can only be welcomed, but what prevents the Sudanese authorities from refusing to ratify in the event of a change in political course? “At the moment we have no official confirmation of the suspension of the military cooperation agreement with Russia.”– said a spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry Al Mansour Bulad…
The fact that the Sudanese authorities have demanded from the commander of the Red Sea military district to suspend the new deployment of Russian military at the naval base “Flamingo”, reported Arab TV channels. According to them, 70 servicemen of the Russian Navy are now living at the base, and missile systems have already been installed there. The Sudanese military is not allowed to approach the facility.
“Port Sudan is located exactly in the middle of the Red Sea. The path from the Atlantic through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and further to the Indian Ocean is under the control of those who are in this place “, – the military expert explained earlier the strategic importance of the base Victor Litovkin…
Sudan is also important for Russia as a rear for its presence in the Central African Republic (CAR). Our military instructors assist the CAR authorities in liberating the country’s territory from the rebels. So, on March 30, a Russian convoy of 50 vehicles arrived from Sudan to the CAR. It is assumed that a Russian stronghold will be created in the city of Bamingi.
Thus, the naval base in Sudan is the gateway for Russia to enter the continent.
The actions of Russian specialists in the CAR are attributed to “PMC Wagner”, which is associated with a businessman Evgeny Prigozhin… Whether this is true or not is not known for sure. But it is known that Prigozhin distributed humanitarian aid to two million Sudanese, for which he received gratitude from the Minister of Social Security of the Sudan. And the United States then imposed sanctions against Prigozhin.
Since April, the activity of the United States special envoy in Sudan has been especially noticeable. Donald Booth, which is making efforts to write off most of Khartoum’s debt. The United States removed Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism and pledged funding. Is it not for the sake of ousting its competitors from the country – Russia and China?
Yes, China. Apart from Moscow, Beijing has also entered Sudan a long time ago. Sudan has proven uranium reserves of 1.5 million tons. In 2019, the Sudanese government entered into an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). In the event of a destabilizing American intervention, it could be in jeopardy.
“SP” told more about the political games around Sudan Head of the Center for Sociological and Political Studies of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Kostelyanets…
– The role of the United States in Sudan continues to grow. After the lifting of American sanctions at the end of 2020, the main subject of Sudan’s bargaining with the United States and other Western countries (primarily France and Great Britain) is the conditions for writing off or restructuring the country’s huge external debt – more than $ 50 billion. Lenders in return can get lucrative contracts and access to the Sudanese market. Apparently, it is American business that will become the main beneficiary of this deal.
Without waiting for the resolution of the debt issue, American corporations are already actively concluding agreements of intent with the Sudanese side. Thus, General Electric has agreed with the Sudanese side to build a power plant worth $ 915 million. In addition, according to some reports, the United States plans to become the guarantor of a peace agreement between the Sudanese authorities and the armed Sudanese opposition, concluded in 2020.
“SP”: – What is known about the military agreements between the United States and Sudan? Can we have problems because of this?
– The interest of the Americans in the deployment of military facilities in Sudan is not advertised. However, the more frequent visits of high-ranking US military and US Navy ships to Sudan in 2021 demonstrate the ongoing development of military-political cooperation between Washington and Khartoum. Undoubtedly, the United States is interested in disrupting the Russian-Sudanese agreement on the MTO clause. But it is not yet clear whether they are ready to offer the Sudanese military an advantageous alternative in the field of security and arms supplies, or whether they will limit themselves to using economic and diplomatic leverage on Sudan.
“SP”: – What is the interest of the Sudanese authorities? Could they prefer the United States and expose Russia without ratifying the MTO clause agreement? Is a compromise possible – the military presence of both powers in the country?
– Sudan, which is in a severe financial crisis, urgently needs to resolve the issue of external debt and attract foreign investment and new loans to the country. Although Khartoum also has debts to Russia, its main creditors are in the West. There is no doubt that the deployment of a Russian military facility is an element of bargaining with both Moscow and Western capitals.
At the same time, the placement of foreign military facilities in the country serves as an argument in the internal political struggle. According to the authoritative CoupCast ranking, in 2021 Sudan is in the first place in the world for the likelihood of a coup d’état.
Relations between the Sudanese military, who will lead the state until 2022, and the pro-Western civilian coalition government are quite tense. The formation of a transitional parliament is causing enormous difficulties, since the parties have not been able to agree on candidates for several months (by the way, according to media reports, it is this transitional parliament that must now approve the Russian-Sudanese agreement on the ITO clause). The Russian base may well become a bargaining chip in this bargaining.
Although some experts talk about the possibility of coexistence of the US and Russian bases in Sudan, this scenario seems the least likely. The Americans have an extensive military infrastructure in the region, and the opening of a new base will be more driven by the need to prevent the expansion of the presence of Russia (or other unfriendly powers, such as China) in the Red Sea than by the real needs of the US Navy.
“SP”: – It looks like Sudan is also a springboard for Russia to enter the CAR. Is it so? Will the possible problems of Russia in Sudan affect our expansion in Central Africa?
– Sudan has great influence in the northeastern Central African Republic, inhabited by predominantly Muslims, mainly in opposition to the ruling regime in Bangui. It is through Sudan that most of the foreign trade of this part of the CAR is conducted. The 2019 Khartoum agreement between the government and the opposition, which is considered a success of Russian diplomacy, would hardly have been possible without Sudan’s support for the Russian position. Sudan’s turn towards the West, an indicator of which may be the rupture of the agreement on the MTO clause, will definitely weaken Russia’s influence in the CARs and, probably, in other Central African countries.
According to Head of the Sector of Economics and Politics of China, IMEMO RAN, Sergei LukoninRussia will have to fight off US pressure in Sudan alone.
– So far, I cannot recall any examples of Russian-Chinese cooperation in Africa.
“SP”: – But if the United States begins to pinch us, then eventually China’s turn will come. Moreover, Washington sees Beijing as its main strategic adversary. Wouldn’t it be better for our countries to join forces and fight off the US in Africa together?
– I doubt that Russia and China could act in Africa, complementing each other. Rather, we are competitors there.
“SP”: – In Sudan, China has uranium …
– Uranium is important for China, since the modernization of its economy presupposes a decrease in the share of coal in the energy balance. But China is not only looking for natural resources in Africa, but also creating new sales markets for its high-tech goods. Since the US is almost closed to China, the EU is closing, and markets have to diversify. In addition, Beijing is providing linked RMB-denominated loans using Chinese technology and Chinese blue collars. This is their strategy on the Black Continent.