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    U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017

    Pentagon Chief Pushes to Waive Sanctions for US Allies That Buy Russian S-400s

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    US Defense Secretary James Mattis is seeking to circumvent potential conflicts with US allies that have purchased Russian military equipment with an appeal to US legislators to relax sanctioning requirements against countries that do so.

    Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that "national security exemptions" ought to be injected into the existing Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), arguing that it is in the US' long-term interest to avoid such conflicts with its allies.

    "There are nations in the world who are trying to turn away from formerly Russian-sourced weapons and systems," Mattis said, arguing that those countries still rely on Moscow to update their existing systems with new technology.

    "We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we're going to penalize ourselves," he said.

    Such an amendment to CAATSA would likely affect Turkey after its recent purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, sometimes called "F-35 killers," in reference to the oft-hyped and over-budget American-made stealth jets that are expected to dominate US air operations in the coming decades. 

    Without the amendment, Turkey, a NATO ally, could see sanctions from the US Treasury Department, as could India, should it finalize a deal with the Russian Federation to purchase $5 billion in air defense equipment. Reportedly, talks between Russia and India are in their final stage. India began seeking the air defense system after China, a local rival, purchased their own from Russia.

    US State Department Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Turkey is at risk of suffering sanctions over the move. Sales of the Russian missile defense system are "causing a lot of concern," Mattis told Congress members Thursday.

    CAATSA was passed by Congress in July 2017 in a bid to punish Russia for supporting Ukrainians that wanted to reunify with Russia as well as for its involvement in Syria, which began in September 2015, after the Syrian government officially requested military assistance from Moscow.

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    Tags:
    sanctions, f-35, S-400, Russia, Turkey
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