Robert HARNEIS -TDO- The Kremlin has finally confirmed that Russia and Sudan have finalized an agreement to set up a naval base in Port Sudan, giving Russian forces a base 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 deal will see Moscow establish a "logistical support center" in Port Sudan where "repairs and resupply operations" can take place.

Russia and Sudan's armed forces signed a deal in May 2019 set to last seven years, as the Kremlin offers Khartoum military and civilian nuclear cooperation.

In a 2017 visit to Russia, former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir asked President Vladimir Putin to "protect" his country from the United States. He said military cooperation should be stepped up to "re-equip" Sudan's armed forces. It is significant that the agreement has gone ahead despite the change of President and government.

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.

The agreement will not be viewed favorably in Washington.

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