According to the NDAA draft, the bill would provide the US administration with a “special rule” allowing it to waive some sanctions on American allies for purchasing arms from Russia. The rule, backed by the Republicans, would give President Donald Trump an opportunity to terminate some sanctions imposed on Moscow in a law (the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) overwhelmingly passed by Congress last year despite the head of state’s opposition.
During a briefing, the NDAA provision was confirmed by a Republican House Armed Services Committee aide.
“While imposing significant new sanctions on the Russian defense industry, it provides the secretary flexibility, on a 180-day basis, to waive the application of sanctions of section 231 for an ally if the secretary is able to manifest that that ally has done a series of things, either terminate that relationship with Russia, significantly scale down that relationship with Russia or made other assurances about how they are dealing with that historical relationship with Russia,” the aide said.
Meanwhile, last week, US Defense Secretary James Mattis argued that allies who had intentions of moving away from Russian weapons, but at the same time needed to agree with Moscow on maintaining their older equipment could face US sanctions, which, in turn, would be detrimental to America itself. For instance, India would immediately be sanctioned for the planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system under CAATSA.
“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to paralyze ourselves,” Mattis said last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, stressing that it would be counterproductive to the goal of CAATSA, as sanctioning a strategic partner would prompt the country to buy more Russian-made equipment.
The committee aide stated that House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry was convinced by Mattis’ argument.
“Section 231 requires, with very little flexibility, the administration to, for example, if a particular country has a historic relationship with Russia and they sign a contract to maintain equipment that they’ve bought previously from Russia, if they do that, under CAATSA, the administration would have to cut off our defense relationship with that ally,” the aide said.
The final version of the NDAA is expected to be adopted later this year by both the House and Senate negotiators as a compromise between two separate versions of the bill approved in the two chambers.