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US looks to ease sanctions on Russian export customers

24 July 2018
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The US Senate and House Committee on Armed Services has proposed an amendment to the country’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2019 to ease sanctions on countries procuring defence equipment from Russia. Jane’s understands the move is intended to support US efforts to build strategic partnerships in Asia Pacific.

The proposed amendment is provided in a conference report – tabled by the Senate committee on 24 July to accompany the final version of the NDAA 2019 – that proposes a “modified waiver” to Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Indonesia, which has recently ordered 11 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters (pictured), is one of several Asian countries targeted by proposed amendments to US law that will ease sanctions on Russia’s military customers. (Sukhoi)Indonesia, which has recently ordered 11 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters (pictured), is one of several Asian countries targeted by proposed amendments to US law that will ease sanctions on Russia’s military customers. (Sukhoi)

CAATSA was signed into US law in August 2017 and imposes sanctions against Russia, as well as Iran and North Korea. Section 231 of CAATSA outlines the imposition of sanctions on “persons engaging in transactions with the intelligence or defence sectors of” Russia.

The proposed CAATSA amendment does not mention any countries in particular, but Jane’s understands that the modification is intended to enable the United States to continue to build relations with India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. These countries are regarded as important allies by Washington, but they also have a strong tradition of procuring military equipment from Russia.

According to the Senate committee, the amendment to Section 231 of CAATSA will provide “flexibility for strategic partners and allies to move away from the use of Russian military equipment to American equipment, while ensuring that US defence and security interests remain protected”.

Specifically, the committee’s report states that any waiver should be in the interests of the United States, and that the waiver should be allowed if the procuring country is taking steps (or willing to take steps) to reduce its inventories of Russian defence equipment or is co-operating with the United States on security matters that are critical to US strategic interests.

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