CAATSA waiver not a free ticket, say U.S. officials

U.S. officials sound a note of caution

October 04, 2018 10:54 pm | Updated 10:54 pm IST - New Delhi

India is planning to get  five S-400 air defence systems from Russia.

India is planning to get five S-400 air defence systems from Russia.

As India looks to sign several big-ticket defence deals with Russia on Friday, U.S. officials cautioned that even if India manages to get a one-time waiver from the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law, it cannot expect a “free ticket.”

“It is a public law [CAATSA]. What triggers sanctions is the transfer of funding and not when the deal is signed. India is optimistic of a waiver and they can be optimistic once, but it cannot be a free ticket,” a U.S. diplomatic source said.

India and Russia are expected to conclude several defence deals worth close to $10 billion for five S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates and Ak-103 assault rifles.

Trump has the final say

The source added that U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis has made a serious push for a waiver but the decision is for President Donald Trump to make.

Several U.S. officials have called the S-400, which several U.S. allies too are in the process of acquiring, a “significant transaction.”

The Trump administration has passed the CAATSA law under which sanctions will be imposed on countries having significant defence cooperation with Russia, in an attempt to curb Russia’s arms sales.

On Wednesday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson indicated in Washington that the waiver provisions may not apply to India in this deal. “There are strict criteria for considering a waiver. The waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” the official said.

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