The US Senate unanimously voted Thursday night on the Cornyn amendment, which bars the use of American taxpayer funds to purchase goods – including helicopters to be flown in Afghanistan – from Rosoboronexport state-run arms firm. The company manages almost all of Russia’s weapons sales, including supplies that have gone to both Syria and the US.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Saturday that the measure might affect a helicopter deal of a dozen of Mi-17 helicopters worth $171 million for the Afghan military.
"Cooperation between Rosoboronexport and American bodies, including in the so-called [Afghanistan] helicopter project, were very positive, and we would not want this to be impaired by the results of ill-thought and fundamentally harmful mood among some American senators,” Ryabkov said. The helicopter deal was announced by the US and confirmed by Rosobirinexport earlier this year.
"Russia is against policies which propose sanctions or quasi-sanctions regardless of the motives behind it,” he said.
Ryabkov said that any ban on sales of Russian-made helicopters to the US for Afghanistan "would require changes to the law on US defense expenditure already made for the next financial year”.
Rosoboronexport was said to be the only broker for the helicopters, which the Afghan military needs. It’s unclear where the US government will purchase those helicopters if the deal is canceled.
Ryabkov pointed that the impact will be possible to estimate only after the bill passes through all the required votes.
The entire defense authorization bill is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate next week. While a similar defense appropriations bill, including barring Pentagon dealings with Rosoboronexport, has already passed the US House of Representatives.
"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 US brokers,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn in a statement. Cornyn authored the amendment as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Through the firm, Russia has reportedly sold more than a billion dollars in weapons to Syria, including four cargo ships full of arms and three dozen combat jets.
"Continuing this robust business relationship with Rosoboronexport would continue to undermine US policy on Syria and US efforts to stand with the Syrian people,” Cornyn said.He and other members of Congress have long advocated an end to the weapons deals with Russia.
In a letter to the Pentagon in March, US lawmakers said they had "grave concerns” about the deals with Rosoboronexport, saying the state-controlled firm provides the Syrian government "with the means to perpetrate widespread and systematic attacks on its own people.”
US President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill for reasons unrelated to the Russian firm.