Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison wants Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to terminate all the Defense Department’s contracts with Russia's state-owned arms dealer.
Ellison joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers who sent a letter to Hagel, making the case the President Obama’s executive order on sanctions against Russia gives him the power he needs to cut ties with Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms dealer.
"Given Russia's recent actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including its support of the illegal referendum for Crimean separation, we strongly urge you to terminate these contracts," the letter reads in part.
Facing pressure from Congress, the Pentagon abandoned plans in November to buy another 15 of the Russian Mi-17s from Rosoboronexport for Afghan defense forces, but under existing contracts, helicopters and spare parts are still being purchased, the lawmakers said.
Earlier this week, President Obama announced sanctions on several Russian and Ukrainian officials. He expanded the scope of that presidential order to permit the freezing of assets of individuals who "operate in the arms or related materiel sector in Russia."
Ellison’s letter quoted Obama’s executive order, in which he wrote that Russia’s actions “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
“We agree and accordingly strongly urge you to cancel [the] contracts,” the letter continues.
The Defense Department did not immediately comment on the letter.