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Lawmakers Jump on Obama, Hagel to Back Out of Mi-17 Contract with Assad’s Arms Supplier

Not only did Rosoboronexport just sell an anti-aircraft system to Syria that could be used against us, but Afghans will have trouble using and maintaining what we bought them.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

July 9, 2013 - 8:24 pm
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Members of Congress are battling the Obama administration over its decision to move forward with a $554 million contract modification with Russia’s Rosoboronexport on the principle that the U.S. shouldn’t be funneling money to Bashar al-Assad’s main arms supplier.

But the special inspector general overseeing Afghanistan’s reconstruction has another reason to oppose the deal: it’s money spent on 30 Mi-17 helicopters that the Afghans have trouble using and maintaining.

The Mi-17 military helicopters will be used by the Afghan National Security Forces Special Mission Wing; work will be performed in Russia and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2014. The Pentagon maintained that the Mi-17 helicopters requisitioned for the Afghanistan Air Force had to come from the sole entity controlling export of the crafts.

A week ago, after the mid-June news that the Obama administration went around Congress’ block of the arms sale by using the national-security-interests loophole, a bipartisan group of senators urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider the contract — again.

“The inadvisable purchase of these Mi-17 helicopters is facilitated through an entity under the control of the Russian government, which as you are aware has demonstrated time and again its interests are diametrically opposed to our national security,” wrote Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

It’s even more “unconscionable” to ink the contract “while Prime Minster Putin acknowledges sheltering the fugitive Edward Snowden at the Sheremetyevo airport,” they added.

“The Russian state-controlled arms export firm Rosoboronexport continues to provide the Syrian government with the means to perpetrate widespread and systemic attacks on its own people. Rosoboronexport has committed to provide Syria with S–300 advanced anti-aircraft missiles that would protect the air dominance of the Assad regime and facilitate its continued attacks on the civilian population,” continues the letter. “Even in the face of crimes against humanity and the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government during the past year, enabled by the regular flow of weapons from Russia, the United States Government has unfortunately continued to procure from Rosoboronexport.”

“Section 1233 of S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, prohibits the use of funds to enter contracts with Rosoboronexport. As we work together to enact this provision into law, we call to your attention that the fact that you currently have the authority to end this contract with Rosoboronexport. Not only does it fail to meet the requirements of the Afghan military, but it also provides U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to the Russian government as it shelters a fugitive from justice and undermines U.S. policy on Syria.”

The plea to Hagel comes more than a year after his predecessor, Leon Panetta, was asked by the same group to intervene in the “serious policy problem.”

Yesterday, Ayotte and Begich went straight to the top in asking President Obama to “end all financial dealings with Rosoboronexport and to impose sanctions against Rosoboronexport and Russian manufacturers that provide military equipment such as advanced anti-aircraft systems to Syria in contravention of U.S. law.”

Until just three years ago, Rosoboronexport had been the subject of U.S. sanctions for assisting Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Russia is the top arms supplier to the regime in Syria, selling more than $1 billion in arms to the regime in 2011 alone.

Ayotte and Begich noted that Russia just decided to sell the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria, a deal that “will challenge American interests in the region, including the safety and security of Israel.”

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All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
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The opposition in Syria is characterized as civilians but many of the fighters are not citizens of Syria but jihad-is from all over the arab world. European countries are alarmed that muslims in their counties are traveling to Syria to fight the existing regime. The main sunni groups have a long history of terrorist activities around the world.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If we're gonna buy the taliban these helicopters, why don't we go "whole hog" and set them up a forward operating base in Mexico so they don't have to re-fuel them when they attack America directly! It's only our tax money (I'm sure the IRS will be glad to steal some more of it to make this happen)!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why is Obama doing what he's doing? Why? Obama has literally doubled down on everything anti-American and has again acting unilaterally. If we had any lawmakers that had even a spec of will to abide by the rule of law ... Obama could have been reigned in a long time ago. So here we are; we have a bull in a China Shop and a bunch of lawless pimps in Congress wringing their hands and expressing outrage but taking NO action against the executive whatsoever. Not too long ago ... Obama would have been given a boot in the derriere and told to go back to Commieland from whence he came. Obama is drunk on his own power and that's dangerous ... we are NOT required to wait to vote him out; he can be removed peacefully because of his proven record of treasonous and anti-constitutional actions ... for that, there is ample provision under the law.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm beginning to believe this administration is not only hard a hearing - they don't listen to anyone but themselves - but they are also hard a thinkin.

Why would we buy Russian helos for Afghanistan instead of buying from our own aerospace companies? I'd be suspicious of the Russians if for no other reason than they view Afghanistan in much the same light as we did Viet Nam at one time - and kind of still do. And the Afghan war ended for the Russians in 1989 - the wounds are still rather fresh. Can you say sabotage? Lack of spare parts etc?

Expecting a camel mechanic to fix something as complicated as a helicopter is just stupid - and finding ones that can fly one is going to be a huge challenge.

These guys are setting a new standard when it comes to gaffs missteps and dumb ideas.

Personally I wouldn't leave the Afghanis more than a pile of rocks to throw at each other. I wouldn't trust them any further than I can throw one - even a small one - unless of course I were standing next to a tall cliff... Come to think of it they already have the rocks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mainly because they are the ones they actually already have and know how to use. If you read very carefully the outfit these choppers are supposed to go to do not know how to maintain or fly them, because their pilots and ground crew are part of a different unit. The Afghan Airforce has pilots and ground crew for the Mi-17s. Moreover the Mi-17s are simpler and more robust than Blackhawks.

I'm far from a fan of this admin, but this isn't the first set of Russian choppers we've bought for the Afghans.

Now if you want to debate buying them any choppers at all, that I'll probably agree with. But if we are going to do it, let's do it in a way that make ssense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The main players within Obama Inc are not operating from a patriotic paradigm. So if one sees more than counter intuitive decisions emanating, it is not for nothing.
And in relation to the Radical-in-Chief's dealings with Putin's Russia, things get even dicier - http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/07/08/putin-obama-knee-deep-in-cooperative-efforts-russian-troops-training-on-u-s-soil-what-are-they-up-to-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

Up is down, evil is good and black is white...

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" but Afghans will have trouble using and maintaining what we bought them.'

They'll sell it to al Qaeda.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Do you suppose our divider in chief is suffering from stress related dementia? He seems to have lost touch with reality. Why is it that everyone knows what Rosoboronexport will do with these helicopters but obama? Or maybe he knows but he doesn't care. After all, he told Medvedev he would have more flexibility after he was (re)elected. I know the original statement was concerning nuclear weapons but give a dictator an inch, he will take everything you have, specially freedom.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So --- tell me please when our divider in chief was ever in touch with the reality we live in? He's lived in a world unknown to the average American all his life. Waking up that first morning in the WH must have been a real shock. Kind of like the dog that catches a car for the first time in his life and hasn't a clue as to what to do with it. And still has no clue.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Gosh, I'm really glad that Obama was elected and has such a strong relationship with Russia, thanks to that wonderful reset in the diplomacy. Things are SO much better between America and Russia now....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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