Officials halt helicopter order from Russian arms agency
The Defense Department is canceling plans to buy additional cargo helicopters from the Russian arms export agency that is a top supplier of weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military forces, a leading Senate Republican said Wednesday.
The additional 15 Russian-built Mi17s were to be purchased next year at a cost of $345 million and then delivered to Afghanistan’s national security forces.
“I applaud the Defense Department’s decision to cancel its plan to buy 15 additional Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
Bipartisan opposition to the purchase of the Mi-17 helicopters had been building as the violence in Syria escalated and U.S. relations with Russia deteriorated. A growing number of lawmakers from both political parties objected to acquiring military gear from Rosoboronexport, which has provided Mr. Assad’s regime with arms and ammunition used against Syrian civilians.
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand says she’s weighing the revisions to build support for her proposal among undecided senators. The New York Democrat is expected to offer the plan as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that the Senate will consider next week.
Mrs. Gillibrand has pushed for removing commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial.