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Why U.S. Senators Call for Sanctions Relief for India-Russia Triumf Missile Defense Agreement

As India prepares to take delivery of the first of the S-400 Triumf advanced missile defense systems it has ordered from Russia, there is an imminent threat of US sanctions under its order. strict CAATSA law that prohibits military purchases by those Washington sees as its enemies. However, two US senators have writing to Joe Biden at the White House for refraining from penalizing India by citing growing strategic ties between the two countries. Here’s what you need to know.

What did the American senators say?

The two Indian Senate co-chairs, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Cornyn, who represent Virginia and Texas respectively in the upper house of the US Congress, told President Joe Biden in their letter that he should exercise his discretion. as authorized by law to extend the waiver to India as it “would advance the national security interests of the United States.”

The duo said any sanction “could reverse or slow” progress in “strengthening bilateral relations” between the United States and India. Noting recent developments in New Delhi-Washington relations, they said cooperation in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and stepping up engagement through the relaunch of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad – which also includes Australia and Japan – “served as an additional mechanism for closer cooperation between our two countries”.

The senators noted that India has a “long history” of purchasing weapons from Russia and, before that, the former Soviet Union, but at the same time said that it “had taken important steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment ”.

To that extent, they said, “the application of CAATSA sanctions could have a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India… [and] do not achieve the objective of deterring Russian arms sales ”.

What is the Triumf Missile Agreement?

In 2018, India signed an agreement to purchase five S-400 Triumf missile systems from Russia at a cost of nearly $ 5.5 billion, which was considered at the time to be the one of the biggest defense acquisitions made by New Delhi.

The S-400 Triumf Air Defense Missile System was developed by Almaz Central Design Bureau of Russia and entered service in 2007. The system comes with multifunction radar and is capable of autonomous detection and targeting. It includes anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers and a command and control center and contains three different types of missiles that allow it to engage all types of air targets, from airplanes and drones to ballistic and cruise missiles in one radius of 400 km and an altitude of up to 30 km.

Experts say the system – which can simultaneously engage 36 targets – “is twice as effective as previous Russian air defense systems and can be deployed in five minutes.”

An Observer Research Foundation (ORF) report earlier this year said that despite the threat of US sanctions, for India, “there is no alternative system capable of meeting its long-range air defense needs, in terms of capability or Cost”. 400 are “unmatched by typical Western systems offered as analogs” and offer better value for money with “typical configurations costing about half of their Western equivalents”.

The report says that apart from India, Russia sold the system to a handful of countries, including Belarus, Algeria, China and Turkey, the latter of which was sanctioned by CAATSA by the United States. United immediately after its decision to strike a deal with Moscow.

What is CATSA?

Short for Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law that was passed in 2017 under President Donald Trump imposes sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran.

Belarus and Algeria escaped sanctions under CAATSA because they purchased their S-400 systems before the legislation was passed by the United States. India argues that it entered into negotiations for the purchase of the S-400 system in 2016 and, therefore, is not eligible for sanctions under CAATSA.

The US law also seeks to penalize countries that buy advanced weapons from one of those countries, with the ORF saying the presence of a system like the S-400 “will clearly hamper certain technology transfers and joint operations. , as evidenced by the immediate suspension of deliveries of F-35s to NATO ally Turkey, even before the entry into force of CAATSA sanctions ”.

Although India is not an official ally of the United States, the defense and strategic ties between the two countries have deepened in recent years and the S-400 may “impose constraints on certain contours of what states United are considering for the future of the defense relationship between the United States and India ”. .

Why are US senators opposed to sanctions?

US Senators have said that while CAATSA is “an important tool for the US government to discourage Russian arms purchases around the world,” US lawmakers have also established grounds under which sanctions waivers could be extended. ” if it is in the national interest. , what if it does not endanger US national security, negatively affect US military operations, or compromise US defense systems ”.

Senators told President Biden that “a waiver for India is appropriate for several reasons” including that the amount of defense purchases from New Delhi to Russia has slowly declined as the United States has seen its share in defense exports to India slowly increasing. The letter noted that between 2016 and 2020, Russian arms exports to India fell 53% from the previous five-year period, even as purchases from the United States amounted to 3 , $ 4 billion in FY20.

In addition, they said that any sanction imposed on India “could derail the deepening of cooperation … in all aspects of our bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to sharing. of technology ”.

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