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Menendez, Colleagues Request Briefing on Sanctionable Sales of Russian Weapon Systems

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a group of his Senate colleagues in writing to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan today requesting a detailed analysis from the Trump Administration on the current status of Russian S-400 air defense system sales or negotiations with countries around the world. The senator’s missive follows reported negotiations between Russia and certain countries over sales of the Kremlin’s S-400, a transaction that would be considered significant enough to trigger mandatory sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Joining Menendez in sending the letter were Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.); Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Martin Heinrich (D-NM.); Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.); Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

The Senator’s letter can be found here and below.

March 16, 2018

The Honorable John J. Sullivan

Deputy Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Deputy Secretary Sullivan:

We look forward to the Department’s continued engagement with the Senate on implementation of the mandatory provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).  As you know, we remain concerned about the lack of progress on the administration’s implementation of Section 231, which mandates secondary sanctions on those who conduct significant transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors. Given their responsibility in attacking the 2016 U.S. election process, sanctions in Section 231 are designed to significantly curtail income to these particular sectors.

We are writing today to specifically inquire about reported negotiations between Russia and certain countries over sales of the Russian government’s S-400 air defense system and whether these reported deals could trigger mandatory CAATSA sanctions. 

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service produced a compilation of press reporting on potential Russian government sales of the S-400 weapon system to countries around the world.  Recognizing that these reports may not provide the full picture, we request that you provide us with a detailed analysis in classified or unclassified form on the current status of Russian S-400 sales or negotiations with:

  • China
  • Turkey
  • India
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar
  • Any other country

We also request a comprehensive summary of our diplomatic efforts to prevent any S-400 deal from being finalized.  Under any circumstance, a S-400 sale would be considered a “significant transaction” and we expect that any sale would result in designations.

We remain deeply concerned that senior leadership in this administration is not prioritizing diplomatic efforts to implement CAATSA with countries around the world.  We expect to be regularly briefed on the State Department’s sanctions implementation efforts moving forward.  We look forward to your response and our continued dialogue on holding Russia accountable for its malign influence efforts and military aggression in Ukraine.