The United States has an India problem, and it’s all about Russia. In 2018, India agreed to buy five Russian S-400 missile systems for the whopping price of $5.4 billion. The highly advanced S-400 system is considered on par with the United States’ best air defense weapons system, the Patriot missile. It’s the same missile system that led the outgoing Trump administration to impose U.S. sanctions on Turkey in December 2020. Now, India is next in line for similar sanctions—and that prospect has seriously strained bilateral relations, threatened the United States’ own defense sales in India, and called into question President Joe Biden’s commitment to working with allies to confront China.
Of course, the sanctions issue is not really about India. It’s about Russia. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed by Congress in 2017 to punish Russia for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, comes very close to requiring the president to impose sanctions on any country that makes “significant” purchases of military equipment from Russia. But it would be a big mistake for Biden to impose sanctions on India.
Quite the contrary: The United States should actually welcome India’s purchase of Russian arms.
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