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As U.S. Pledges Sanctions, Arms Deal With Russia Under Fire

Some lawmakers are urging the Pentagon to end its contract with a Russian arms manufacturer in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

As U.S. Pledges Sanctions, Arms Deal With Russia Under Fire
U.S. Department of Defense

‚ÄčAs the crisis in Ukraine rages on, President Obama has threatened Russia with more sanctions aimed at destabilizing its economy — perhaps undermining that threat — the fact that the U.S. continues to buy Russian-made helicopters and rocket engines. (Via The White House, U.S. Department of Defense

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government has paid a Russian arms manufacturer more than $1 billion for 63 attack helicopters since 2011. The company also sells the U.S. spare parts. 

The Pentagon says these Russian helicopters are simply better than American-made counterparts, but critics like former chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee J.D. Hayworth, are urging the Defense Department to consider an alternative given Moscow's actions in Ukraine.  

HAYWORTH: "On one hand, we're saying sanctions, on the other hand we're buying lots of Russian products that are fueling and enriching the very people that we're trying to sanction. It makes no sense." (Via Newsmax

Critics have in the past taken issue with the fact that the company supplying the helicopters is the same weapons exporter Russia uses to send weapons to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. (Via ITN

And there were allegations the company was transferring sensitive technology to Iran, which led the Bush administration in 2006 to impose sanctions on the manufacturer. The Obama administration lifted those sanctions in 2010. (Via Pravda)

It's worth noting, the U.S., as the world's tops arms exporter, sells more weapons than Russia — though Russia's a close second. (Via Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Many lawmakers now are urging the State Department to switch to using more of a similar Boeing helicopter in Afghanistan called the Chinook — a helicopter they say is just as capable. (Via U.S. Army)  

But NPR quotes Sen. Adam Smith of the House Armed Services Committee who explains switching to American-made helicopters could spell trouble for the Afghan pilots who are only trained to fly the Russian aircraft. 

President Obama recently issued an executive order giving him the power to sanction Russian military suppliers, but hasn't yet taken steps to do so.