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Russia eyes Port Sudan as key naval hub

Russia-Sudan ties have deepened since the October 2021 military takeover in Sudan and the Russia-Ukraine war.
This picture taken on May 2, 2021, shows a view of the Amur-class Russian navy repair ship PM-138 docked at the port of the Sudanese city of Port Sudan.

On July 31, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree approving the country's new Maritime Doctrine. This conceptual document redefines the goals and objectives of maritime policy, emphasizes the oceanic purpose of the Russian navy and strengthens the confrontation with the United States and NATO. The previous version was approved in 2015 and reflected changes in maritime policy after the annexation of Crimea. 

The new doctrine emphasizes the need for economic development of the ocean space, states the problem of the underdeveloped Russian merchant and scientific fleet, and specifies a number of tasks for more competitive competition. In particular, the document, for the first time in the 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, envisions the possibility of building modern aircraft-carrying warships, as well as creating basing infrastructure in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and expanding cooperation with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 

With the exception of the Syrian port of Tartus, the only real foreign maritime facility where Russia really intended to have a serious presence was Port Sudan. The relevant agreements had been reached under Omar al-Bashir but were made public after the 2019 military coup during a so-called transitional period without the possibility of early ratification of the document by the new authorities. However, in April 2021, the Sovereign Council of Sudan suspended the agreement with Russia to create a logistics center. This happened at a time when the Russian military had already started to deliver military equipment there. 

The freezing of the agreement occurred primarily because of the emerging thaw in relations between Khartoum and Washington and the desire of the Sudanese military to obtain better economic guarantees from Moscow. Thus, after the US State Department removed Sudan from its list of sponsors of terrorism in late 2020, it stepped up its efforts to find investors. 

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