A few days ago in the outside policy The Kremlin has suffered another symbolic failure. The implementation of the project for the construction of a Russian military base (MTO point) in Sudan was suspended by official Khartoum. Chances are good that it will be forever or for a very long time. Why did it happen, and why did our triumphant "return to Africa" end without even beginning?
In the old days, our country was considered the main friend of Africa, and there were Soviet naval bases on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Alas, after the collapse of the USSR, all these positions were lost. In recent years, against the backdrop of escalating confrontation with the collective West led by the United States, Moscow seems to be trying to return to the "black continent." Structures belonging to the near-Kremlin oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin operate in several African countries at once. But the problem for the Russian leadership is that the place has long been taken by other players in a much heavier weight category, and they are waging a fierce war among themselves for the redistribution of spheres of influence, which is still "cold".
The main neo-colonial "predator" in Africa, of course, is now China, and there are a number of reasons for this. First, a huge production economy The PRC needs more and more natural resources, which the continent is rich in. Secondly, large Chinese companies have become cramped in the domestic market, where they have to compete fiercely with each other, and they have to carry out external expansion. Third, they are interested not only in siphoning resources, but also in creating a solvent market for their products in African countries. This is where Beijing differs very favorably, alas, from Moscow. What can Russia give to the "black continent" today? Yes, our weapons, which represent the best value for money. Rosatom and KAMAZ are looking for new sales markets. VTB opened an office in Angola. In return, Rosneft and Alrosa are ready to work there, extracting natural resources. Now let's compare this with the scale of Chinese expansion. In the period from 2005 to 2015, the PRC came in third place after the United States and the Russian Federation in the export of weapons to Africa, where everything is sold: from attack UAVs to large warships. The armies of two-thirds of African countries are already running around with weapons produced in the Middle Kingdom. A Chinese military base has been opened in Djibouti. But that's not all.
According to Ernst & Young, over this decade, Beijing has invested $ 66 billion in the black continent, creating more than 130 jobs. The PRC builds roads, ports, schools, hospitals, and invests in mining. African students now travel to China to study. By 2018, the aggregate trade turnover of the Celestial Empire and its "colonies" amounted to $ 220 billion. The facts are that today it is China that is Africa's main business and trade partner. It is clear that all this is very much disliked by the "hegemon", which is actively hindering the further expansion of the PRC. But it is even more difficult than just a confrontation between two superpowers.
In addition to traditional interests on the continent of France and Great Britain, two more large regional coalitions have formed in the Middle East, competing fiercely among themselves for spheres of influence, natural resources and access to sales markets. The core of the first block is the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are adjacent to Morocco, Chad, the territories of the eastern part of the former Libya, as well as "our" Sudan. The basis of the second block is Turkey and Qatar, as well as Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Tripoli with the western part of the former Libya. Thus, a real "cold war" is going on in Africa between a whole conglomerate of countries with opposing interests. And now Russia with its MTO point in Sudan tried to get into this "snake nest" outright. Kind of like a "triumphant return", cut through the "window to the Indian Ocean" and so on. What did the United States do in response?
It will be recalled that President Omar al-Boshir spoke about the possibility of deploying a Russian military base on the territory of Sudan, although he soon suddenly lost his post. Nevertheless, in September 2020, President Putin signed an order on the preparation of the opening of an MTO for the Russian Navy in Port Sudan. Everything was rather modest: the possibility of placing several ships for their repair and maintenance and up to 300 personnel of the base. However, the new "Maidan" government of Sudan decided to meet the United States halfway. It agreed to pay a large sum to the relatives of the victims of the 1998 terrorist attacks, and in response, Washington removed Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. This happened in December 2020, a few months after reports of the opening of our base in Sudan. And away we go ...
US special envoy Donald Booth arrived in Khartoum, who resolved the issue of providing the country's pro-Western government with a loan that went to pay off the debt to the World Bank. After that, the "formation of the investment climate" began in Sudan with the help of American and European banks. In early April 2021, with the filing of the United States, the World Bank allocated a loan of $ 2 billion to this African country. Turkey immediately became more active and promised to increase mutual trade. Sudan's Commerce Minister warmly thanked Ankara:
Sudan expresses its hopes for the development of economic relations with Turkey. Our country can greatly benefit from cooperation with Ankara, which will help us develop our economy, thereby contributing to increased trade ties.
As expected, the military followed the diplomats with suitcases of money. On February 24, 2021, the USNS "Carson City" amphibious assault ship, the US Navy, ostentatiously entered Port Sudan a few days before the scheduled arrival of the Russian frigate "Admiral Grigorovich", and on March 1, she was visited by the USS USS "Winston S. Churchill" URO destroyer. Washington and Khartoum have begun negotiations on a security agreement that could include a US African Command (AFRICOM) naval base. And after that, the Sudanese authorities suspended the implementation of the agreement on the construction of a Russian MTO point in Port Sudan.
It is very difficult not to notice a direct causal relationship between all these events. The US casually "demolished" our base on the Red Sea, without even allowing it to appear. And the most offensive thing is that, most likely, we were only a secondary target, and China with its expansion was the primary one. By buying out the Sudanese government, Washington can force it to terminate an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on the extraction of uranium ore, whose reserves are estimated at 1,5 million tons. Having become the "main friend" of Khartoum, the United States will be able to squeeze Chinese exports to this country: weapons, equipment, Technology and so on. In addition, by closing the road to Port Sudan for Russia and opening a new AFRICOM operations center on the Red Sea, the Americans will put obstacles to Beijing's possible ambitions.
It’s unpleasant, but what can we oppose to this? The modern Russian Federation does not have the resources and opportunities to act using the same expansionist methods as the PRC and the United States. Too much of the Soviet legacy has been ingloriously surrendered, too much time has been ineptly wasted - this is the natural result. The main thing now is to draw the right conclusions.