S-400 Deal & CAATSA

S-400 Deal & CAATSA

Why in News?

  • The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkey over Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S400 air defence systems. Ankara acquired the Russian S-400 ground-to-air defenses in mid-2019 and says they pose no threat to NATO allies.
  • US has long been threatening sanctions on Turkey and had removed the country from an F-35 jet program last year.
  • With India set to get the consignment of the S-400 air defence system early next year, India is watching US moves closely.

What is the S-400 air defence missile system? Why does India need it?

  • The S-400 Triumf, (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler), is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia.
  • It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
  • The system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400km, at an altitude of up to 30km.
  • The system can track 100 airborne targets and engage six of them simultaneously.
  • It represents the fourth generation of long-range Russian SAMs, and the successor to the S-200 and S-300.
  • The S-400’s mission set and capabilities are roughly comparable to the famed US Patriot system.
  • The S-400 Triumf air defence system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre.
  • It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence.
  • The S-400 is two-times more effective than previous Russian air defence systems and can be deployed within five minutes. It can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the Air Force, Army, and the Navy.
  • The first S-400 systems became operational in 2007 and is responsible for defending Moscow.
  • It has been deployed in Syria in 2015, to guard Russian and Syrian naval and air assets.
  • Russia has also stationed S-400 units in Crimea to strengthen Russia’s position on the recently annexed peninsula.
  • From India’s point of view, China is also buying the system. In 2015, Beijing signed an agreement with Russia to purchase six battalions of the system. Its delivery began in January 2018.
  • India’s acquisition is crucial to counter attacks in a two-front war, including even high-end F-35 US fighter aircraft.
  • In October 2015, Defence Acquisition Council considered buying 12 units of S-400 for its defence needs. But, on evaluation, in December 2015, five units were found adequate.
  • The deal is near fruition, and negotiations are at an “advanced stage”, and now it is expected to be signed before a summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Turkey and Saudi Arabia are negotiating a deal with Russia, while Iraq and Qatar have expressed interest.

What is CAATSA, and how did the S-400 deal fall foul of this Act?

  • Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was passed unanimously by the US Congress and signed reluctantly by US President Donald Trump.
  • Enacted on August 2, 2017, its core objective is to counter Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures.
  • Title II of the Act primarily deals with sanctions on Russian interests such as its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions, in the backdrop of its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections.
  • Section 231 of the Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions — enumerated in Section 235 of the Act — on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • As part of Section 231 of the Act, the US State Department has notified 39 Russian entities, dealings with which could make third parties liable to sanctions.
  • These include almost all of the major Russian companies/entities such as Rosoboronexport, Almaz-Antey, Sukhoi Aviation, Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG, and United Shipbuilding Corporation which are active in manufacturing defence items and/or their exports.
  • However, mere naming of 39 Russian entities by the US authorities or dealings by any country with these entities does not automatically lead to the imposition of sanctions under the CAATSA provisions.
  • The key determinant for imposing sanctions is “significant transaction” between the named Russian entity and an outside agency.
  • CAATSA, if implemented in its stringent form, would have affected India’s defence procurement from Russia.
  • Russian maker of S-400s — Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation JSC — is on the list of 39 Russian entities.
  • Apart from the S-400 air defence system, Project 1135.6 frigates and Ka226T helicopters will also be affected.
  • Also, it will impact joint ventures, like Indo Russian Aviation Ltd, Multi-Role Transport Aircraft Ltd and Brahmos Aerospace.
  • It will also affect India’s purchase of spare parts, components, raw materials and other assistance.