The Senate unanimously agreed to an amendment to the defense authorization bill to stop contracting with a Russian arms giant that is supplying the Syrian regime with weapons.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has been leading a charge in the upper chamber against the Pentagon’s relationship with Rosoboronexport, which included a $375 million no-bid contract just two months after the Syrian uprising began. 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.
Until just three years ago, Rosoboronexport had been the subject of U.S. sanctions for assisting Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
“The American taxpayer should not be indirectly subsidizing the mass murder of Syrian civilians, especially when there are perfectly good alternatives for purchasing these same arms through U.S. brokers,” Cornyn said.
“Continuing this robust business relationship with Rosoboronexport would continue to undermine U.S. policy on Syria and U.S. efforts to stand with the Syrian people.”
The amendment bans any Fiscal Year 2013 funding from being used by the Department of Defense to enter into new contracts or other business arrangements with Rosoboronexport.
In March, Cornynled a bipartisan letter in March to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calling for an end to the government’s relationship with the arms giant.
In June, Cornyn told PJM that he hadn’t received any sort of “satisfactory response.”
“So far, we’ve been stiff-armed by the Department of Defense on this whole issue,” Cornyn said. “We’re not going to let this thing slide.”
In September, the Pentagon told Cornyn it was exploring other avenues by which to acquire the Mi-17s.
“The Department condemns the actions of Rosoboronexport in supplying arms and ammunition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose forces have used these weapons to murder Syrian civilians,” wrote Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall. “We are cognizant of the bipartisan concern in the Congress over both this company’s actions and the Department’s business relationship with it.”