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Jun 5, 2024, 9:25am EDT
Africa
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Semafor Signals

Russia and Sudan negotiate over weapons-for-port deal

Insights from The Wall Street Journal, Middle East Eye, and New Lines Institute

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Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
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The News

A Sudanese delegation arrived in Russia for talks this week for what Sudanese officials have said is a trip aimed at finalizing an agreement that would grant Russia their first African port.

A senior Sudanese army official said in an interview last month the delegation will conclude a deal in which the Kremlin will offer “vital weapons and munitions” to Sudan in exchange for a “logistics supply point.”

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The agreement fulfills a Kremlin ambition to establish a warm water port on Sudan’s strategically important Red Sea coast; a previous deal was halted after a military coup in Sudan in 2019.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Geopolitical advantages of Red Sea access

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Sources:  
Institute for the Study of War, Royal United Services Institute, New Lines Institute

The Kremlin has considered a Red Sea port a priority since 2008. It would allow Russia “to protect its economic interests in the area and improve its military posture vis-à-vis the West,” according to the Washington, DC-based think tank Institute for the Study of War. While the details remain opaque, Russian officials have pushed for a full-blown naval base, the think tank said. Russian defense experts believe a Sudan port would expand Russia’s access to trade through the Suez Canal, and Russians would view the port as proof of the country’s great power status.

Despite national security risks, US nowhere to be seen

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, Middle East Eye

The top US military commander in Africa told lawmakers in 2021 that a Russian naval base on the Red Sea was a key strategic concern with the potential to destabilize US interests across the continent. Even so, former US officials have said the country’s Sudan policy has largely failed to discourage Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s last-ditch efforts to stop Russia from building closer ties with Sudan “only showed how out of touch we are,” a former State Department analyst told Middle East Eye. If US-aligned countries were “stepping up to help [Sudan’s Armed Forces], then we wouldn’t be talking about Russia now,” he added.

Ukraine-Russia war spreads to Sudan

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Source:  
The Wall Street Journal

Sudan has also become an unlikely hot spot in the war between Russia and Ukraine, as Kyiv aims to disrupt Russian troops abroad. “It’s impossible to overcome Russia simply by fighting on a small piece of land, like the front line in Ukraine,” a Ukrainian officer that led operations in Sudan told the Wall Street Journal. “If they have gold mines in Sudan, we need to make them not profitable,” the officer said. While Russia negotiates with Sudan’s military junta over the port, Russian paramilitary forces, including the Wagner Group, have teamed up with the regime’s bitter enemies, the Rapid Support Forces, to smuggle natural resources out of the country, the Journal reported.

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