Russia’s state arms dealer—Rosoboronexport—is giving Assad the means to commit atrocities. Yet not only was the Obama administration buying helicopters from Rosoboronexport, U.S. taxpayer money was going into the Russian bank where Assad has stashed funds. The United States should be cracking down on Assad’s enablers, not enriching them.
Thanks to our efforts, the Pentagon has finally cancelled its contract with Rosoboronexport. Now we need to choke off the money that the Syrian regime is funneling through Russian banks. Learn about Syria’s atrocity supply chain at atrocitysupplychain.org. Photo: AP.
Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration’s decision to designate for sanctions Sergey Chemezov and other senior Russian officials and companies who have likely played an important role in enabling mass atrocities in Syria. For more than two years, the organization has called for the United States to stop doing business with Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms exporter that Chemezov controls, due to its role as chief weapons supplier to the Assad regime. This year, Russia has stepped up its military lifeline to Basher al-Assad, reportedly providing drones and guided bombs.
“This is an important step toward accountability for some of the Russian officials who have implemented Putin’s lethal Syria policies – even if the Obama administration isn’t saying so,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “As the leader of Russia’s defense-industrial complex, Chemezov sits at the apex of the supply chain that has sent Russian weaponry to help Assad brutalize the Syrian people.”
The White House announced the sanctions against Chemezov and six other associates believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia failed to live up to its agreements to defuse the situation in Ukraine. The administration also imposed additional efforts to deny export license applications for “any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities” and announced that existing export licenses for such items will be revoked. However, despite bipartisan opposition from Congress, the administration has not ordered the Pentagon to cut off its contract to purchase helicopters for Afghanistan from Rosoboronexport.
Chemezov is an old friend of Putin’s, having served with him in the KGB in East Germany in the early 1980s. He was head of Rosoboronexport before being promoted in 2007 to head the newly formed Rostec, an umbrella company of Russian defense and high-tech industries. A leaked State Department cable from 2007 described the Russian defense industry as “an important trough at which senior officials feed.” Chemezov ranked #10 on Forbes Magazine’s 2013 list of the wealthiest people in Russia. He remains on the board of Rosoboronexport, and also serves on the board of Rosneft, the Russian oil giant whose head, Igor Sechin, was also designated for U.S. sanctions today. Human Rights First’s Blueprint on the Russian role in enabling mass atrocities in Syria details Chemezov’s role.
The Atlantic: Putin Needs a Less Cynical Syria Policy
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dulcet editorial in the New York Times this week sounded like the opening aria in a charm offensive aimed not just at preempting the use of U.S. military force in Syria but also at winning a Nobel Peace prize. Now a petition on the White House website and the inimitable K.T. McFarland of Fox News both suggest that Russia’s shirt-free strongman is more deserving of the honor than was President Obama, who won the peace prize in 2009. Did they read Putin’s New York Times manifesto, which contains a number of truths — and even more silky evasions?
The most dangerously disingenuous is the argument that any U.S. use of military force without a United Nations Security Council Resolution would violate international law – while failing to mention that Russia and China have blocked three separate attempts to address the mounting death toll in Syria. That’s like the boy who killed his parents, then asked the judge for leniency because he’s an orphan. By vetoing any Security Resolution with teeth, Russia and China make a mockery of the UN – then screech when the United States threatens to give up and circumvent it.