Sudan Race: U.S. Forcing Competition for Influence in East Africa

Sudan Race: U.S. Forcing Competition for Influence in East Africa


European and Asian countries are getting increasingly involved in Africa’s turf wars as U.S. influence diminishes on the continent. They fill the power vacuum to pursue their own economic interests.

It is part of the transformation of the existing world order which is moving toward a multipolar model due to the natural weakening of the American empire.

Washington seeks to unleash military actions between the states cooperating with Khartoum.

Africa is one of the countries where both regional and global competitions are developing. Russia has also been actively involved in this process since 2015, establishing friendly relations with countries in the northeastern and central parts of the continent.

The West certainly noticed Russia’s activity. Back in 2018, the United States Africa Command, which was responsible for maintaining American military hegemony in Africa, recommended the U.S. leadership to boost funding for operations in the area, change priorities by designating Russia and the economic influence of China as the main threat to Washington on the continent, instead of Islamic terrorism and extremism.

The years 2019 and 2020 saw an actual turnaround in the U.S. policy toward Russia and China and their actions in Africa Since then, a dramatic increase has occurred in the amount of propaganda, diplomatic influence, covert operations and other elements of "soft power" through which the White House tries to restrict competitors on the territory.

Sudan became one of the places where this new policy was used. The overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 formed a new reality, giving various players the opportunity to change the "African game" in their favor.

Russia cooperated with Sudan under its former leader. After he was ousted, the new authorities reconfirmed their commitment to the accords to establish a full-fledged Russian naval base in Port Sudan, which would enhance our country's capabilities in the region.

Russian diplomats and the military had regular meetings with previous and incumbent Sudan leaders. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin recently led a delegation on a visit to Khartoum to discuss military cooperation and resolve the matters concerning the Red Sea base. Overall, the current level of partnership can be characterized as stable. However, Washington is trying to change the situation.

First, the U.S. recently made an indirect attempt to block the Port Sudan issue, putting pressure on Sudanese officials and promising loans for the country. In other words, they poke sticks into spokes. However, Fomin's trip once again confirmed that the accords to set up a logistical support base of the Russian Navy are quite reliable.

Second, NATO ships’ calls to Port Sudan show that the United States and its allies are not going to give up the African country for nothing. Apparently, Washington sees the situation in the region through the lens of military-political competition with Russia. NATO warships in the Red Sea are a signal that the issue of Sudan will be challenged.

Third, Khartoum’s policy is influenced not only by the United States but also by China. The latter is large investor in the Sudanese economy, planning a number of major projects that complement the Belt and Road Initiative, and supplying the region with various weapons. China has also its naval base in Djibouti. China and Russia are not direct competitors in Africa and often act more like partners, but Beijing foremost pursues its own economic interests in the area in any case.

Fourth, regional powers, in the first place Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also interested in Sudan. Both countries supported regime change in Khartoum and political stabilization after the coup d’etat including through the provision of loans.

In addition, Ankara is interested in increasing its influence in the area offering Khartoum various infrastructure projects. In the medium term, Turkey might be expected to offer Sudan large-scale military cooperation programs, as well as direct military partnership projects such as the ones Ankara is already implementing in Somalia.

In general, one can expect a tougher competition for military, political, and economic influence upon Sudan. The incumbent government of the country, judging by its actions, is playing a multi-vector game, trying to benefit from both global and regional players.

It is quite obvious that as competition becomes more intense, it will not be possible to continue playing both sides of the fence. Chances are Sudan will experience more instability because of the desire of some states to undermine the positions of others. These risks should certainly be taken into account when developing projects in the area.

Russia, as a great power, will not give up its military and political "investments" in Sudan, which have played an important role in the implementation of the African strategy of recent years. If building partnership or business relations is possible with China or Turkey, the general nature of relations with the West, and primarily with the United States suggests a clash of interests in the future. Washington will seek to undermine Russia’s positions by various means, trying to squeeze Russia, as well as China, out of the continent.

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