The United States determined August 2 that Russia had provided “lethal military equipment,” a term that refers to conventional weaponry, to Libya, Sudan, and Syria. All three, along with Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, are classified by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism, and U.S. law mandates that foreign assistance be halted to world capitals that provide weapons to such countries. But sanctions can be waived, as they were in this case, if it is determined to be in the U.S. national interest to do so.
The U.S. move appears to be a shot across Russia’s bow, warning Moscow against selling arms to countries that the United States deems threats to international security. Although Russia has been seen as generally helpful in the declared U.S. war on terrorism, Moscow is also seeking closer ties with the very countries President George W. Bush labeled an “axis of evil” earlier this year. The Bush administration has most aggressively lobbied Moscow against its stated intentions to pursue increased arms deals and nuclear cooperation with Iran. (See ACT, September 2002.)
While the Kremlin received a warning, the three Russian companies—the Tula Design Bureau of Instrument Building, the State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt, and Rostov Airframe Plant 168—will be prohibited for one year from receiving U.S. government assistance or contracts, as well as from exporting to or importing from the United States. The sanctions are largely symbolic since none of the companies are known to do much business with the United States. Nevertheless, Moscow protested the U.S. action, claiming the Russian sales broke no international laws.
The United States slapped similar sanctions on Tula Design Bureau in March 1999 for selling anti-tank missiles to Syria.