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