India defies US sanctions, formally signs deal worth $5.2-bn for 5 Russian S-400 Systems

India and Russia, in a move that could invite US sanctions under CAATSA, have formally inked the $ 5.2 billion deal for S-400 system. The air defence system is expected to be delivered by the year 2020.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is on a two-day visit to India, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening, and was personally welcomed by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the airport.

Putin arrived at the Hyderabad House here on Friday to attend the 19th India-Russia bilateral annual summit with Prime Minister Modi. They are slated to discuss a number of key global and regional issues, including the US sanctions on Iranian oil.

THE S-400 ::

The Russian S-400 Triumf advanced air defence system became a bone of contention between India and the US, particularly after the latter brought in a new law on August 2, 2017, called ”Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ or CAATSA. This, among other things, imposed new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. This limited India’s ability to purchase arms and ammunition from Russia since such an act would be tantamount to inviting sanctions from the US. It also forces India to use a currency apart from the US dollar to set the exchange rate between the rouble and the rupee. India was previously honouring its payments for defence contracts with the US dollar.

The the S-400 Triumf is an advanced surface-to-air missile system, developed by Russia’s state-owned company Almaz-Antey, and can shoot down hostile aircraft and ballistic missiles. It has an estimated range of 250 kilometres and a possible upgrade is speculated to extend it to 400 kilometres.

The S-400 battery has four transporter erector launchers (TEL) which are essentially missile vehicles that can carry and launch missiles. There are four launch tubes in each TEL. The system also includes a fire control radar and a command post. This enables it to fire surface-to-air missiles and eliminate incoming missile or adversary, thus creating an air defence shield.

GEOPOLITICAL TOOL ::

The S-400 is not merely military equipment for Russia but a tool for geopolitical strategy. The Russians, despite the sanctions on Almaz-Antey, are actively offering it to a number of countries, including NATO members such as Turkey, which has signed a provisional agreement to purchase it in December, despite US warnings. China has reportedly already acquired the first set of S-400 system including the command post, radar stations and launching stations. The S-400 may also be purchased by countries such as Algeria, Belarus, Iran and Vietnam, thus reducing the American sphere of influence.

The other reason US is up in arms against the S-400 is the missile defence system’s reported ability to take down American stealth fighter jets including the F-35. If Turkey were to acquire the S-400 along with the American F-35 (which it has already ordered from the US), then the exact nature of the F-35’s weakness would be apparent to them. Such information could also eventually find its way to Russia.

“We have made it clear that CAATSA is a U.S. law and not a UN law,” said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on July 13, 2018.

Although the United States Congress has passed the conference report on National Defense Authorization Act-2019 (NDAA-19) which provides a modified waiver to section 231 of CAATSA, President Trump will need to grant his approval for helping India evade American sanctions. This might go against his ‘America First’ policy of favouring US interests over global concerns.

SOURCE : ET

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