India Plans To Buy $5 Billion Worth Of Missiles From Russia, Risking U.S. Sanctions If The Deal Goes Through

Automatic sanctions may kick in that could require the U.S. to impose penalities on New Delhi if the deal with Russia goes through.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Russia President Vladimir Putin.
Ramil Sitdikov / Getty Images

Automatic sanctions may kick in that could require the U.S. to impose penalities on New Delhi if the deal with Russia goes through.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin meets this week in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two will plan on signing a missile deal worth $5 billion. India hopes the deal might give them a leg-up on their national security situation with neighbors China and Pakistan.

But in completing the deal, India risks triggering automatic sanctions from the United States for completing the purchase with Russia, according to reporting from Reuters.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed by Congress and reluctantly signed by President Donald Trump last year, such purchases from Russia by other nations could require the U.S. to impose sanctions on said purchasing nations. If New Delhi moves forward with the plan to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missiles it plans on buying later this week, the U.S. State Department believes that could hurt trade deals between the two nations.

“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under the CAATSA,” a State Department representative said.

India has made purchases for improving its military capabilities from Russia for decades, but after the Cold War ended, they began buying from many nations, including Russia and the United States. Over the past decade, for instance, the U.S. has sold more than $15 billion of weaponry to India.

Modi and his government are hoping that the U.S. will exempt them from the sanctions that would be automatically triggered by CAATSA. But it’s hard to see how that could happen, as the law does not set parameters for allowing the administration to provide waivers to nations it deems worthy of receiving them.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary James Mattis requested that Congress update CAATSA and grant waiver privileges to the administration, according to reporting from the Hill. The House of Representatives agreed, but the Senate denied the request, meaning that the original CAATSA language remains in place. Mattis cited several nations that the U.S. would want to allow waivers for, including India, when making his plea.

The S-400 missiles that New Delhi is hoping to attain from their purchase agreement with Russia would allow India to implement an advanced missile defense system. The missiles are able to track down and shoot combat aircraft, including stealth planes, and would likely serve as a deterrent against an attack from neighboring nations.

The plans to attain the missiles have been a long time coming, officials in India said. “Negotiation on S-400 air defense systems has been on for a long while and it is at a stage where it can be finalized,” explained Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “We have a big legacy of buying defense equipment from Russia.”