Syria and Russian Helicopters
On Wednesday July 18, Senator Cornyn issued a statement relating to an amendment he offered and was voted on in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. The amendment was rejected, but would have delayed the effective date of legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations (“PNTR”) with Russia until the President certifies that the Russian government has ceased the transfer of weapons to Syria. The Russian government would have to cease facilitating the transfer of lethal military equipment to Syria and halt the maintenance of existing lethal military equipment for PNTR to go ahead.
That same day, the Defense department issued a statement noting recent contracts that were awarded. On of those contracts was a no bid contract with Rosoboronexport FGUP for $171,380,636. The contract was to procure 10 additional Mi-17 helicopters from that company to be delivered by the end of 2016.
The following day, Senator Cornyn issued a statement in which he expressed concerns with the U.S. Government’s relationship with Rosoboronexport, who Cornyn claimed has for years been arming the Assad regime. Sen. Cornyn sent a letter to Secretary Panetta asking for a commitment that the Pentagon conduct a full and open competitive process for any future procurement of Mi-17 helicopters, which the U.S. has been buying through Rosoboronexport on a no-bid basis to equip the Afghan military. He asked for a full audit of the Pentagon’s contract with the Russian arms broker.
Upon first reading these statements, my immediate response was "Why is any contract given to a Russian arms dealer given on a no-bid basis?" My second reaction was "Why the heck is the US spending over $170 million for helicopters for the Afghani Army and buying those vehicles from Russia and not the US?"