Russian Naval Base Agreement Reshapes Geopolitical Dynamics in Sudan


The agreement between Sudan and Russia to establish a Russian navy base in Port Sudan on the Red Sea represents a significant development in international relations and military strategy. This arrangement, surfaced during the reign of Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir, underlines Moscow’s ambition to restore its naval presence globally. The deal allows Russia the facility to house up to 300 troops and dock up to four navy ships, including those powered by nuclear energy. This strategic move aims to enhance the Russian Navy’s presence in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, thus facilitating easier access for its ships to these regions without the necessity of long voyages.

In exchange, Russia commits to supplying Sudan with weapons and military equipment. The duration of the agreement is set for 25 years, with automatic renewals for 10-year intervals unless either party objects. This accord is pending ratification and is contingent on the formation of a civilian government and legislative body in Sudan. The agreement was recently reviewed by Sudan’s ruling military, which confirmed that Moscow met Sudan’s latest demands, including the provision of more weaponry and equipment, indicating readiness from the military’s perspective. However, formal ratification is awaited until Sudan establishes a yet-to-be-formed legislative body​​​​.

Sudan has experienced political instability, particularly after the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, followed by a military coup in October 2021 that disrupted the country’s brief journey towards democracy. Despite these challenges, Sudanese officials have expressed a pragmatic stance towards international military cooperation. Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, emphasized that Sudan holds no objections against any country, including Russia, establishing a base on its territory as long as it aligns with Sudan’s interests and does not threaten its national security​​.

This development has broader implications for the geopolitical landscape in the Red Sea region, highlighting the growing influence of major powers in strategically significant areas. The establishment of a Russian naval base in Sudan is poised to enhance Russia’s strategic military footprint in Africa and the Middle East, reflecting the intricate balance of power, interests, and security considerations that define contemporary global politics.

Russia’s Interest in Sudan: Naval Base Agreement and Geopolitical Implications

The strategic dynamics of the Red Sea region have been notably influenced by Russia’s initiative to establish a naval base in Port Sudan, signaling a pivotal shift in geopolitical engagements within the Horn of Africa and across adjacent maritime zones. This move, initially agreed upon in 2019 between Russia and Sudan, has undergone various phases of negotiation, adjustments, and reaffirmations against a backdrop of political instability within Sudan, including a military coup and the absence of a legislative body to ratify the agreement. However, as of early 2023, high-level discussions between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Sudanese military officials underscored a mutual commitment to finalizing the terms of the naval base agreement.

The naval base is envisaged to host up to 300 Russian military personnel and accommodate up to four naval ships, including nuclear-powered ones. This strategic establishment aims to bolster Russia’s naval presence in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, complementing its military footprint in the Mediterranean through the Tartus naval facility in Syria. Beyond military interests, the base underscores Russia’s intent to secure and extend its influence in Africa, where it has already established substantial military and economic ties in several countries, notably through the activities of the Wagner Group, a private military company linked to the Kremlin.

Image : Wagner group’s known mercenary presence in Africa

Wagner presence

The Wagner Group’s operations in Sudan, particularly in gold mining and military support, have highlighted Russia’s multifaceted approach to securing its interests in the region. Through its involvement in Sudan since 2017, Russia has not only sought to support existing military leadership but has also engaged in economic ventures, notably in the gold mining sector, thereby intertwining its military and economic agendas. This involvement has raised concerns internationally, particularly from the United States, about the group’s role in exacerbating conflict and undermining efforts towards democratic transition in Sudan.

Russia’s naval base project and its broader engagements in Sudan are reflective of a strategic calculus aimed at enhancing its global maritime reach, securing critical resources, and establishing a counterweight to Western influence in a region of increasing geostrategic importance. This development holds significant implications for regional security dynamics, international maritime security, and the geopolitical landscape of the Horn of Africa and beyond.

The implications of Russia’s growing influence in Sudan through both the naval base agreement and the Wagner Group’s activities necessitate a nuanced response from international actors, including NATO members. A strategic approach could involve heightened diplomatic engagement with regional partners, support for democratic institutions and processes in Sudan, and concerted efforts to address security challenges emanating from the presence of foreign military entities. Additionally, fostering regional stability, countering piracy and securing maritime routes in the Red Sea could also form part of a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the impact of Russia’s expanding footprint in the region.

As the situation evolves, the international community, particularly NATO and its allies, will need to carefully assess the broader implications of Russia’s strategic ambitions in Sudan and consider appropriate responses that uphold regional stability, international law, and the principles of sovereign equality.

