New Delhi’s purchase of a multibillion dollar Russian missile defense system could trigger U.S. sanctions against India under American law, but it would also jeopardize America’s interests in the region.
In October 2018, India agreed to purchase five Russian S-400 self-propelled surface-to-air systems for approximately $5.4 billion during a state visit by President Vladimir Putin. The S-400 defense system is one of the world’s most sophisticated, and the agreement underscored Russia’s legacy as one of India’s major defense suppliers over the past several decades.
Sanctions Under CAATSA
But American officials assert the deal violates U.S. law, specifically the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act” (“CAATSA”). Enacted in 2017 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the legislation imposed sweeping sanctions against Moscow, while also effectively authorizing secondary sanctions against any other country engaging in “significant transactions” (defined as over $15 million) with Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors. Congress designed CAATSA partially to expand existing punitive measures against Moscow in response to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Although a subsequent defense amendment contained provisions permitting sanctions waivers, the waiver authority is narrow, unlikely applicable to the S-400 purchase and not country-specific. ems.”