US is ‘discouraging’ India from acquiring S-400 missile defense systems from Russia


The United States is clearly not happy with India’s defense partnership with Russia, in regards to its acquisition of S-400 missile defense systems.

The Biden administration has voiced their concern several times, however are a little apprehensive to take any substantial steps, as it may hinder various developments between India and US.

The US has made clear to India that it is “discouraging” it from proceeding with Russia but Washington will have to weigh “important geostrategic considerations” while taking a decision on growing calls for a presidential CAATSA waiver to New Delhi, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Coordinator for Sanctions Policy has told lawmakers.

In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defense missile systems, despite a warning from the then Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.

The Biden administration has not yet clarified whether it will impose sanctions on India under the provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for procuring the S-400 missile systems.

CAATSA is a tough US law that was brought in 2017 and authorizes the US administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defense hardware from Russia.

“The administration has made clear that it is discouraging India from proceeding with the acquisitions of Russian equipment, and there are important geostrategic considerations, particularly with (unintelligible) relationship to China. So, I think we have to look at what the balance is,” he said.

“And, of course, India’s got some decisions in front of it, so it would be premature to say more. But this is something I look forward to working with you and other interested members,” O’Brien said.

India pursues an independent foreign policy and its defense acquisitions are guided by its national security interests, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in November last year, amid apprehensions over the possibility of US sanctions on New Delhi over the procurement of S-400 missile systems from Russia.

“India is a vital ally in our competition against China, and thus, I believe we should resist taking any actions that might drive them away from us and the Quad. I am therefore strongly supportive of waiving CAATSA sanctions against India, given our shared foreign policy interests,” he said.

“As most here know, the Indians have a lot of legacy systems from previous decades, and they are interoperable with the Russians’ systems. And the Indians seek to defend their land border from Chinese incursions and defend the Indian Ocean from an increasingly adventurous and lawless blue ocean navy in the People’s Liberation Army,” he said.

There are growing calls in the US urging the Biden administration to grant the CAATSA waiver to India.

In October last year, two powerful US Senators – Mark Warner of the Democratic Party and John Cornyn of the Republican Party – had urged President Biden not to impose provisions of CAATSA against India for buying the S-400 missile system, arguing that it was in America’s national security interest.

Both Warner, Chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip for the Grand Old Party (GOP), are co-chairs of the powerful Senate India caucus, the only country-specific caucus in the US Senate.