Durbin Amendment on Russian Arms Deal Reflects American Values
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today applauds Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) for including a provision in the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriation Bill that was marked up in the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense today that will keep the Pentagon from purchasing new helicopters from the Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport. Human Rights First says the amendment, marked up this morning, aligns American human rights values with common-sense fiscal policy.
“Senator Durbin’s provision bars the Pentagon from doing new business with the same arms dealer who is at the heart of the Assad regime’s atrocities in Syria,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “This is a welcome development in the ongoing effort to stop the Pentagon from using taxpayer dollars for existing contracts with Rosoboronexport and to dissuade Russia from resupplying Assad’s murderous regime. Now, the Department of Defense must double down on finding alternative ways to advance security for Afghan civilians without contributing to the problem of mass atrocities against Syrians.”
As detailed in a Human Rights First blueprint released last week, Rosoboronexport is a Russian state-owned arms dealer and is part of a defense-industrial conglomerate run by an intimate friend of Vladimir Putin. Its defense contracts are “an important trough at which senior officials feed,” according to a 2007 State Department cable published by Wikileaks.
New documents released by Human Rights First yesterday indicate that American taxpayers have been paying a sharply increased price for the Russian helicopters that the United States is has purchased for Afghanistan. The new documents, obtained from two separate aviation industry sources, indicate that the price charged by the Russian factory for the Mi-171 helicopter has nearly quadrupled, from $4.4 million in 2008 to $17.5 million in 2012. In addition, the United States is paying far more for the helicopters than most other countries.
“Senator Durbin’s leadership on this issue is an important step forward in canceling the Pentagon’s contract with Putin’s favorite arms dealer,” concluded Efron.