Official: U.S. cut off $10 billion in Russian arms transfers with ‘more to come’

by WorldTribune Staff, August 2, 2018

President Donald Trump’s administration has halted some $10 billion in Russian arms transfers in recent months, according to a U.S. State Department official.

Arms sales are the key to Russia’s Middle East agenda, analysts say. / AFP

“We’ve already had what we view as a remarkable degree of success in putting a dent in Russia’s future arms revenues and in making it much more difficult for Moscow to build the kind of strategic relationships that it hopes to get out of its arms transfer policy, so this is already becoming something of a success story,” said Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state and head of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.

“We’re pretty excited about it, and I assure you there’s more to come,” Ford said during an interview on the Hudson Institute’s Policy Talk podcast last week.

Ford said the Russian arms transfers were cut off as part of the State Department’s implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017, which sanctions countries that engage in significant defense trade with Russia, Iran, or North Korea.

“We think it is important, and certainly Congress felt it extremely important, to use these tools to try to deny the Russian war machine the revenues that it gets from those kinds of arms engagements, and the strategic advantage it seeks to cultivate, and to maintain, and to increase,” Ford said.

Moscow intends to at least achieve parity with U.S. suppliers in the new Middle East arms race, analysts say.

The Syrian conflict “has become an open air sales exhibition of Russia’s military arsenal, proving its efficiency in combat, and reportedly increasing regional interest in acquiring Russian weapons,” Middle East analyst Stasa Salacanin said.

According to Alexey Khlebnikov, senior editor of Russia Direct, the Kremlin pines to restore its Soviet-era position in the arms market, which drastically declined with the collapse of the USSR.

Stopping the arms transfers is one of a number of tough-on-Russia actions taken by the Trump administration.

Breitbart news noted in an Aug. 1 report that Turmp “has also boosted military spending in Eastern Europe, approved the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine, ordered two missile strikes against Russia’s ally Syria, imposed new sanctions against the Russian elite, and expelled 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S.”

Despite these actions, “Trump’s critics called him ‘treasonous’ for not publicly denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 election during a joint press conference in Helsinki last month and equivocating on whether he believed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled,” Breitbart’s report noted.


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