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20 Jul, 2012 14:23

US getting punitive? Congress bans Pentagon’s arms contracts with Russia

US congressmen have voted to cancel a Pentagon arms contract with Russia for supplying helicopters to American allies in Afghanistan. The move comes after Russia and China vetoed a US-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria.

The two countries said the western-backed document is biased against Damascus and will not only further aggravate the turmoil, but also result the conflict spilling over into other countries in the region.The amendment to the 2013 Pentagon defense spending bill banning further purchases from Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport was adopted by a vote of 407-5. It prohibits the US military from buying 10 Mil Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan military, ultimately axing a deal worth more than $170 million. Afghanistan needed the Russian-made aircraft as well as spare parts, ground support equipment and maintenance services to beef up its security services. Many Afghan pilots and mechanical engineers have been familiar with the Russian equipment since the time of the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.Mi-17s are well-suited for the country’s harsh conditions, including hot temperatures, sandy winds and mountainous terrain. Democrat Representative Jim Moran, who introduced the measure, claimed that the Russian arms export giant sells and ships sniper rifles and attack helicopters to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the issue a month ago in an exclusive interview with RT during the International Economic Forum 2012 in Saint Petersburg. “We are sending no battleships to Syria. We have been saying publicly that we have been implementing contracts under which we have to supply arms to Syria. Those armaments are entirely defensive and they mostly consist of air defense systems, which cannot be used against the population and can only be used to respond to outside aggression,” he said. As for the helicopters, Russia’s Foreign Minister added, “It [the ship] was carrying three helicopters which had been repaired in Russia under contracts signed in 2008. Those are Soviet helicopters. They are still to be assembled after delivery. The entire process will take no less than three months.”The latest cancellation of the US-Russia contract came hours after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, and unless the government complied, economic sanctions or even military action against the Syrian government would be possible.Some western countries have been voicing increasing irritation Moscow and Beijing’s resistance towards ratcheting up pressure on Damascus.At the so-called Friends of Syria gathering this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Russia and China were “holding up progress” in the crisis and will “pay a price” for it.