Washington, DC – The United States is not bending the rules for its NATO ally Turkey on the subject of the purchase of S-400, the Russian defense system, and the State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus reiterated that the US position “has not changed.”
Speaking with the State Department sources later, we confirmed that the same rules under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) apply to India if it goes ahead with the purchase of S-400 systems from Russia.
However, during a recent visit of the US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo to India, Delhi confirmed without mincing words that as an independent nation, it will do what is in its national interest.
The diplomatic but firm comment from Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar came during a press availability with the visiting Secretary Pompeo.
Asked to comment on if India’s decision to purchase S-400 missile defense system from Russia could trigger US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia, Jaishankar responded, “On the CAATSA issue, again, I think Secretary Pompeo knows, and I’ve explained to him in some detail – I mean, we have many relationships with many countries.”
Without naming Russia or the S-400 missile defense system purchase, Jaishankar elaborated: “Many of them are of some standing, they have a history. So I think we will do what is in our national interest, and again, part of that strategic partnership is the ability of each country to comprehend and appreciate the national interest of the other.”
On his part, Secretary Pompeo also left the door open. “We are endeavoring to make sure that each of our countries can provide security for itself. We want India to be able to do that as well,” said Pompeo.
Combining it with the issue of trade hiccups, Pompeo was optimistic, saying: “We will find a way to work through them, and I know that when we come out on the other side of each of those, the relationship will be stronger and we’ll have done great things together.”
But before the departure of Pompeo for India, a senior State Department Official had commented to a “select group of journalists” – who were also not identified in the report – that India’s decision to purchase S-400 missile defense system from Russia is a significant issue.
“The S-400 is significant because of CAATSA sanctions. It’s also significant because of what it precludes, in terms of future high-tech cooperation,” the official was quoted in the Indian media report. (US Confirms Comments on S-400 Missile System Sale to India)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was re-elected with a thumping majority in the general elections, is expected to make tough decisions for his country as he negotiated and sealed a $5 billion S-400 air defense system deal in October last after wide-ranging talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tejinder Singh was the Founder and Editor of India America Today, and is the inspiration for Global Strat View.