GOP supports India waiver on Russian weapons purchase
With help from Daniel Lippman, Andrew Desiderio and Connor O’Brien.
As we were heading into the weekend, three Republican senators filed legislation to exempt India from sanctions it would’ve incurred after buying a Russian-made missile-defense system. One of those lawmakers was Sen. TED CRUZ, the Texan that national security-focused Democrats are furious with over his hold on President JOE BIDEN’s diplomatic nominees.
Critics say he co-signed a bill that lets Moscow (and New Delhi) off the hook. And Democrats let NatSec Daily know about it.
“For a guy who is willing to rob the entire State Department of having any senior staff in place over his faux-Russia hawkishness, this waiver advocacy is as offensive as it is hypocritical,” a Senate Democratic aide said. The waivers, written into the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in 2018, remain “incredibly contentious” on Capitol Hill, the staffer continued. “How many exceptions are we going to make before other countries simply assume the U.S. is not serious about preventing [VLADIMIR] PUTIN from suckering others into buying Russian over American?”
ERIN PERRINE, Cruz’s communications director, pushed back against the criticism. “Democrats are desperate to distract from Joe Biden’s inexplicable and catastrophic cave on Nord Stream 2, which was a use of CAATSA that it was designed for and actually worked,” she told NatSec Daily. “So they are pretending to have vapors over giving India, a critical ally against China, temporary breathing room instead of counterproductively pushing them to Russia. These people should grow up and learn foreign policy is not a political game.”
India has a long history of buying weapons from Russia. But now that India is a member of “the Quad” — alongside the U.S., Japan and Australia — it’s a bad look for New Delhi to remain cozy with Moscow. Plus, a better-armed India does help it to counter China, which is also in America’s interest.
To waive or not to waive is clearly a concern on Capitol Hill. Pentagon staffers in recent weeks provided a classified briefing to staffers of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee on the waiver issue, a person familiar with the situation said. The person didn’t provide details on what the briefers said exactly, but the Defense Department’s stance for years has been that it’s better to keep India happy in its relationship with the U.S.
Cruz — along with Sens. TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.) and ROGER MARSHALL (R-Kansas) — isn’t out on a limb in search of 10-year waiver for Quad members, namely India. A Republican Senate aide said the party is pretty united on that front. And Sen. MARK WARNER (D-Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chief and a co-chair of the India Caucus, wrote a letter last week to Biden with Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) in support of one.
A SASC staffer hinted that this whole issue likely will be solved in the latest NDAA, which Biden will have to sign into law whenever it reaches his desk.
The question now is whether Democrats will put up a fuss. Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER was against waivers in the past, and Senate Foreign Relations Chair BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.) has displayed some skepticism before.
5M DEAD FROM COVID-19: The world reached a somber milestone today: The global death toll from Covid-19 has reached 5 million.
“Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 740,000 lives lost, more than any other nation,” the Associated Press reported. That total, which comes from John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center, is roughly equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles and Austin combined.
Leaders of the G-20 nations who gathered in Rome over the weekend pledged to send more vaccines to poorer nations, but so far there’s no real movement to close the gap between the vaccine haves and have-nots.
“While wealthy nations are offering people third vaccine doses and increasingly inoculating children, poor countries have administered an estimated four doses per 100 people, according to the World Health Organization,” the New York Times’ KATIE ROGERS, JIM TANKERSLEY and JASON HOROWITZ noted.
U.S. SUBMARINE HIT SEA MOUNT: An investigation found USS Connecticut, the nuclear-powered submarine sailing in the South China Sea, hit an uncharted sea mount on Oct. 2, USNI News’ SAM LAGRONE reported. The review, which finished last week, will be looked over by Vice Adm. KARL THOMAS — the U.S. 7th Fleet commander — to determine what kind of punishments are required (if any).
Last month, NatSec Daily reported that the submarine hit a stationary object, with one person saying it was likely a sea wall.
103 NGOS TELL SULLIVAN TO SEND MORE AID TO AFGHANISTAN: In an Oct. 28 letter released today, 103 non-governmental organizations pressured national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN to organize a high-level meeting to discuss the best way to support thousands of at-risk Afghans.
“We call on the Biden Administration to prioritize their safe evacuation before it is too late,” wrote leaders in the groups, including Amnesty International, the Black Veterans Project and Freedom House. “All are now bound by their shared fear for their safety. If the White House does not move to evacuate them with haste, it will leave an indelible stain on this Administration’s stated commitment to a foreign policy centered on human rights and its repeated commitments to support at-risk Afghans.”
The group provided Sullivan and his team six recommendations to improve the situation, such as sending more staff to “lilypad” countries with U.S. military installations and providing a “virtual and expedited screening process for all at-risk Afghans.”
The letter is another sign of the anger in Washington and elsewhere over the handling of the Afghanistan evacuation.
A White House official wouldn’t comment on whether or not Sullivan had seen the letter, but did say “we have welcomed more than 68,000 Afghans to the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome following the biggest airlift in U.S. history. Of that population, nearly 50% are eligible for SIVs.”
Around 400 American citizens remain in Afghanistan now, per the Pentagon, with about 200 of them wanting to leave now.
XI TO WRITE IN HIS COP26 REMARKS: Chinese President XI JINPING doesn’t want to call, FaceTime or Zoom. He wants to do the geopolitical version of texting: sending in a note with his comments about how to address the climate crisis.
“The leader of the country responsible for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions will address the Glasgow conference by written submission, which the U.N. said it would upload on the conference website,” POLITICO’s KARL MATHIESEN reported.
This is par for the course, as Xi reportedly hasn’t left China for 21 months mainly due to the pandemic. But the inactive participation of the leader of the world’s biggest carbon emitter puts a damper on the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
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FORCES FIGHTING ETHIOPIA CLAIM THEY CAPTURED 2 CITIES: Two rival groups fighting a brutal war against Ethiopia’s government claim they captured two towns — both on a highway leading to the capital Addis Ababa.
A spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) told Reuters they seized the town of Kombolcha and its airport. And insurgents in Oromiya, the country’s most populous region, said they took the town of Kemise, which is only 33 miles south of Kombolcha. However, Kemise is still about 200 miles away from the Ethiopian capital.