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10:02 AM, July 24, 2018
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S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defense system (Image: Russian MoD)

The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services plans to exempt some US strategic allies; India, Indonesia and Vietnam from Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that allows the nations to buy Russian military equipment without any threat sanctions.

“The final piece of legislation will exempt just three countries—India, Indonesia, and Vietnam—from a robust sanctions regime enacted and imposed last year,” Sen. Jim Inhofe Republican Senator from Oklahoma, who helped craft the annual defense bill as part of the House Armed Services Committee was quoted as saying by the Daily Beast Monday.

“They are currently buying [Russian] equipment that has to be maintained until they make the transition, and those three fall into that category,” Inhofe said in a brief interview.

“That was us,” Inhofe added, referring to the fact that Congress, not the Trump administration, decided which countries can obtain waivers.

According to the defense bill’s summary released Monday night, the “modified waivers” will “exclude the possibility of waivers for Russian intelligence agencies and other entities engaged in cyberattacks.” Additionally, the legislation requires the administration to certify whether India, Indonesia and Vietnam can remain exempt from sanctions. That means those countries must show that they are sufficiently reducing their reliance on Russian weapons systems.

The CAATSA was passed to punish Russia for its interference in elections and its involvement in Ukraine. A section of the bill requires sanctions against those countries doing business with Russian defense industry.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, earlier this year had requested Congress to grant national security waivers to sanctions on countries that have historically had relations with Russia but are now leaning towards US to buy defense equipment, namely India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

But last week, some top senators were arguing against waivers altogether. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the foreign relations committee, told The Daily Beast that expanding the waiver process “undermine[s] the very essence of those sanctions” against Russia, the Daily Beast reported.

But others, like Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, argued that sanctioning India would drive that nation even closer to Russia.

“The Pentagon has made a very strong case that we need India, we want to build a relationship there and not cut it off,” Smith told The Daily Beast last week.

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