Senators: U.S. indirectly funding Syrian military
An Iraqi version of the MI-17 helicopter flies over the Basmaya base, south of Baghdad.
March 14th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Senators: U.S. indirectly funding Syrian military

By Jill Dougherty

Angered by Russia's refusal to stop selling arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. lawmakers are urging the Defense Department to halt U.S. purchases of Russian helicopters and parts for the Afghan air force.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, 17 senators said that "U.S. taxpayers should not be put in a position where they are indirectly subsidizing the mass murder of Syrian civilians." The letter, dated Monday, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday defended the Russian-Afghan deal, saying that although "we obviously share the intent" of the senators' demands to persuade Russia to end its arms supply to Syria, "cutting off U.S. purchases would hurt Afghanistan's ability to defend itself."

Last May, the Defense Department signed a $375 million contract with the Russian state-controlled arms export firm Rosoboronexport to purchase 21 Mi-17 aircraft. The helicopters, developed by the Soviet Union, are used extensively around the world and Afghan pilots traditionally have been trained on them.

In their letter, the senators say their primary concern is that the Defense Department is purchasing the helicopters "from an organization that has for years been on a U.S. sanctions list for illicit nuclear assistance to Iran and, in the face of the international community's concern, is continuing to enable the Assad regime with the arms it needs to slaughter innocent men, women and children in Syria."

The lawmakers ask the Department to "immediately review all potential options to procure helicopters legally through other means."

But the Defense Department says the contract with Rosoboronexport is the "only legal method" to purchase the military version of the Mi-17 "and to provide ensured cognizance of safety and airworthiness."

According to the Congressional Research Service, Russian arms sales to Syria have more than doubled in the past five years, rising from $2.1 billion in the period 2003 to 2006 to $4.7 billion from 2007 to 2010.

The senators also indicate another reason for their anger over the contract with the Russian company, telling Panetta and Clinton that "it is certainly frustrating that U.S. taxpayer funding is used to buy Russian-made helicopters instead of world-class U.S.-made helicopters for the Afghan military."

But Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has said in a congressional hearing that buy American-made helicopters would have meant a much higher cost.

"If they had bought an American aircraft, it would have been much more expensive and it would have taken much longer because of the training time of the pilots necessary," Odierno told the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday.

As the Obama administration sees it, buying from Russia - even as it continues to arm the Assad regime - may be unavoidable. State Department spokeswoman Nuland says the United States will continue to urge other countries not to provide weapons to Syria.

"But at the same time," she said Tuesday, "we also have a requirement to help the Afghans become increasingly self-sustaining in their ability to lead their security efforts at home."

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. M Houston

    My only question about this purchase of Russian helicopters for the Afghan military is which Senators, which lawmakers are opposing it? Anybody want to bet its NOT a bunch of Republicans who are just using this as one more opportunity to frustrate the efforts of the Obama administration. I'd bet that none of 'em raised a voice when American "business men" sold dual use (civilian convertible to military) technology the Chinese (who rapidly made use of it to modernize their military).
    Those turkey's (Senators/lawmakers) can squawk all they want to. All they're trying to do is discredit the Obama administration at every opportunity that presents itself.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:44 am | Reply
  2. suleimanthemagnificent

    They can only afford to pay for 12% of their total military and security forces anyways. They can do with a few less choppers

    March 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  3. John Larson

    why are we spending american dollars on Russian weapons. the afghans can learn on our equipment.

    March 14, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • Pepe

      Because those helicopters are better, they can carry 30 soldiers compared to 13 on a black hawk, and they cost a 1/3 of a BH.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  4. Dana

    As well we should. Rebels are trying to overthrow the legitimate government and we do need to back the government.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  5. TheLastIndependent

    Just another brutal dictatorship we fund and support. We got quite a few of those if you haven't noticed, even if the Egyptian president is gone.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  6. SPK TRUTH

    Pablo: you need to keep up. If you dont know that Israel's mossad along with US special forces and blackwater goons have been in Syria for months, and for months in Libya before we bombed them to smitheerns your not smart, your just ignorant of the facts. Do you actually believe that Israel has nothing to do with Egypt, Libya, Sryia, Jordan, Iran or Lebanon? If you dont know the history or have the facts at least learn something before putting foot in mouth.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
    • Pablo Ortiz

