7-31-2013By Sonni Efron
Human Rights First
The Pentagon is buying over $1.1 billion worth of helicopters and spare parts from the same Russian state-run dealer that arms the brutal regime of Syrian President Assad. This purchase comes at the same time that the United States is arming and providing aid to the Syrian rebels.
Rosoboronexport has already shipped $4.9 billion in arms to the Assad regime, which has slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians. The only winners are Russian President Putin’s former KGB colleague Sergey Chemezov and others who run Rosoboronexport. They’ve received billions from Assad . . . and millions from American taxpayers.
Congress blocked purchases from the Russian arms dealer in 2013. But the Pentagon found a loophole and moved forward with the deal anyway. Then it asked for another $350 million for 15 more helicopters in the 2014 defense bill, which the Senate Armed Services Committee struck down yesterday thanks to the leadership of Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). But that leaves about $500 million in previous contracts still flowing to Putin’s favorite arms dealer.
The Pentagon claims that Rosoboronexport is the only company capable of supplying these helicopters and parts Afghan forces need as U.S. forces leave the country. The Pentagon owes the American people a Plan B for acquiring these aircraft without enriching Rosoboronexport.
Our new blueprint, featured in the Wall Street Journal, How to Stop Doing Business with Russia’s Arms Exporter, documents how U.S. taxpayer money has flowed to Rosoboronexport. It provides a roadmap for the Defense Department to end U.S. arms procurement from companies that enable atrocities.
It’s time for the Pentagon to get serious about aligning its policies with American ideals and with the U.S. commitment to stop atrocities in Syria. Urge Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to cancel the arms deal with Rosoboronexport.