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The United States and a number of its Western partners have expressed their great apprehension regarding the rapid growth in Russian arms exports to a number of longstanding Western military clients, and in particular to the proliferation of advanced anti aircraft weapons and anti access area denial (A2AD) weapons systems which seriously threaten Western strategic interests.
The United States has responded with a concerted campaign to undermine Russian arms exports, both to prevent the proliferation of weapons systems which could serve purposes contrary to Western strategic interests and to reduce Russia’s market share in the global arms trade – cutting Moscow off from a valuable source of income.
One key means of undermining Russian arms exports has been the threatening of states making large acquisitions of Russian arms with economic sanctions – with potential clients for advanced Russian made air defence systems in particular threatened with severe consequences should they purchase such weapons.
Sanctions are applied under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), signed into law by President Donald Trump on August 2nd 2017, under which states purchasing Russian, North Korean or Iranian weapons systems are liable to suffer reprisals for their acquisitions.
A number of states including Iraq and Turkey have been threatened with sanctions should the follow through with plans to acquire Russian S-400 air defence systems – and several others are set to follow.
The United States’ use of CAATSA to punish Russian arms clients could well have severe implications for a number of Washington’s emerging partners, most notably India which is a longstanding client for Russian arms.
Russia is by far the largest source of arms for the Indian military, and Russian and Soviet made weapons comprise over 70% of the country’s inventory. While India has emerged as a growing U.S. partner in South Asia in recent years, and has in the last decade significantly increased its imports of U.S. arms, America’s new policy towards Russian military clients could have severe implications for Washington’s budding relationship with Delhi.
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