New Russian Naval Base Coming to Sudan

This month, Russia and Sudan signed an agreement providing for the establishment of a new Russia naval base near the creatively-named coastal city of Port Sudan, Sudan.  Lying close to the center of the Red Sea’s western coast, the location holds a lot of strategic potential (especially from the perspective of naval logistics) and should greatly enhance Russia’s ability to project naval power in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Notably, the base will be capable of, and allowed under the agreement, to host nuclear-powered vessels. As the base will not have an airstrip, its value for projecting power over continental Africa, will remain limited. Nevertheless, its value is still significant.

This development builds on a longer trend of cooperation between Russia and Sudan. Russian private military companies are known to have been active in the country and bilateral agreements on military and related technical support to Sudan had been signed back in 2019. Meanwhile, further back in 2018, the Sudanese Ministry of Energy contracted Russian companies to construct oil refineries in the Port Sudan area. By reinforcing this growing bilateral relationship, the new agreement flies in the face of recent US policy developments as the US had removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism back in October and thus likely hoped to improve its own ties with Sudan.

Putin meets Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir back in 2017.

The land for the base will be provided free of charge and no taxes or rent will be collected by the Sudanese government for at least the next 25 years.  Sudan stands to benefit as the base is expected to help suppress piracy; arms, drug and human trafficking; and protect local gas and oil installations. It may also offer a new backdoor through which Russia would be able to supply Sudan while dodging international sanctions.

For Russia, the base will build on a growing network of outposts in the region. Russian presence in Syria is already well established while in Libya, unofficial Russian presence through private military companies is nothing new.

There is still no information regarding how long it will take before the newly planned base is built and becomes fully operational.