CT lawmakers take fight over Russian ‘copters to Kerry

Washington — Having had a poor response from the Pentagon, Connecticut lawmakers and others who are trying to protect local defense interests have taken their fight to end Russian military contracts to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, have signed a letter to Kerry that urges him “to strongly encourage our NATO allies and OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) participating states” to end any military contracts with Russian companies. The lawmakers said this would discourage Russia from taking military action against Ukraine.

“We believe this is a crucial step in reestablishing a deterrent against further Russian aggression and strengthening the impact of our targeted economic sanctions against Russia,” reads the letter, which was also signed by several Republicans whose defense industry constituents have been hurt by Russian military contracts, including John Cornyn of Texas and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Despite NATO’s decision earlier this month to suspend military and civilian cooperation with Russia, several NATO nations continue to work on contracts with Moscow.

The State Department did not have an immediate response to the letter.

Connecticut lawmakers have repeatedly asked the Pentagon to halt contracts with Russian firms, especially Rosoboronexport, which has a $500 million DOD contract to provide Mi-17 helicopters to Afghan forces. Connecticut-based Sikorsky wants that contract.

But the Pentagon has virtually ignored the lawmakers.

“The Department of Defense has notified Congress of its intent to contract with Rosoboronexport for 30 additional Mi-17 rotary-wing aircraft to support the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) Special Mission Wing,” Pentagon spokesman James Gregory told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti April 4.

The letter to Kerry said, “unfortunately and inexplicably,” the United States has not backed away from plans to buy additional Russian-made copters.

Last week, Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District,  joined a group of 38 lawmakers to send a separate letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Kerry, urging them to use their authority to implement sanctions against Russia to end the Rosoboronexport helicopter defense contract.


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