Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text
In late February – early March, one of the most influential people in Sudan, Mohammed Hamdan Daklo, better known in the Arab world as Hmeidti, visited Russia. He holds the second most important post in the power hierarchy of the Sudan, being the Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council of the Republic.
Hmeidti is a very interesting and colorful personality.
He began his career in his native Darfur (western Sudan) as a commander of a small detachment accompanying caravans of traders plying between Sudan, Egypt, Libya and Chad. Having earned authority, connections and good capital on this, Khmeidti became one of the founders of an entire irregular army – the famous Janjaweed. With such a force behind him, he became part of the country's top leadership and army command.
Being one of the closest associates of Abdelfattah al-Burhan, who led the military coup last fall, Daklo, apparently, is now responsible for building a new system of international relations in Khartoum. Apparently, the Sudanese military has no illusions about the prospects of winning the sympathy of the West, which sharply criticized their actions and relies on the destabilization of the situation in the country and the escalation of the conflict between various Sudanese factions. Therefore, the interest shown by Khartoum in the topic of resuming cooperation with Moscow became completely logical.
The program of General Daklo's visit was very eventful. Suffice it to say that he was accompanied by the Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, Minerals, and energy. Khmeidti himself was received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, and also participated in a working meeting with representatives of Russian business at the CCI site. This alone speaks quite eloquently about the seriousness of the intentions of both the Sudanese and Russian sides, their focus on developing truly large-scale cooperation.
But even more significant was the fact that the negotiations in Moscow were not affected by the situation around Ukraine and the beginning of the Russian special operation in this country. The Sudanese delegation arrived in the Russian capital on February 22 and left it on March 2. Thus, it was made clear that Khartoum is distancing itself from Western efforts to isolate Russia in the world and does not intend to make its interests dependent on one or another position of the United States and its allies regarding the events in Ukraine. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the Sudan expresses the common opinion of the Arab States on this issue.
For Russia, this circumstance is of great importance, especially given the growing interest of our country in promising areas of interaction with the Arab-African world. Moscow has long sought to establish close relations with Sudan, bearing in mind the potential for developing cooperation in the fields of energy, mining, and agriculture. This latter area, without any doubt, will take one of the leading places in bilateral cooperation against the background of a sharp increase in world prices for food and, especially, fertilizers, of which Russia is the largest exporter. Providing Sudan with preferential terms for the purchase of Russian grain and fertilizers in the current conditions will help to avoid the constant threat of mass starvation and can become a significant contribution to ensuring social stability in this Arab African country exhausted by coups.
Sudan – along with Egypt, Algeria, the Central African Republic, and Mali – is considered in Moscow as one of the key states on the Black continent, partnership relations with which will allow Russia to expand the horizons of its foreign policy and strengthen its presence in this part of the world. Including the military, because security issues are extremely acute here. And, as is already obvious, it is necessary to take care of ensuring the safety of transport routes and the freedom of navigation of vessels under the Russian flag, otherwise the West is about to revive privateering, having exhausted the possibilities of "peaceful" sanctions.
In this context, the issue of establishing a Russian naval base on the Sudanese coast of the Red Sea is of particular importance.
An agreement on this was reached during the time of President Omar al-Bashir, but after his overthrow, the new "democratic" authorities in Khartoum announced the freezing of the project, hinting at its inconsistency with Sudanese interests. However, after they, in turn, were pushed out of power by the military, the issue of the Russian base was again actualized.
This topic was of most interest to the journalists who met General Daklo on his return from Moscow. To their questions, he replied that there are many states in Africa where foreign military bases are located, and he does not understand why the possibility of a Russian base in Sudan attracts so much attention.
What is it really about?
It is planned to create a naval station in Port Sudan, designed for the repair and refueling of ships of the Russian Navy (including ships with nuclear propulsion systems), as well as to replenish their stocks and change crews. At the same time, no more than four warships could be here at the same time, as well as up to 300 military and civilian personnel. To provide the base with everything necessary, including materials, equipment, weapons, ammunition, food, etc., Russia would have the right to use other ports and airfields on Sudanese territory.
This base will complement and strengthen existing bases in Syrian Latakia, Tartus and Khmeimim, becoming the most important Russian stronghold in Northeast Africa and the Middle East, reopening for Moscow the possibility of a direct presence in the strategically important region of the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Horn of Africa. Russia's presence here as a strong and responsible player can significantly affect the recovery and stabilization of the situation, which is steadily heating up due to the rivalry of regional states, fueled by external players. Examples are the periodically erupting internal conflicts in Somalia and Ethiopia, the creeping spread of Islamist terrorism in the countries of East and South-East Africa, the long-running dispute over Ethiopia's construction of a giant dam "Renaissance". Under these conditions, active military-technical cooperation with Russia, of which the base in Port Sudan should become a part, can become a sufficient guarantee of maintaining the stability of Sudan, the key to its successful development.
Khartoum is well aware that in today's extremely turbulent international situation, it is hopeless to seek security guarantees in an alliance with the United States and the West as a whole. The events in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, as well as in the CAR, Mali have shown that the West is powerless. He himself admits that his power is only enough for catastrophic destabilization, for destruction; he is not able to create something durable and viable. Sudanese politicians have already got Washington to remove Sudan from the list of states that are accomplices of terrorism. This, apparently, is the maximum that America could do really useful.
At the same time, Khartoum fulfilled the main condition of the Americans – it recognized Israel and began the process of normalizing relations with it. Thus, he expanded the horizons of his foreign policy, enlisted the support of such influential countries as Israel and the UAE. At the same time, ties with Turkey, which received a naval base on the Sudanese coast, were significantly strengthened. All this speaks to the pragmatism of the Sudanese strategists, who quite rightly considered that a unilateral orientation to the West deprives them of prospects and opportunities for maneuver.
However, neither Turkey, nor the Emirates, nor Israel have sufficient qualities to become a strategic, anchor partner. All of them are somehow connected with the United States, whose behavior in the region is extremely unpredictable. While Russia itself is a powerful pole in global politics, it can also act as a strategic partner of China in the implementation of the global Belt and Road initiative, which is being joined by more and more new states around the world.
From this point of view, Sudan's return to the idea of opening a Russian base on its territory acquires logic and meaning that go far beyond the banal bargaining: we are bases for you, you are money for us and guarantees of regime stability. Which, of course, is present. But, in addition, wider horizons are opening up than the merciful removal of the label "accomplice of terrorists".