New Delhi: Deftly skirting a direct response on whether India buying the powerful S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia would attract American sanctions, the US has said it is India’s own ‘sovereign’ decision if it does so.
Responding to a query on whether India’s planned buying of the S-400 will attract provisions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana W. White was quoted as telling reporters on Thursday in a communiqué sent to this newspaper: “I can’t comment on pending legislation. But what I can say is that, ultimately, those decisions are sovereign decisions, and so those are decisions that India has to make for itself.” Historically, India and Russia have been close military allies with more than 60 per cent of India’s defence equipment being of Russian origin. But of late, a certain apprehension is believed to have crept in their ties due to India’s fast growing proximity to the US.
CAATSA became a US federal legislation after being signed into law by President Donald Trump on August 2, 2017 that seeks to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Under CAATSA, five Russian entities including Russian intelligence agencies and 19 individuals were being targeted in response to charges that they tried to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.
Interestingly, on March 16, 11 US senators wrote a letter to the US State Department asking for imposition of sanctions that buy the Russian S-400 system. Besides India, four more countries China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, are keen to acquire the S-400.
India is expected to buy five S-400 systems from the Russians the delivery of which will be completed in 54 months time. One of the most powerful missile systems in existence, the S-400 can counter the complete range of airborne threats including bombers, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at a range of up to 600 km and upto 30 km altitude and a capacity to engage up to 36 targets at one time.
US-Russia bilateral ties have been severely hit by a poison gas attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in UK’s Salisbury on March 4, which the Western powers suspect to have been engineered by Russia.
This has led to a spate of expulsions of diplomats by the Western powers as well as by Russia as on Thursday. Skripal is a former Russian spy and double agent who also later spied for UK’s intelligence services during the 1990s and early 2000s.