      If you really believe the six million people in Israel are responsible for the catastrophes that are Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and all of the 1.3 billion other people in other Arab / Moslem countries in the world and at the same time have the second largest number of companies in the world listed on the NASDAQ and won over a hundred Nobel Prizes, among an incredible array of other achievements, then you must think incredibly highly of them. I'm sure if they read this they would blush a little, and then say, with a demure smile, thank you! Let me just ask you one question, are Moslems responsible for anything? Or is it the Israelis that basically run everything for them. For example, was it the Israelis that killed a million Moslems in the Iran-Iraq war or was it the Iranians and the Iraqis? You seem to know so much. I'm just curious.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  7. Clinton

    "But at the same time," she said Tuesday, "we also have a requirement to help the Afghans become increasingly self-sustaining in their ability to lead their security efforts at home."

    – I want to punch this person in the face and ask them why. Seriously, why is there a "requirement to help the afghans become self sustaining" ......... Since !#$%ing when do we owe Afghanistan anything!? People in their country harbored a terrorist that attacked us... we went in and removed that organization from power, it is now on the afghan people to decide how to govern themselves WTF are we doing there? Bring our guys home, you don't build countries with Armies you fight other Armies with an Army... SO STOP NATION BUILDING!

    March 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Clinton

      Besides that, it's on the civilian sector to rebuild a country not a Military... why can't US foreign policy makers understand that? Stop using our Armed forces to build countries... Use them to defeat militaries like they're supposed to be used for..... You don't use a sledgehammer when a screwdriver is needed... why use an army to build a nation.

      March 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
      • SPK TRUTH

        Nation building is done by the State Dept. But 100% zionist Hilary Clinton has done nothing in Afganistan, the Afgan women want to control their own destiny. They want nothing to do with Karzai, or the Taliban or any of those groups. Another lie put out by corporate media is that it was a "lonegunman that killed all those poor people". This was a bunch of soldiers who got drunk and preplannned the whole thing...again the Crusaders have no problem slaughtering anyone even small children cuz their on a mission from GOD, to slaughter and kill anyone not CHRISTIAN. The blowback of Iraq and Afganistan will bring those chickens home to roost one day. If we bomb Iran it will be all over for Israel and the US. What is Israel going to do when all the muslims, arabs over there decided they have had enough of the new Christian Crusades, and the zionists fomenting war and threatening all their neighbors. Right now they are bombing the hell out of Gaza, but you wont hear it on this rag zionist network CNN.

        March 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • SPK TRUTH

      It was never about nation building or 911...If they wanted to go after the terrorists why didnt they attack Saudia Arabia. It was always about the Unocal Pipeline, which Karzai was President of before George WAR Bush made him president of a non existent country. The people of Afgan hate that drug lord, and they do not want the Taliban or the Northern Alliance to govern them...what do we do kill every afgan who refuses to honor Karzai, or the Taliban or who ever else WE pick for them...When that Unocal pipeline is complete...then we leave...guess it would be around 2014, huh.

      March 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Reply
      • Pablo Ortiz

        Wow! You are kind of dumb. It's incredible. What does Hillary being a Zionist or not have anything to do with Afghanistan? There are 1,300,000,000 Moslems in this world. They can't figure out a way to control their own destiny? They're constantly killing each other. Why are all of their problems always someone else's fault? from Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Egypt to Libya to Syria to Hammas to Hezbollah to Al Qaeda: 1.3 Billion Moslems are always blaming someone else. Get your act together. Become doctors, lawyers, accountants, movie producers, studio executives, scientists, mathematicians, physicists and create something. Find pride in something other than murder, suicide, and destruction.

        March 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
      • concerned citizen

        Your the dumb one Pablo.

        Zionism should be outlawed among our politics. You are embarrassingly nieve.

        March 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
      • Mitch

        I'm concerned that "Concerned Citizen" writes that Pablo Ortiz is the dumb one, yet cannot spell naive.

        March 15, 2012 at 6:10 am |
      • SPK TRUTH

        Ever hear of the recently leaked Strafor memos...they confirm that US special ops, Mossad and Black water are in Syria...spell that.

        March 15, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  8. Jeff

    The U.S. Government is so hypocritical it's sad. Know wonder the world hates us. Hell, I'm beginning to hate us.

    March 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • SPK TRUTH

      The US and Israel are funding the syrian milita groups...blackwater goons, US special forces and Mossad...so what. These forces have been in Syria since December...the Project for a New American Century to take out 7 countries in 5 years is still in play....Syria, then Iran...

