2. The Pentagon - to its credit - acknowledges that the very weapons supplied by Rosoboronexport have been used to murder Syrian civilians. Assad's thugs
keep asking Moscow to keep the atrocity supply chain going.
3. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to get the Russians to pressure Assad into Geneva II peace talks for Syria at the same time that senior
Defense Department officials have been
that when it comes to helicopters for Afghanistan, U.S. makers can't hack it and the Russians are indispensable. So much for leverage.
4. The White House has promised to arm some of the rebels fighting Assad. This puts the United States in the bizarre position of pouring resources into
both sides of the Syrian civil war--helping the rebels fight Assad and helping Assad procure arms on the international market.
5. The Pentagon is buying the choppers from Putin's favorite arms dealer. Rosoboronexport is controlled by Sergey Chemezov, Putin's KGB buddy from their
days together in East Germany
. Chemezov ranked 10th on Forbes's 2013 list of the richest Russians.
His wife and son aren't doing badly either. Where did he get his billions? Putin appointed him head of Rosoboronexport in 2004, and in 2007, placed him
atop a newly consolidated group of lucrative state-owned defense companies, called Rostechnologiya State Corporation (Rostec.) Putin's top foreign policy
advisor, Yuri Ushakov is also on Rostec's board.
6. In 2007, then-U.S. Ambassador to Moscow William Burns signed a cable on the Russian arms trade that declared, "It is an
open secret that the Russian defense industry is an important trough at which senior officials feed, and weapons sales continue to enrich many." The cable,
as published by Wikileaks, went on to describe Chemezov as an "intimate" of Putin's.
7. Russian corruption has not improved since, though Rostec's balance sheet has. In June, Transparency International gave Russia a D-minus for defense corruption. Rostec's 2012 revenues were $29
billion. This week, 13 senators of both parties demanded an investigation into "the prospect that American taxpayers have been made into unwitting victims
of Russian corruption."
8. The Russians have nearly quadrupled the price of the helicopters since 2008, from $4.4 million to more than $17.8 million in 2012, according to defense
industry documents supplied to Human Rights First. A new Pentagon document puts the cost at $19 million per Mi-17 chopper. DOD insists that Russian
helicopters remain the best and cheapest option for Afghanistan, but it seems we're overpaying.
9. The Afghans can't use what they've already got in the procurement pipeline. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction finds that the
Afghans aren't ready to fly or maintain the helicopters, which are needed for counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism missions. The Afghans already have 21
Mi-17s with 12 more on the way. Congress has already voted - twice - to cut off funds for Rosobornexport. Nevertheless, DOD has asked for $350 million for
15 more helicopters in the 2014 budget.