WASHINGTON, April 4 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) – The US Department of Defense said Thursday it plans to sidestep a Congressional ban to purchase 30 helicopters from Russian state-owned defense firm Rosoboronexport, despite objections from US lawmakers who allege that the firm has equipped the Syrian government to commit brutal crimes against civilians.
“The Department of Defense (DOD) has notified Congress of its intent to contract with Rosoboronexport for 30 additional Mi-17 rotary-wing aircraft to support the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) Special Mission Wing,” Pentagon spokesman James Gregory told RIA Novosti in emailed comments.
The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by Congress last year, includes an amendment that prohibits financial contracts between the United States and Rosoboronexport, except when the Secretary of Defense determines that such arrangements are in the interest of national security.
“Given current timelines, the department has determined that Rosoboronexport is the only viable means of meeting ANSF requirements” for the helicopters, Gregory said.
The contract totals $690 million, most of which would go to the Russian arms maker, he added.
In February, US President Barack Obama announced plans to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 66,000 to 34,000 over the next year, leaving Afghan forces with an increased role in their nation’s security.
Many of the Afghan forces have already been trained to operate the Russian aircraft. Switching to a new platform would delay the readiness of their rotary wing division by at least three years while crews get training and experience on a new system, Gregory said.
A bipartisan Congressional group wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week in which they objected to the ongoing business relationship between the Russian arms company and the Pentagon.
“What is the national security justification of continuing business with Rosoboronexport?” they asked in the letter.
“Russia continues to transfer weapons through Rosoboronexport to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” they continued. “Since the Syrian uprising began, Russia has continued to serve as the Assad regime’s chief supplier of weapons, enabling the mass murder of Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government.”
Russia, however, has insisted that the deliveries are legal under international law and that it is not supplying Syria with offensive weapons. Moscow has also questioned the composition and goals of the various armed groups fighting the Assad regime.
US Rep. Jim Moran, who co-authored the amendment, said Rosoboronexport had supplied nearly $1 billion in arms to Assad’s government between 2011 and 2012, including high-explosive mortars, sniper rifles, ammunition and refurbished attack helicopters.
Public records show that some of the representatives who signed the letter and sponsored the amendment–including Moran, Rep. Kay Granger and Rep. Rosa DeLauro—have received campaign contributions from US defense contractors.
But Moran’s spokeswoman, Anne Hughes, described any implication that the lawmakers’ concern is more about campaign contributions than arms for Syria as “laughable.” Representatives of the other lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment.
“The objections are understandable, the US defense industry needs contracts. … But from a cost-benefit analysis, Russian helicopters are a better deal,” Simon Saradzhyan, a security expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
The Russian helicopters, he said, are generally not as sophisticated or advanced as those made in the United States, making them arguably more suitable for use by Afghan security forces.
“This is the Russian competitive edge,” Saradzhyan said. “They cost less and they are easy to maintain. This is how Russian arms supporters make their sales speech.”
The Russian aircraft “are superbly suited for harsh environments,” said Gregory, the Pentagon spokesman.
In their letter to Hagel, the lawmakers asked what steps the Pentagon had taken to consider alternative helicopter suppliers. They also requested that the department prepare a detailed briefing and present it to Congress before taking any action on the pending contract.
Hagel has received the letter, Gregory said.
“He will of course respond.”
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- flyer19999russian helicopters09:23, 07/05/2013Maybe I'm just dumb, but the U.S. can sell arms to anyone it wants and does.
Poor Russia cannot sell arms to clients like Syria, Iran, N. Korea, and etc.
The U.S. should buy 300 Russian helicopters to off set this.
- arsanlupinSo?22:32, 07/05/2013The US isn't selling to those countries either, so your argument is invalid. Besides - there's about 200 countries planet-wide at last count - I doubt Russia has any problems finding buyers.
The real problem threatening the Russian arms industry is in fact China - who insists on buying only a handful of each Russian weapon so they can reverse-engineer them and make all the unlicensed copies they want. In fact they're making so many they are not just becoming serious competition to Russia's arms sales, they are also growing more and more belligerent throughout East Asia and the West Pacific. Russia would be wise to better guard their Far Eastern districts …
- LocoIvanYawn! Can’t 'moist' be a little more CREATIVE...04:35, 08/05/2013for entertainments sake?
All of your deviant posts pond the same sociopathic mantra:
Blah blah, zio-fascist; wardogs; Blah, USrael; Storm-Truppen; Blah blah, Wahhabi; fascist empire Blah ephing blah.
At least your spawn MattMarriot keeps it ABSURD with statements like:
‘Russia TV is not run by Russia but by the CIA’.
Now that’s Good Entertainment!
Besides, this quote in the article above helps define all that needs to be said:
‘The Russian helicopters…are generally not as sophisticated or advanced as those made in the United States, making them arguably more suitable for use by Afghan security forces.’
- arsanlupinLMAO!!!02:29, 10/05/2013Well said! In addition to the stench of the mold and mildew that such water on the brain apparently causes, it's so boringly repetitive! No doubt because of the room-temperature IQ … measured in the Celsius scale, of course.
In Oymyakon, Sakha Repubic, in pre-dawn January.
With the front door open.
- Wolfgang9Never seen anythin worthwile reading15:54, 12/05/2013from Locus-Ivan or Ars-on-Looping, all just personal insults, no real input. I just wonder how long this is tolerated here. In a German forum you both would have been pushed out a long time ago just for your bad behavior. And I really don't have to wonder which country has more freedom of speech, Russia or Germany, its definitely Russia!
- flyer19999Russian helicopters14:42, 08/05/2013If someone wanted me not to sell weapons to Iran, Cuba, N. Korea, and Syria than they better not sell their weapons to former Soviet Union countries.
Additionally, Russian weapons are lot cheaper to operate and maintain.
- arsanlupinOh really?02:55, 10/05/2013Regarding your comment that Russian equipment is cheaper to operate and maintain, I somewhat agree. In this context, I think the larger advantage to the Russian helicopters is that it’s simpler to operate and maintain. This necessity comes from the pool of people who do the operating and the maintaining.
My good friend, a retired Captain 2nd Rank from the Soviet Navy, told me that one of the biggest problems in training many conscripts was their educational level and their poor Russian language skills. Most of the smarter potential recruits could bribe their way out of military service, leaving the poor dolts from the provinces to fill the ranks – many from parts of the country where Russian wasn’t the primary language.
As for selling weapons to FSU countries, all have so much experience working with Soviet weapons that switching over would cause mass chaos in the ranks from so steep a learning curve. Besides – who can afford them???
Any anti-ISIL operation in Iraq cannot be effective unless the Islamic State is attacked in Syria. But the final statement of the Paris Conference did not mention Syria as a precaution against disunity in the coalition and with due regard for the Russian position. Professor of the Chair of Modern East Department of History, Political Science and Law in RSUH