The US defence department has reiterated “concern” over reports of India receiving the first supplies of the Russian S-400 missile defence system but there were no indications yet that the Biden administration was moving towards sanctions under a US law that seeks to punish Russia.
“I think we’ve been very clear with our Indian partners about our concern over this system,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said to reporters in response to a question about India receiving the first supplies of the Russian weapon system.
Kirby referred to defence secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to India in March in which he had reiterated US concerns with India acquiring the missile defence. “We certainly have concerns over that system, but I don’t have any updates for you,” Kirby added. Dmitry Shugayev, the head of the Russian military cooperation agency, announced the start of the deliveries last week. “The first supplies have already been started,” Russian news agency Interfax cited Shugayev as saying at an aerospace trade show in Dubai.
The United States had pressed India to call off the deal arguing, among other things, the Russian system will impede ongoing efforts to increase interoperability between Indian and US militaries and had offered the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAD) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) systems instead.
A 2017 US law that seeks to punish Russia - Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) - requires the administration to impose secondary sanctions on countries that make substantial defence purchases from Russia. China was the first country sanctioned under this law in 2018; followed by Turkey, a Nato ally, in 2020; both over S-400.
Trump administration official, specially then defence secretary James Mattis had argued for waiver for India and New Delhi has since, and because of other indications, believed its purchase of S-400 will be exempted from sanctions.