Lawmakers urge NATO members to scrap contracts with Russia

A group of 11 lawmakers on Tuesday called for members of NATO to end end all defense contracts with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

The bipartisan group sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to urge members of NATO, including the U.S., and the Organization of Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE), to cut ties with Russian military companies.

"We believe this is a crucial step in reestablishing a deterrent against further Russian aggression and strengthening the impact of our targeted economic sanctions against Russia," they wrote.

The lawmakers said "significant bilateral trade in military equipment continues" between NATO and OSCE members despite the Ukraine conflict.

The United Kingdom, for example, started an agreement with Russia in January 2014 that would pave the way for UK and Russian companies and arms producers to cooperate, the lawmakers said.

France has continued a contract to sell two high-tech Mistral warships to Russia, and the Hungarian Ministry of Defense recently bought three Mi-8 transport helicopters from Russian state-arms dealer Rosoboronexport.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a contract with Rosoboronexport to provide the Afghan military with 22 more Mi-17 helicopters.

The lawmakers signing the letter included Sens. Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Kelly Ayotte, as well as Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Michael Burgess (R-Tex.).

Also on Tuesday, Ayotte renewed her call for imposing immediate sanctions on Russia's banking and financial sector. She is currently drafting a bill that would also sanction its energy sector.

Her provision would also provide Ukraine forces with aid including medical supplies, clothing, more Meals Ready to Eat, communications equipment, mine detection equipment, water containers and purification stations, certain small arms and generators.