Escalation in the Shadows: The Expanding Battlefield of Ukraine and Russia in Africa

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, traditionally confined within the geographic and political boundaries of Europe, has transcended continents, finding a new, covert battleground in the heart of Africa. This expansion reflects the intricate and global nature of modern warfare, where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have become the tool of choice for executing military objectives with precision and stealth.

Covert Operations Unveiled

Recent revelations, sourced from a video obtained by the Kyiv Post, have shed light on Ukraine’s clandestine activities in Sudan, targeting Russian mercenaries and their allies. The footage, captured in the past weeks, showcases the use of drones to eliminate vehicles carrying Russian fighters within Sudan’s borders, marking a bold escalation in Ukraine’s efforts to counteract Russian influence outside of Europe. These attacks, characterized by their precision and lethality, have also been noted in Libya, signaling a broader strategic initiative by Ukrainian forces.

The operation, as detailed by sources within the Ukrainian special services, aims to dismantle the network of Russian mercenaries and their local terrorist collaborators in Sudan. This initiative is likely spearheaded by Ukrainian special forces, employing sophisticated drone technology to execute their missions. These operations underscore a significant shift in the dynamics of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, extending its reach and complexity.

Ukraine’s Historical Involvement in Sudan

Ukraine’s military engagement in Sudan is not a new development. Reports from CNN in September 2023 highlighted a series of drone strikes and ground operations near Khartoum, targeting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a militia with ties to the Wagner Group, a notorious Russian mercenary organization. This operation utilized drones equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, a testament to the evolving nature of drone warfare on the African continent. The use of such drones, capable of delivering high-explosive payloads directly to targets, represents a novel approach in the region, diverging from traditional conflict mechanisms in Africa.

The Silence and Vows of Kyiv

Despite the emerging evidence of Ukraine’s actions in Sudan, official acknowledgment remains elusive. In the wake of the CNN report, Andrii Yusov, representing the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, maintained a stance of ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying Ukraine’s involvement. This silence aligns with previous declarations from Ukrainian officials, such as HUR Chief Kyrylo Budanov’s vow in May 2023 to target Russian war criminals globally, further corroborating the speculated involvement of Ukrainian special operators in Sudan.

The Wagner Group’s African Ambitions

At the heart of Russia’s African endeavors is the Wagner Group, led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of President Vladimir Putin. The group’s activities in Sudan, primarily supporting paramilitary forces under Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), aim at securing Russian interests, including access to Sudanese gold reserves and the establishment of a naval base at Port Sudan. This strategic positioning would enhance Russia’s influence in the Red Sea region, furthering its military and economic objectives.

The Wagner Group’s influence extends beyond Sudan, with significant operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Libya. In Libya, Wagner supports General Khalifa Haftar, expanding Russia’s footprint in the region. The supply of surface-to-air missiles to the RSF by Wagner has significantly bolstered Hemedti’s power, highlighting the group’s role in shaping local military and political landscapes.

The unfolding narrative of Ukraine and Russia’s conflict, extending its shadow over Africa, underscores the global stakes of their confrontation. Through covert operations, drone strikes, and strategic engagements, both nations are vying for influence and control in a complex geopolitical chessboard. This expansion of the battlefield reveals the multifaceted nature of modern warfare, where traditional frontlines blur, and global interests intersect. The involvement of mercenaries, the deployment of advanced technology, and the strategic significance of Africa’s resources underscore the intricate dynamics at play, shaping the future of international relations and conflict.

Global Dynamics Redefined: Ukraine’s Far-Reaching Influence in the Sudan Conflict

The geopolitical landscape of the modern world is complex, characterized by multifaceted conflicts that stretch beyond traditional battlegrounds. The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia serves as a prime example, with its repercussions felt well outside Eastern Europe. This article delves into the intricate web of international relations, military engagements, and strategic maneuvers involving Ukraine, Russia, and the African continent, particularly Sudan, in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Ukraine’s Covert Operations in Africa

Recent intelligence reports have shed light on a rather unexpected theater of conflict involving Ukrainian special services. These services are implicated in a series of attacks against forces affiliated with Russia’s Wagner Group and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan. This development marks a significant expansion of the conflict’s geographical scope, bringing to the fore the global ramifications of the Ukraine-Russia war. The involvement of Ukrainian mercenaries, fighting alongside the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) against the RSF, has further complicated the situation. Notably, this April, credible sources such as CNN reported that the Wagner Group had been supplying RSF paramilitaries with missiles, indicating a direct link between Russian private military contractors and the conflict in Sudan.

Evidence of Ukrainian Operations

New video evidence has emerged, corroborating claims of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate’s (GUR) active engagement in Sudan. These videos showcase the precision and tactical prowess of Ukrainian forces, featuring a special unit sniper targeting Wagner PMC forces. This operation is not just a military engagement but a statement of Ukraine’s commitment to countering Russian influence globally. The footage, displaying fair-skinned men with sniper rifles and drones conducting precision strikes, suggests a deliberate and strategic approach to these operations, extending the Ukraine-Russia conflict’s reach to Africa.

Strategic Significance of Sudan

Sudan’s strategic importance cannot be overstated, particularly given Wagner’s collaboration with the RSF to influence the Sudanese government. This collaboration has historical roots, dating back to 2017 when Sudan sought military assistance from Russia. The presence of the Wagner Group in Sudan, engaged in activities ranging from military support to gold extraction, underscores Russia’s intent to expand its influence in Africa. Conversely, Ukraine’s involvement in Sudan, highlighted by the GUR’s previous rescue operations and current military engagements, signifies a bold stance against Russian expansionism.

Geopolitical Implications

The unfolding events in Sudan exemplify the modern conflict’s global nature, where state and non-state actors engage across continents, reflecting the interconnectedness of international relations. Ukraine’s decision to engage in Sudan, targeting Wagner forces, indicates a strategic pivot towards global engagement against Russian interests. This move, while showcasing Ukraine’s military and intelligence capabilities, also raises questions about the legality and implications of such operations on foreign soil.

Ukraine’s Diplomatic Efforts in Africa

Parallel to its military engagements, Ukraine is actively seeking to strengthen its ties with African nations. This diplomatic effort, led by Dmytro Kouleba, Ukraine’s head of diplomacy, aims to counteract Moscow’s influence on the continent. Kouleba’s emphasis on a “Ukrainian-African renaissance” signifies a long-term strategy to engage with Africa, moving beyond mere military interactions. The efforts to revive and deepen relations with African countries are indicative of Ukraine’s broader geopolitical strategy to diminish Russian influence globally.

A New Geopolitical Landscape

The engagement of Ukraine in Sudan, targeting Russian-affiliated forces, marks a significant development in global geopolitics. It not only extends the Ukraine-Russia conflict into Africa but also signals the emergence of Africa as a new battleground for geopolitical influence. As Ukraine and Russia vie for support and allies across the continent, the implications for Africa’s political and economic landscape are profound. The situation underscores the global reach of modern conflicts, where the repercussions of regional disputes extend far beyond their immediate locales, shaping the geopolitical dynamics of entire continents. The evolving relationship between Africa, Ukraine, and Russia is a testament to the complex, interconnected nature of international relations in the 21st century, highlighting the strategic importance of Africa in the global geopolitical arena.

Sudan’s Escalation: The Rise of Indigenous Kamikaze Drones in Conflict

In the evolving landscape of military technology, Sudan has emerged as a significant player with its recent deployment of improvised kamikaze drones against the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF). These drones, indicative of a growing trend in modern warfare, are based on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically modified for offensive operations. The drones in question are of the FPV quadcopter-type, marking a shift in the dynamics of military engagement within the region.

The use of these kamikaze drones, also known as loitering munitions, became notably apparent in June, when the Sudanese armed forces initiated a substantial offensive against the RSF. The military’s objective was to reclaim strategic areas under the control of the RSF, a powerful and controversial entity within Sudan. This conflict underlines the complexity of Sudan’s internal security challenges and the evolving nature of its military tactics.

Loitering munitions represent a relatively recent innovation in warfare technology. These UAVs possess the capability to hover or loiter over a designated area for an extended duration, employing advanced sensors to detect and follow targets. Upon target acquisition, these drones can then be directed to execute a precision strike, offering a combination of surveillance and direct attack capabilities. The adoption of such technology is particularly advantageous in scenarios characterized by asymmetric warfare, where conventional military assets may be less effective or available.

Sudan’s foray into the development and use of indigenous loitering munitions was highlighted with the introduction of the Kamin-25, unveiled at the IDEX 2023 exhibition in Abu Dhabi. The Kamin-25, designed to be launched from UAVs like the Z3-M, is currently under testing by the Sudanese Air Force, with final acceptance trials anticipated in May. This munition, which can be equipped with either an anti-tank or anti-personnel warhead, underscores Sudan’s intent to enhance its military capabilities through cost-effective solutions.

