March 24, 2014 / 9:09 PM / 6 years ago

U.S. senator offers measure to sanction Russian arms exporter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers will consider legislation this week to cut off all U.S. business with Russia’s state-owned arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, in response to Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats offered an amendment on Monday to a broad Ukraine aid bill that would bar the U.S. government from doing any business with Rosoboronexport and terminate any existing agreements.

Coats was one of nine U.S. officials and lawmakers to be placed on a Russian sanctions list last week.

It would bar contracts with any U.S. or foreign company that cooperates with the Russian arms exporter to design, manufacture or sell military equipment. The amendment would also authorize President Barack Obama to deduct from foreign assistance programs any funds spent on Russian weapons through Rosoboronexport.

“(Afghanistan President Hamid) Karzai will have to buy his Russian helicopters with his own money, not ours,” said Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after noting Karzai has backed Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

In an unusual program, the Pentagon has been buying Russian Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport to equip U.S.-backed Afghan security forces who are used to operating Russian-made equipment.

“This amendment would harm the Russian arms industry, the Russian economy, Russian prestige and (President Vladimir) Putin’s standing in the world. That ought to be our goal,” Coats said in the Senate.

Coats was not the first lawmaker to raise the Rosoboronexport issue. Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives last week wrote to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to terminate all contracts with Rosoboronexport.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Grant McCool and Steve Orlofsky

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