Russia-Sudan Relations in the Early 21st Century: A Lost Opportunity or the Foundation for a New Beginning?

Код статьиS032150750006275-4-1
Тип публикации Статья
Статус публикации Опубликовано
Должность: Старший научный сотрудник Института Африки РАН; доцент кафедры африканистики и арабистики РУДН; старший научный сотрудник Международного центра антропологии НИУ ВШЭ
Институт Африки РАН
Адрес: Российская Федерация, Москва
Название журналаАзия и Африка сегодня
ВыпускВыпуск №9

Over the past decade or even longer, a lot has been contemplated and written about the need for Russia to «return» to the African continent. An increase in the importance of Africa’s resource, human and economic potential within the emerging model of world development is undeniable, and with Russia once again claiming to be a weighty player on the global arena, it cannot but seek to expand its presence on the continent to restore its international standing. The first Russia-Africa Summit poised to take place in Sochi (Russia) in October 2019 attests to the growing importance that Moscow attaches to the continent.

In recent years, within its new foreign policy approach to Africa, Russia has established special relations with a number of African countries. Russia developed particularly close cooperation with Sudan, just short of establishing a full-fledged strategic partnership, raising hopes in Moscow that it gained a viable foothold on the continent and, consequently, access to farther parts of the continent. Indeed, Russia capitalized on its standing with Khartoum as it managed to penetrate politically and economically into the Central African Republic.

On 11 April 2019, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by the Sudanese military and placed under arrest. This put Moscow, which was seen as a close ally of the ousted President, in a precarious position. Even so, the present study argues that the intensity of political and military relations and the convergence of national interests have laid a solid foundation for the close friendship and comprehensive ties between Russia and Sudan. However, the shortcomings of Moscow’s economic policy for Africa in general and Sudan in particular must be addressed promptly if Russia were to establish itself on the continent.

Ключевые словаRussia, Sudan, military coup, international diplomacy, military-technical cooperation, economic cooperation, strategic partnership
Дата публикации09.09.2019
Кол-во символов34019
100 руб.
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1 Since at least 2014, when the political rift between the Russian Federation and the West became particularly pronounced and rippled implacably into other areas of cooperation, including trade and investment, Moscow has been vigorously pursuing the path of intensifying its relations both political and economicwith developing countries. While Asian countries have in general received much more focused attention under the new foreign policy, it seems that the African dimension has also been gaining in significance for Russian diplomacy, slowly but steadily, with the first RussiaAfrica Summit poised to take place in October 2019.
2 The continuing escalation of geopolitical competition on the global and regional scales is indeed a major driver behind Russia’s endeavor to «return» to Africa after its abrupt and unilateral withdrawal in the early 1990s after the collapse of the USSR. Yet both international academia and industry mostly agree that Africa is gradually becoming an increasingly important element in the emerging model of global development due to its huge resource, human and economic potential, and this trend could simply no longer be ignored by Moscow, which is once more laying a claim to be a weighty actor on the world stage and, consequently, is compelled to maintain broader global presence.
3 There is a growing consensus in academic circles that the major impediments to Russia’s comeback to Africa involve the lack of a comprehensive foreign economic policy toward African countries [1, p. 3] as well as the insufficient and inexpert use of soft power tools [2, p. 134]. Under the circumstances Moscow, which appears to have become an ambitious contender for the political and economic influence in Africa, explores the avenues for developing sustainable and cost-effective mechanisms for defending and advancing its interests on the continent. Developing special relations with key countries in Africa would be a logical consequence of this effort.


5 Peculiarly, in the 2010s it was Sudan under President Omar al-Bashir that became one of the primary testing grounds on the continent for Moscow’s new approaches to bilateral relations with African countries. Indeed, the state in Northeast Africa did not lead in most rankings that appraised African countries’ ties with Moscow, neither in terms of trade turnover or investment nor the level of cultural and humanitarian exchange, yet it came to occupy a special place in Russia’s Africa policy. By 2019, relations between the two countries were at their best-ever point in history and only kept on strengthening by the day. In early 2019, Sudan’s Ambassador to Russia Nadir Babiker confirmed his country’s commitment to developing a strategic partnership with Russia [3].
6 Yet just as the narrative had gained momentum, it came to an abrupt halt on 11 April 2019, when President al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, was deposed by the military amid large-scale popular protests. The fall of the old regime had far-reaching foreign policy implications. In particular, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt immediately intensified their competition with Turkey and Qatar for influence on Sudan’s newly formed Transitional Military Council. Moscow also found itself in a precarious position, seen as a close ally of the ousted President. Predictably, Western media spread dubious reports about the role of Russia in assisting the regime with its attempts to suppress the protests [4]. Nevertheless, on 16 April 2019, Moscow recognized the new Sudanese authorities. On 30 April 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reiterated Moscow’s commitment to developing relations of Sudan in the course of a meeting with Ambassador Babiker [5]. In all probability, the foundation of relations between Moscow and Khartoum should withstand the test of political turbulence in the Northeast Africa country. More perilous are the prospects of furthering the development of cooperation in political, economic and military spheres, which was supposed to culminate in the establishment of a strategic partnership.
7 It must be noted here, however, that the 2015 National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation focuses on the development of strategic relations with international organizations (UN, BRICS, G-20, etc.), otherwise mentioning the importance of strengthening bilateral strategic partnerships only with China and India [6]. On the other hand, besides the high-priority strategic ties with these two countries, Russia has also signed strategic partnership declarations with over 20 other countries, including a number of African states: Algeria (2001), Morocco (2002), Egypt (2009, 2018), South Africa (2013). For comparison, China has developed approximately 50 strategic partnerships, with nations as diverse as Afghanistan, Australia and India; India – about 20 partnerships; Japan – around 10 [7]. As for Sudan, the country established a strategic partnership with China in 2015, and also has been actively working on developing such a relationship with Turkey since at least 2017.

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