Russia Signs Deal With Sudan for Naval Base on the Red Sea

russian navy
The Russian destroyer Vice Adm. Kulakov with a Russian fleet tug (file image courtesy Royal Navy)

Published Dec 9, 2020 11:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russia and Sudan have finalized an agreement to set up a naval base in Port Sudan, giving Russian forces a small but significant toehold on the Red Sea. 

Russia has been in talks with the Sudanese government over basing arrangements since 2017, and a formal deal emerged in November. The final agreement was signed December 1 and has just been released on the Kremlin's public site. 

The agreement provides the Russian Navy with access to Port Sudan for a period of 25 years, with automatic renewal every decade thereafter. It may keep up to four naval vessels at a time at the port, including nuclear-powered vessels - an important consideration for Russia's submarine fleet. For logistics, Russian forces have permission to use Sudanese ports and airports to deliver any needed "weapons and equipment" to keep the port running. On-base manning is limited to 300 Russian personnel. 

In return, Russia will provide arms and training for Sudan's military, extending a role it already plays in the country. Last year, Russia and Sudan signed a seven-year agreement that provides the Sudanese government with military support, and Russian military advisors have participated in Sudanese public security operations. 

The new base adds a new link in a chain of overseas facilities for Moscow. The Russian military has maintained a naval base at Tartus, Syria since 1971, and three years ago it reached an agreement with the Syrian government to expand it to handle up to 11 vessels at a time. The Tartus facility is also being upgraded with equipment to service nuclear-powered vessels.