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Just say nyet: senators wonder why DOD gave a $572 million contract to Russia

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A dozen senators are not happy with a recent $572 million Defense Department contract with Rosoboronexport, a Moscow-based military-aircraft manufacturer that will now supply 30 helicopters destined for Afghanistan.

Led by Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, the group has sent a terse letter to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, advising the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that while the Russian company “receives huge payments from DoD, it also continues to serve as a key enabler of atrocities in Syria, transferring weapons and ammunition to prop up the bloodthirsty regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

The signers also include Republicans Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Boozman of Arkansas, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Roger F. Wicker of Mississippi and David Vitter of Louisiana. The Democrats who signed the letter are Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

“While DoD’s relationship with this firm is troubling on many levels, the prospect that American taxpayers have been made into unwitting victims of Russian corruption demands special scrutiny,” the letter states.

“We are concerned by DoD’s apparent failure to consider the strategic implications of sourcing mission-critical military equipment from a potentially hostile power such as Russia,” the letter continues.

“DoD’s preference for Russian helicopters will also make it highly difficult to achieve robust interoperability between the U.S. and Afghan helicopter fleets, which is in the long-term interests of both nations. These problems are self-inflicted, and this policy is extremely shortsighted.”

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