Pentagon Says It Won’t Buy More Disputed Russian CoptersTony Capaccio
The Pentagon won’t buy more Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned export company, after completing a $572 million contract signed in June, according to a Defense Department spokeswoman.
“The department has re-evaluated requirements in consultation with Congress,” spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said in an e-mailed statement. “We currently do not have plans to purchase additional Mi-17s from Rosoboronexport beyond” the 86 already purchased for the Afghanistan military.
Pentagon officials have said Rosoboronexport was the only source for the Russian-made Mi-17 that Afghanistan’s military has flown since the 1980s. U.S. lawmakers raised objections about the purchases because the company has supplied arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I applaud the Defense Department’s decision to finally cancel its plan to buy additional helicopters,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said today in a statement. “Doing business with the supplier of these helicopters has been a morally bankrupt policy, and as a nation, we should no longer be subsidizing Assad’s war crimes.”
The decision means that the Defense Department won’t continue to seek $345 million that it had requested to buy 15 more of the helicopters, Schumann said. The Senate defense appropriations panel rejected the request for the current fiscal year.
The $572 million contract signed in June will provide Afghanistan with 30 Mi-17s, she said.
A dozen senators in August called on the Defense Department to “fully severe its business relationship” with Rosoboronexport, including canceling the June contract.
Rosoboronexport, based in Moscow, accounted for 85 percent of Russia’s arms exports as of 2010, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a research group based in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s the sole Russian company controlling exports of the Mi-17, according to the Pentagon.