Senators urge Biden to waive sanctions on India over Russian defense system purchase

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) urged President Biden to waive sanctions against India for purchasing Russia’s air defense system. 

In a letter to Biden sent Tuesday, the senators said that imposing sanctions on India over the system could have “a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India, while at the same time, not achieve the intended purpose of deterring Russian arms sales.”

“As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system,” Cornyn and Warner wrote. 

India formally agreed to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense systems in 2018 after initially agreeing to do so two years prior.

The senators worried that the transfer would trigger sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was intended to hold Russia accountable for malign behavior.

The measure places countries who are engaged with Russian defense and intelligence sectors at risk of sanctions. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey in 2019 for purchasing the system.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in April that allies wanting to buy Russia’s system could be penalized through the CAATSA.

“Any significant transactions with Russian defense entities, again, could be subject to the law, to CAATSA, and that’s separate from and in addition to the sanctions that have already been imposed,” Blinken said at the time.

Cornyn and Warner wrote that India has taken steps to “significantly” reduce imports of military hardware, and those sanctions could derail “deepening cooperation with Russia.”

The senators also warned that such efforts can jeopardize India’s efforts to reduce reliance on Russia’s defense hardware.

“We share your concerns regarding the purchase and the continued Indian integration of Russian equipment, even with these declining sales,” the senators wrote. “We would encourage your administration to continue reinforcing this concern to Indian officials and engaging with them constructively to continue supporting alternatives to their purchasing Russian equipment.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Tags Antony Blinken CAATSA India Joe Biden John Cornyn Mark Warner Missile defense system Russia United States sanctions
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