As senior Russian diplomat and military attaché based in Djibouti visit Hargeisa and meet Somaliland foreign minister
By: Yusuf M Hasan
Somalilandsun- For the first time in over 38 years a Russian diplomat has set foot in Somaliland.
According to a press statement by the foreign ministry the visit by the Deputy Consular of Russian Embassy in Yury Kourchakov was an initial meet and greet for the Russians as well as to discuss enhancing ties between the two states.
Following lengthily discussions at the FM offices in Hargeisa the Russian diplomat who thanked somalilanders for their warm reception adding that he hopes to revisit Somaliland.
In conclusion envoy Yury Kourchakov said that he was hopeful of inc eased cooperation between the Republic of Somaliland and Russia geared towards strengthened economic ties that will be beneficial for both countries.
For the country’s top foreign policy chief Dr Saad Ali Shire who upon detailed briefing to the Russians on the multifaceted timeline of his country, “Somaliland is a remarkable success story that cannot be denied while its neighbor Somalia is unstable”
On the now 26 years elusive quest for international recognition the FM told the Russian, The Republic of Somaliland should get the international recognition it deserves not only because it is right, but because it is in the best interests of the World for the sake of stability and peace in the region.”
The Representative of Somaliland in Djibouti travelled along with the Deputy Consular of Russia to Somaliland and met prior to this meeting they both had a fruitful discussion. The Representative of Somaliland went on to say “I hope you will see the peace and stability Somaliland enjoys while we travel to Berbera and historical places of Somaliland.”
Reference to the Berbera travel pertained to the high profile event in which Somaliland official relinquished operational management of its Berbera port to DP World an Emirati from that was awarded a 30 year contract worth $422m
While reports indicate that the Russian diplomat attended the official handover of the port officiated by Somaliland president Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo and DP World chairperson Bin Suleyman, Moscow’s eye was staring at the nearby airport.
For the Berbera airport in which the republic of Somaliland has awarded the UAE rights to establish a military base was once under control of Russia.
For Russia Berbera is a legacy of the today’s Russia, Soviet era from where it operated a naval and air base at Berbera in then Somalia which allowed Russia to control the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and the Horn of Africa.
The Berbera airfield with the longest runway in Africa and a deep water port was built specifically for the mighty soviet military well equipped with an important communications and intelligence center.
Read: We Need Development Aid and Not Military Might demonstrators tell the UAE in London
In their hasty politically oriented departure following a US fronted fallout with Somalis Dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre the Russians left behind premises which could house up to 1,500 people plus storage for fuel and missiles. After the USSR’s withdrawal, the base was immediately occupied by the United States.
Berbera and its assorted foreign military and local assets are now controlled by the republic of Somaliland which reclaimed its self-rule in 1991 after withdrawing from its voluntary later turned fateful 1960 union with Somali
Though the naval and air assets in Berbera much coveted due to strategic location in the gulf of Aden have been for the last 25 years under control of the yet to be recognized Somaliland a controversial deal between authorities in Hargeisa and Abu Dhabi will see the Emiratis establish a military facility there.
During the function attended by the Russians in which the Global enabler DP World Marked Start of its Berbera Port Concessions, sources indicate that the Moscow envoy engaged Somaliland officials in aside snippets unrelated to the vents at hand.
Yet to be verified information from our sources indicate that the Russian diplomat who was accompanied by a very out of the spotlight military officer touched on the importance Moscow attached to Berbera and its assets.
Similarly the Russians seemingly in covert pursuit of the incoming UAE military base in which the Emiratis will utilizing presumably upon refurbishing facilities put in place by the soviet, are reported to have informed their hosts that due to their hasty departure a large and assorted Russian military ordnance was cached at the Berbera airport grounds.
Looking inwards one would not then fail to wonder why the Russians waited over three and half decades to not only visit Somaliland but allude to the strengthening of non existent diplomatic and economic relations.
According to a report by http://www.fort-russ.com the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense had in October 2016 stated that it is considering the return of Russian military bases to a number of countries including Cuba and Vietnam.
Judging by everything, this information slipped through the cracks into the public space by accident, as most officials now prefer to either remain silent or answer evasively in the face of reporters’ questions”
Read: UAE Military Base in Somaliland and Regional Consequences
Apart from Cuba and Vietnam other countries of interest to the Russian include Yemen, The Philippines and Libya etc all of them with great significance since they place the Russians in close proximity to US assets and territory as
I. In Cuba from which the Russians were before withdrawing in 250 Kim’s striking distance of the USA in addition to having been and will be a major source of both human and electronic intelligence for Moscow.
