The United States has been actively courting the new Sudanese coalition government and President Donald Trump’s Administration removed the country from the U.S. list of designated state sponsors of terrorism in October. This followed an agreement with Sudanese officials to make payments, totaling $335 million, to the victims of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which were carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists based in Sudan.
The Trump Administration appears to have hoped that it could further parlay that deal into Sudan agreeing to normalize its relations with Israel, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have recently done as a result of U.S.-brokered agreements. The current Sudanese government has, so far, not implemented such a plan and a number of political parties that form the current coalition backing the transitional government, which includes some that had previously had close ties to the Al Bashir regime, have more forcefully pushed back on the idea, underscoring the fragility of the political situation in the country.
“Normalization [with Israel] opens risks to our fragile transitional situation,” Sadiq Al Mahdi, the head of the National Umma Party and a former Prime Minister of Sudan, said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “This decision violates Sudan’s constitution and can easily result in the collapse of this government.”
The Financial Times newspaper in the United Kingdom reported that Sudan’s deal with Russia “could be seen as a blow to Washington” and that “U.S. officials dismissed the news of the Russian base in Sudan as not real.” For their part, Sudanese officials have apparently declined to confirm or deny the Russian base deal, despite the Kremlin first publishing the draft agreement and now Putin’s order regarding the plan publicly online.
It remains to be seen how long it will take Russia to establish its base in Sudan and when the Russian Navy may start making use of it. Regardless, though the planned base in Sudan right now is small, it stands to become an important facility the Kremlin can use to help project both military power and geopolitical influence far from its shores.
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