Washington, October 4: The US has said the Russian S-400 air and missile defence system is a “focus area” for significant transactions that could attract indirect sanctions against nations that enter into a military purchase with Moscow.
India and Russia are likely to sign a missile deal, estimated at more than $5 billion, during Russian President Vladmir Putin’s visit for annual summit talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi beginning on Thursday in New Delhi, a Kremlin aide said.
The US sanctions are part of law – Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanction Act – that seeks to punish Russia for interference in the 2016 US presidential election, its role in the Syrian conflict, and the annexation of Crimea. US’s stance could put a spanner in India’s reported plans to sign to buy five S-400s during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Delhi this week.
“The administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability – including the S-400,” a US state department spokesperson said.
“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA.”
The US president can grant waivers if a deal does not threaten the security of US or its allies and there is evidence the buyer has been cutting defence imports and dependence on Russia. India fulfils these conditions and officials have sounded optimistic about getting a waiver.
But, the spokesperson added: “The waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off of Russian equipment, and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment.”
A waiver will also need to be cleared by the US Congress.
Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on China’s military for its purchase of combat fighters as well as the S-400 missile system it bought from Russia this year.
The United States is also concerned about NATO ally Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian missile system, seeing it as incompatible with the alliance systems.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters India was closing in on the deal to buy the air defence system from Russia, with which it has long-standing military ties.
“Negotiation on S-400 air defence systems has been on for a long while and it is at a stage where it can be finalised,” Sitharaman said last week. “We have a big legacy of buying defence equipment from Russia.”
More than 80 percent of India’s military equipment was of Soviet origin during the days of the Cold War, but since its breakup New Delhi has diversified its weaponry.
The United States is one of its top arms suppliers, closing $15 billion worth of deals in just the last decade.
US firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing lead the race to sell the Indian military hundreds of aircraft to replace its ageing Russian MiG planes.