      March 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  9. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    Borrow and spend.

    March 14, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • Gideon539

      @GOPisGreedOverPeople

      That's pretty much the lamest web handle I've seen yet. Especially considering Paul Ryan's medicare plan saves it for people by putting in a means test. As in the people with the means to pay health care themselves must, and the poorest of people get MORE support. Meanwhile ObamaCare takes $500 Billion out of it for the worst health care law ever written. Which btw, the CBO just doubled the estimated 10 year cost. Talk about "borrow and spend"

      March 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
      • SPK TRUTH

        the US has delivered over one TRILLION to Israel since 1948. 2) the Christian Evangelicans are running a fake ad, claiming thousands of rockets are hitting Israel every day...its the biggest lie I have seen yet. Israel has nuclear weapons, F16s attacking Gazans every day. Gaza has no army, navy air force or planes.. all they have is degradation, sewage filled streets, no electric, no food, no medicine, rocks and some homemade rockets that are filled with nuts bolts or whatever else they can find, and most dont even make it over the wall...google how many Israelies have been killed with "rockets"...three...how many Gazans killed in the last 48hrs....28.

        March 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  10. krehator

    Spending money we don't have on someone else. That's smart...

    March 14, 2012 at 7:48 am | Reply
  11. Thomas Klimchuk

    What a statement if they had bought American it would be more expensive Why is it America"s problam what the Syrians can afford to buy and why should the tax payers have to pay for this so the Syrians can have them?Boy the Russians mut be laughing all the way to the bank

    March 14, 2012 at 4:13 am | Reply
    • jh

      Reading comprehension fail. The article is stating that Buying the AFGHANIS US helicopters from the US producers (Beoing, GD, ETC) would be more expensive for the US government. It would then take longer and be costlier (for US again) to get the Afghanis trained on them, than to send them the Russian helos they are already somewhat familiar with.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  12. concerned citizen

    Unacceptable.

    WE MUST CEASE SPENDING AMERICAN TREASURE, ON ISRAELI INTERESTS!!!!

    March 14, 2012 at 2:53 am | Reply
    • Gideon539

      @concerned citizen

      what planet are you on? The word Israel does not appear even once in this article. You should look your anti_jew bigot self in the mirror and ask some tough questions.

      FYI: %80 of the money the US gives to Israel, must be spent in the US creating US jobs. Not to mentin the fact that Israel invents things your mind apparently cant wrap itself around. Like the reactive armor on 20,000+ US military vehilcles in Iraq and Afghan. The Lightning II Targeting Pod the EU used in Libya for precision strikes. Not to mention the entire line of Intel Multi Core Processors was RnD and manufactured in Israel...

      March 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
    • Pablo Ortiz

      Man! Are you seriously nuts? What does this article have to do with Israel? I'm guessing you're a Moslem. And that being so, you've learned, like your 1.3 Billion other brothers and sisters to always blame someone else for your problems. Listen man, it hasn't worked in a thousand years. It won't work for another thousand years. You people need to get off your asses and create something for yourselves. Look at the 12 million Jews you are so passionately jealous of. And look at what they've created. Just to put a number to it, they've won 140 Nobel Prizes – in science, medicine, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and the softer sciences. Moslems have won – are you ready? 6 (SIX). 1.3 billion Moslems have won 6. 12 million Jews: 140. Does this mean Jews are 5,000 times smarter than Moslems? of course not. It means Moslems are always BLAMING rather than creating. Find something other than murder and destruction to be proud of. You say Gaza has no nuclear weapons. You're right. But Pakistan does. And where is Pakistan today. And where is Israel? Be honest wirh yourself. You have no one to blame but yourself.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
    • Pablo Ortiz

      Where do you see the word Israel in this article? I swear, I used to think i was successful because i was smart. Now i see that i'm successful because there are so many dumb people. Where do you read Israeli interest in an article about America buying arms for Afghanistan from Russia who is also supplying Syria? How is this an Israeli issue? Sign up for a class at a community college, get a job, or pick up a hobby. But stop blaming everything on Israel. Look, the Israelis continue to be the most successful entrepreneurs in the world and the Moslems continue to blame everyone else but themselves for their problems. Egypt and Israel get the same amount of money every year from the US. But is there a comparison to be made between them? Really? Why not create something? Why not work to make the world better? Why just blame Israel? It honestly doesn't do you any good.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply

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