India Defies Washington, Will Acquire Russian S-400 Missile Shield

Washington’s so-called allies continue to gravitate towards the Russian sphere of influence, and specifically the Russian S-400 Triumph advanced anti-aircraft weapon system.

First it was Turkey, which openly defied Trump's threats that the US would sanction Ankara if it completes the purchase of the anti-aircraft missiles, saying the acquisition of the missile defense system is "a done deal and Turkey will not turn back from its decision."

Now India is also moving towards acquiring five or more S-400 from Russia despite the threat of US retaliation. The Defense Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by minister Nirmala Sitharaman, last week approved the “minor deviations” in the $5.7 billion deal to purchase S-400s for final government approval, to the finance ministry and the Prime Minister’s office sources told the Times of India.

The DAC discussed the S-400 deal just one day after Washington on Wednesday canceled a “two-plus-two” discussion involving foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defense minister Sitharaman and Washington officials Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis, which was scheduled for July 6.

The Times of India noted that in October 2015, India had planned to procure the S-400s - which can detect, track and destroy supersonic bombers, drones, fifth-generation fighters, spy planes, and supersonic missiles at a range of up to 400km and altitude of 30km - in what many Indian officials have praised as a game-changing military acquisition.

The world's leading Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems are Patriot Advanced Capability-3, THAAD, S-400 Triumph and S-500. India has big ambitions for regional dominance and has been attempting to develop a domestic BMD system over the last several decades.

And while Washington officials briefed India on the use of Patriot system, it seems that the country is more interesting in purchasing Russian made BMDs instead.  The New York Times reported in April that the Indian/Russian deal serves as a blow to the United States’ ”struggling Patriot missile defense system.”

“India wasn’t very impressed with the Patriot compared with the S-400, which wins hands-down in capability, in its availability, service availability. It’s a more efficient system,” it cited Rahul Bedi of Jane’s Information Group as saying.

Petr Topychkanov, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Centre’s Non-Proliferation Programme, says “despite heavy investments in developing anti-ballistic missile systems, India may not be able to fully defend itself in a conflict from strikes by Pakistani missiles.”

India and Russia have worked on a plan to beat the financial sanctions called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) that attempts to prevent countries from purchasing Russian weapons.

“The acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about,” US armed services committee chairman Mac Thornberry said back in May, noting that there is also concern that “any country that acquires the system [S-400] will complicate the ability of interoperability” with US forces.

It seems as the plan for the Indian government is to fully integrate the S-400 system with the Indian Air Force’s air defense network called IACCS (integrated air command and control system), which could provide an umbrella of air defense support and serve as a deterrent against Pakistan. To complicate matters, China has also acquired S-400 batteries and Saudi Arabia has also been reported to consider a purchase. Meanwhile, Washington's influence even among US allies in the East is waning fast.