ManufacturerSudan’s Military Industry Corporation (MIC)
TypeLoitering Munition
Launch PlatformUnmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Payload Options– 5 kg Anti-Tank Warhead <br> – 7 kg Anti-Personnel Warhead
Total Weight25 kg
Flight Duration45–60 minutes (depending on altitude)
Operating Altitude250 meters
Operating RangeUp to 50 km from the UAV
Communication System– UAV relays day/night camera feed to ground control station
Targeting System– Operator can lock onto target for automatic tracking and engagement
Autonomous Functionality– Returns to loitering pattern if target is lost
Self-Destruction Mechanism– Flies to pre-designated area to detonate warhead when low on power or mission abort
Future Development– Tube-launched version with pneumatic launch system in development

This table provides a comprehensive overview of the Kamin-25’s specifications, highlighting its capabilities as a versatile and autonomous loitering munition designed for precision targeting and effective engagement of enemy threats.

The significance of Sudan’s development of kamikaze drones extends beyond its immediate military implications. It represents a pivotal moment in the African defense landscape, showcasing a shift towards indigenous military technology development. Such advancements could potentially alter the balance of power within the region, offering Sudan and possibly other African nations a tactical advantage in future conflicts.

Furthermore, Sudan’s arsenal includes a variety of larger UAVs for surveillance and precision strikes, encompassing models from Iran’s Quds Air Industries and HESA, as well as Chinese-made Rainbow UCAVs. This diverse UAV fleet illustrates Sudan’s strategic approach to integrating a range of aerial technologies for comprehensive battlefield dominance.

On the opposing side, the RSF has also demonstrated the capability to deploy unique drones, with a notable incident in June where a military VTOL drone, armed with mortar rounds, was intercepted. The RSF’s utilization of drones and air defense systems, possibly acquired from external sources, adds another layer of complexity to the conflict, highlighting the escalating drone warfare arms race within the region.

The confrontation between the Sudanese armed forces and the RSF, marked by the deployment of kamikaze drones, signals a new era in African warfare. The indigenous development and operational use of such technologies not only provide a tactical edge but also raise questions about the proliferation and impact of drone warfare on regional stability. As Sudan continues to explore and expand its military capabilities through the use of advanced technologies, the implications for future conflicts in Africa and beyond remain profound, potentially setting a precedent for the adoption of similar strategies by other nations.

Military Force Involvement in the Control of Sudan: A Focus on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Main Actors

The Republic of Sudan, a country in Northeast Africa, has experienced a complex web of conflicts, political upheavals, and transitions since gaining independence from British-Egyptian rule in 1956. A significant aspect of these dynamics involves the role of various military forces, with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) being one of the most pivotal actors in recent times. This document delves into the intricacies of military involvement in Sudan’s control, spotlighting the RSF alongside other key military actors, their origins, roles, impact on the political landscape, and implications for Sudan’s future.

Historical Context and Formation of Key Military Actors

Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have been a central figure in Sudan’s post-independence history, playing a crucial role in governing the country directly or indirectly through various coups. The SAF’s influence has been marked by its engagement in internal conflicts, including the first and second Sudanese civil wars, which primarily revolved around central government control and autonomy or independence for regions such as South Sudan.

Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

The RSF emerged as a formidable paramilitary force in Sudan around 2013, initially conceived as an auxiliary force to the SAF to address the insurgencies in Darfur and other regions. It evolved from earlier government-backed militia

groups, notably the Janjaweed, which were implicated in severe human rights abuses during the Darfur conflict. The RSF rapidly expanded its role and influence, becoming a key player in Sudan’s security and political arenas under the leadership of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti.

The Role and Expansion of the RSF

Military Operations and National Influence

The RSF’s operations have extended beyond Darfur, involving counter-insurgency efforts, border security, and the protection of national infrastructure. Notably, the RSF has played a controversial role in quelling protests and opposition movements, particularly during the uprising that led to the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Following al-Bashir’s removal, the RSF became a central figure in the transitional power structure, sharing control with the SAF in the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

Political Aspirations and Economic Interests

Under Hemeti’s leadership, the RSF has not only solidified its military capabilities but has also expanded its economic footprint, engaging in gold mining, and various business ventures, which have bolstered its financial independence and political leverage. The RSF’s growing economic power has allowed it to forge international alliances, further enhancing its position within Sudan and beyond.

Conflict and Cooperation with the Sudanese Armed Forces

The relationship between the RSF and the SAF has been complex, characterized by both cooperation and tension. While they have collaborated in governing the country through the TMC and facing external threats, there have been underlying rivalries and disagreements over the direction of the country’s transition and the distribution of power and resources. This delicate balance of power has implications for Sudan’s stability and the prospects for a successful transition to civilian rule.

Other Military and Paramilitary Actors

National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)

The NISS, though primarily an intelligence agency, has maintained paramilitary capabilities and has been involved in internal security operations. Its role has evolved in the context of Sudan’s political transitions, with adjustments in its mandate and structure reflecting broader shifts in governance and security priorities.