The editor in chief of the journal National Defense and expert on military issues, Igor Korotchenko, believes that “Russia’s return to Cuba and the resumption of electronic intelligence work is an important element of guaranteeing its security in the contemporary world where the main threat to Russia is posed by the US.”
II. In Vietnam where the Russians intend to re-establish its military base at Cam Ranh formerly operated by the US during the Vietnam war before Moscow took control in 1979 on a 25 years free lease contract which it failed to renew thence departed in 2000.
III. Over this period of use , Cam Ranh became the USSR’s largest military base abroad and permanently housed part of the Pacific Fleet with aircraft, ships, and submarines.
IV. In Yemen a return of Russian military presence is in the works with a possible logistics point under negotiation with former president Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis,
In the past Bases in Aden and Socotra were among the USSR’s most important military assets. planes could theoretically reach the American base of Diego Garcia from these points.
V. While all the above and other foreign military bases under pursuit of either reestablishment or new the Philippines holds much weight having been and still is a stronghold of the US since 1951.
During the height of the Cold War Philippines was spotted with numerous US military bases and spy satellites and in this post Cold War era the Americans who still maintain part of these assets presumably as deterrence to Chinese expansion more so in relation to its longstanding territorial disputes with Philippines over the Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea.
The possibility of a Russian military base in the Philippines follows the ascent to office by President Rodrigo Duarte whose anti- Americanism has seen him pursue Chines and Russian partnership.
In this relation the US military bases in the Philippines have already begun to reel back, and it is likely that US officers will soon be shown the door in addition to demand of payment for a huge sum in outstanding rent.
VI. While Libyan facilities under negotiation with Late Muamar Gadafi before he was killed would see if finally agreed upon a full revival of Russia’s Mediterranean squadron.
Read: The award of a foreign Military base in Berbera is Illegal, corrupt and shall never be says Somalia official
Major Russian military assets abroad exist in Syria where the floating workshop” in Tartus, Latakia was Russia’s last stronghold abroad before start of the Syrian conflict used mainly for Mediterranean Sea plying ships refueling and repairing thence manned by a scanty unit
.In 2010-2012, the base underwent full-scale modernization, after which the logistics point was transformed into a fully-fledged naval base. Today, over 2,000 specialists are employed at Tartus and even large aircraft carriers can be based there. This base is indispensable in the event of a restoration of Russia’s naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea. And this does not seem so far off.
In the same context recent the international muscle flexing of the Russian Federation that is slowly being revived by president Vladimir Putin, the Russian Bear, sees a continuous defy of the so called western powers by aligning Moscow’s military might with a number of victimized third world countries. A good example being the support to the independence of Crimea after separation from Ukraine and maintaining Syrias president Assad in power despite internationally fronted efforts including arming and training rebels to dispose him.
Now the Russians foray into Yemen which had became the basing point for its fleet and a communication and control pivot for Russia over the Red Sea and Horn of Africa After Soviet troops’ departure from Somalia, the intend to enhance relations with Somaliland is obvious.
And while information pertinent to all the mentioned countries Russia is in pursuit of reestablishing its military presence or creating new ones are attributed to leaks within the defense ministry in Russia the seemingly diplomatic quasi military visit to Hargeisa indicates Somaliland has always been under microscopes in Moscow.
Read: Disillusioned with Somaliland, Ethiopia Fertilizes Puntland
While it is most likely the Russians have had a close and covert look at Somaliland in the past, is the now overt interest spurred by the UAE military base in Berbera?
If so can the Russians manage to entice the current Somaliland president Silanyo to rethink the UAE deal or will Moscow bid its time and await outcome of November presidential elections that might see a new man at the presidency in Hargeisa since Silanyo is not contesting be it from Opposition Wadani and UCID parties or Ruling Kulmiye party.
For Somaliland the authorities in Moscow would be better bedmates than the Emiratis thence the re-establishment of a Russian military base in Berbera would most likely end the 26 years elusive Somaliland quest for recognition, if President Vladimir Putin’s actions in the recognition of Crimea and full hearted support of Syrias Assad is anything to go by.
So if actually pursuing economic cooperation and not spurred by the UAE military base in Berbera what took a Russian diplomatic mission to Somaliland over 38 years?
Whatever the circumstances be it enhancement of relations or pursuit of reestablishing a military base in Berbera it is an undisputed fact that Somalilanders from all walks of life would welcome the Russians with open hands to their country if only as a payback to the so called developed western countries 26 years cold shoulder to their quest of international recognition.
With the controversies especially as pertains to scanty deal information and the cajoled manner in which the UAE military base in Berbera was approved, NOTHING onwards shall surprise Somalilanders