(CNSNews.com) – Moscow has responded dismissively to the State Department’s publication of a list of Russian defense and intelligence entities blacklisted for business by foreign companies, although the move could have tangible consequences for the world’s second-largest arms exporter.
“The United States is not the center of the world,” deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov told the Tass news agency.
“We will push ahead with our own development in cooperation with many partners around the globe,” Ryabkov added. “If the Americans strip themselves of prospects for normal economic cooperation with us, it is their choice. We will be able to devise methods and antidotes that will let us minimize the costs of such policies.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the move “unfriendly.”
President Trump in August signed into law legislation targeting Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine, rights abuses, cyber attacks, and interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The measure separately also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
The list sent to Congress late last week in line with that law names 33 defense entities and six intelligence bodies. They include Russia’s main state weapons exporter Rosoboronexport and aviation companies Sukhoi and Tupolev, as well as its domestic (FSB), foreign (SVR), and military (GRU) intelligence agencies.
Rosoboronexport alone accounts for some 85 percent of the country’s total arms exports, according to a 2017 Defense Intelligence Agency report on Russian military power.
The legislation does not impose sanctions on the listed entities themselves, but provides for penalties for foreign companies and entities that undertake “significant” transactions with them.
Russia was the world’s second biggest exporter of weaponry in 2012-2016, accounting for 23 percent of all major arms exports, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data. (The U.S. led with 33 percent.)
Fifty-one countries bought arms from Russia during that period, with 70 percent of the exports went to just four countries – India, Vietnam, China and Algeria.
India, a major Russian customer, was also the world’s biggest importer of arms in 2012-2015, accounting alone for almost 13 percent of global arms imports in 2012–16, SIPRI reports.
India is also a key Asian ally of the U.S., and a senior State Department official briefing reporters on background was asked how the new legislation could affect relationships with U.S. allies and friends which possess Russian weaponry – and will presumably have the need for spare parts for years to come.
The official pointed to the “significance threshold” in the legislation, and said transactions viewed as less than significant would be excluded.
“Obviously, we’re going to consider the totality of circumstances in any individual case when making a decision,” the official said, adding that criteria taken into account would include the size and scope of the transaction with Russia, the type of items transferred, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. at stake in a particular transaction.
Some Russian politicians view the sanctions as merely an attempt by the U.S. to muscle out a serious business competitor.
Vladimir Shamanov, who chairs the Russian equivalent of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was notable that the administration drew up the list at a time when Russia’s arms sales competitiveness is “surging.”
“Due to its weakness, the United States is going off the deep end trying to harm our country. It is clear that the competitiveness of our military-industrial complex has demonstrated its efficiency to the whole world,” Tass quoted Shamanov as saying.
“Even those countries which are in the friendly blocs with America or are its shadow allies – even they have started purchasing Russian weapons, first of all the air defense systems,” he added.
The latter comment likely alluded to Turkey, which although a NATO ally signed a deal early last month to buy advanced Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.
NATO responded by pointing out that the Russian systems would not be compatible with alliance equipment. The move also apparently violates decisions reaffirmed at a NATO summit in Warsaw last year suspending all military cooperation, and agreeing to “address, as appropriate, existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment.”
Asked about Russian claims that the U.S. was simply trying to dominate the international arms market, the State Department official said it was neither Congress’ intent in passing the legislation nor the administration’s intent in enforcing it, to view it “as some sort of competitive tool.”