Public opinion in the United States may be divided on the best strategy for confronting Vladimir Putin, but almost all Americans would object to their tax dollars’ purchasing Russian military equipment.
Yet that is exactly what is happening, even after Putin’s recent aggression in Ukraine.
Despite Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s increasingly critical comments about the United States, the Department of Defense continues to buy Russian helicopters for Afghanistan as part of a $1.1 billion contract with Rosoboronexport, the official state-owned arms-export agency of Russia. Rosoboronexport facilitates and funds Putin’s foreign-policy objectives through the sale of military equipment and technology, handling more than 80 percent of Russia’s weapons exports.
The agency is the chief supplier of arms to Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is using these weapons to murder innocent Syrian civilians. Rosoboronexport has committed to provide Syria with S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missiles; and under a $100 million contract from the Assad government, Rosoboronexport is delivering 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 jets, even as the Syrian air force continues to bomb civilian targets. Additionally, Rosoboronexport previously was sanctioned by Congress in 2007 for its role in developing Iran’s nuclear capability.
Taking steps to meaningfully obstruct this agency’s work and the revenue it provides the Russian state is among the most effective ways the United States can condemn Putin’s recent aggression. Using taxpayer funds to buy Russian equipment was objectionable when it began, became more objectionable as the Russians continued to supply Assad, and now is entirely unacceptable.
It is time to reimpose sanctions on Rosoboronexport and end all U.S. government contracts with Putin’s arms dealer.
Today I am joining with Senators John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) to introduce the Russian Weapons Embargo Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation that would forbid the direct or indirect use of American tax dollars to enter contracts or sign agreements with Rosoboronexport. Our proposal would immediately terminate existing contracts and agreements with Putin’s agency. The proposal also would prohibit contracts with any domestic or foreign company that cooperates with Rosoboronexport to design, manufacture, or sell military equipment.
Given Russia’s hostile actions in western Ukraine, we must send the message that there will be no more business as usual. With American credibility and the future of the international order on the line, our actions should reflect that.
This specific economic sanction will harm Russian interests in a serious way without damaging America’s economy.
— Dan Coats represents Indiana in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former U.S. ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany.