President Biden may be just as harsh as Trump on India-Russia missile deal, warns DC expert

  • President Biden may be just as harsh as former President Donald Trump in imposing sanctions on India if it decides to buy S-400 missiles from Russia, warns think tank adviser Richard Rossow.
  • $5.5 billion worth of missiles was due to arrive in December 2021 but has been delayed due to the pandemic. They will present the "single biggest obstacle" to US-India relations. 
  • After previously imposed restrictions on Turkey, the US has told India it's unlikely to get a waiver, according to Reuters.
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President Joe Biden may be just as harsh as former President Donald Trump when it comes to sanctions if India decides to buy S-400 missiles from Russia, said Richard Rossow, senior adviser and the Wadhwani chair in US-India Policy Studies at CSIS think tank. 

India's plans to buy the missiles in a $5.5 billion deal will be the "single biggest obstacle" to US-India relations, Rossow continued.

 

India purchased five Russian Almaz-Antei S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air (SAM) systems and the deal was signed when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India in October 2018. 

The US has vehemently opposed the deal, after previously suggesting in 2018 that it would make an exception for India. Trump hinted at sanctions and suggested India should drop the deal to avoid a diplomatic crisis.

"Within the US sanctions authority, Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), there is a narrow waiver included in the CAATSA legislation. But the waiver authority is still very narrow and there are questions about which countries will be able to make it through," said Rossow. 

A US embassy spokesperson told Reuters that India would be unlikely to receive a waiver, adding that the "CAATSA does not have any blanket or country-specific provision."

The delivery of the first batch of the Triumpf-made air defense system was scheduled to arrive in India by the end of 2021, but this has now been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, India urged Russia to speed up its delivery of the missile system, as border tensions with China escalated.

China received its own S-400 missiles from Russia in May 2018. 

Former President Trump previously imposed sanctions on Turkey when they purchased the S-400 in 2019, refusing to sell them F-35 fighter jets.

However, in December the US confirmed it was still "hopeful to find a resolution to this." 

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