Various Rebel Groups and Militias

Sudan’s protracted conflicts have given rise to numerous rebel groups and militias across different regions, some of which have entered into peace agreements or integration processes with the government forces, while others remain in active opposition. These groups add layers of complexity to the security landscape and the efforts towards national reconciliation and peace.

Implications for Sudan’s Future

The dynamics between the RSF, SAF, and other military and paramilitary actors are critical to understanding Sudan’s current political and security challenges. The competition and alliances between these forces will significantly influence the trajectory of Sudan’s transitional process, the implementation of peace agreements, and the prospects for democratic governance.

Challenges to Civilian Governance and Democracy

The entrenchment of military and paramilitary actors in the political and economic spheres presents substantial challenges to the establishment of civilian governance and the realization of democratic aspirations in Sudan. The power and autonomy of groups like the RSF complicate efforts to reform security sectors and ensure accountability for past abuses.

International Engagement and Peace Processes

The international community’s engagement with Sudan, including efforts to support peace processes, transitional governance, and economic development, must navigate the complex interplay of military and paramilitary forces. Balancing pressures for accountability, demands for security and stability, and the promotion of inclusive political processes will be essential for sustainable peace and development in Sudan.

The involvement of military forces in the control of Sudan, particularly the role of the Rapid Support Forces, underscores the complexities of transitioning from conflict to peace and from authoritarianism to democracy. Understanding the motivations, interests, and dynamics of these military actors is crucial for addressing the challenges facing Sudan and achieving a future marked by peace, justice, and democratic governance. The path forward requires careful negotiation of military and civilian roles in governance, comprehensive security sector reform, and sustained engagement from both national and international actors committed to Sudan’s stability and prosperity.

APPENDIX – Sudan Unveils Kamin-25 Loitering Munition: A Game Changer in UAV Warfare

Sudan’s Military Industry Corporation (MIC) has recently made waves in the defense technology arena with the unveiling of its indigenous Kamin-25 loitering munition at the prestigious IDEX 2023 show held in Abu Dhabi. Designed to be launched from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Kamin-25 marks a significant advancement in Sudan’s military capabilities, particularly in the realm of aerial warfare.

The Kamin-25 loitering munition represents a leap forward in Sudanese military technology, showcasing the country’s growing prowess in defense innovation. Developed by MIC, this cutting-edge weapon system is currently undergoing rigorous testing by the Sudanese Air Force on Z3-M UAVs, with final acceptance tests slated for May.

One of the distinguishing features of the Kamin-25 is its versatility in payload options. According to a MIC official, this loitering munition can be equipped with either a 5 kg anti-tank warhead or a 7 kg anti-personnel warhead, providing Sudanese forces with flexible firepower tailored to various combat scenarios. With a total weight of 25 kg, the Kamin-25 strikes a balance between payload capacity and maneuverability, making it a formidable asset on the battlefield.

Powered by batteries, the Kamin-25 boasts an impressive flight duration of 45–60 minutes, depending on the altitude at which it is deployed. Operating at an altitude of 250 meters, it has a range of up to 50 km from the UAV, with the UAV serving as a relay for the munition’s day/night camera feed to the ground control station. This advanced communication system enables real-time target acquisition and tracking, enhancing the precision and effectiveness of the Kamin-25 in engaging enemy targets.

A key highlight of the Kamin-25 is its autonomous targeting capability, which streamlines the engagement process for operators. Once locked onto a target, the loitering munition autonomously tracks and engages the designated threat until neutralized. In the event of losing sight of the target, the Kamin-25 seamlessly reverts to a loitering pattern, maintaining situational awareness until a new target is acquired. Moreover, the Kamin-25 is equipped with an automatic self-destruction mechanism, ensuring safe disposal in case of low power or mission abort.

Looking ahead, MIC is poised to further expand the capabilities of the Kamin-25 with the development of a tube-launched version equipped with a pneumatic launch system. This variant promises enhanced flexibility and ease of deployment, catering to diverse operational requirements and expanding Sudan’s arsenal of precision-guided munitions.

The unveiling of the Kamin-25 loitering munition heralds a new era of military innovation for Sudan, bolstering the country’s defense capabilities and positioning it as a key player in UAV warfare. With its advanced features, autonomous functionality, and customizable payload options, the Kamin-25 represents a formidable asset for Sudanese forces, empowering them to effectively engage and neutralize threats on the modern battlefield. As Sudan continues to invest in indigenous defense technologies, the Kamin-25 stands as a testament to the country’s commitment to self-reliance and military modernization in an evolving security landscape.

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