Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is a United States Federal Law that has imposed sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. This act prevents trade partners of the United States in entering into bilateral contracts with these three nations.

The bill was passed on 27 July 2017. Since India has commercial and defensive contracts with Iran and Russia, the CAATSA does have an impact on India’s foreign policy.

Recent updates on CAATSA – 

  • USA administration has recently imposed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia. Turkey is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally of the USA.
    What is NATO?

    NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) in 1949, by several Western nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.  Get detailed information on NATO on the linked page. 

    • The United States had made it clear to Turkey that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of the USA.  Its procurement will provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry.
    • Turkey yet decided to move ahead with the procurement and testing of the S-400, despite the availability of alternatives such as NATO-interoperable systems (such as the USA’s Patriot missile defense system), to meet its defense requirements.

Why India is concerned?  The issue of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the purchase of Russian arms is of particular interest to India, which is also in the process of buying the S-400 from Russia.

  • The USA has reiterated its position and asked all its allies and partners, including India, to stop transactions with Russia. It can risk triggering sanctions under the (CAATSA). This indicates that despite a change in the ground realities following the deadly clash between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) last month, the U.S’s message to countries, including India, on sanctions for the purchase of Russian arms has not changed.
    • In the context of India’s planned jet fighter deal with Russia at an estimated Rs. 18,148 crore, USA has reiterated its position on CAATSA .
    • The Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), an upgrade for 59 of these Russian aircraft and the acquisition of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
    • India could also face USA sanctions for purchasing the S-400 Triumf missile defense system from Russia under the CAATSA.
    • Issues with Purchase from Adversary: The USA fears that acquisitions by countries like India on significant systems would either expose or put at risk platforms and its technologies to an adversary. It has declared that the S-400 purchase by Turkey from Russia has put a risk to its F-35 aircraft system.

This article will give further information about CAATSA which will be of immense use for candidates appearing for UPSC 2021.

Background of CAATSA

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act came against the backdrop of three events that would have serious implications regarding geopolitics. They are as follows:

  1. Iran’s Nuclear Missiles Program: The United States Government believed that any progress in Iran’s nuclear missile program would further destabilize the Middle-East as Iran has repeatedly made threats against Israel, a key NATO and United States ally. The CAATSA gives authority to the President of the United States to impose sanctions against any party involved in the sale and transfer of military technology to Iran.
  2. Curbing Russian influence: The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and allegations of interventions in the US polls of 2016 was the catalyst for the CAATSA against Russia. Under the act sanctions can be imposed on Russia should the state or private individuals be found involved in activities such as cybersecurity, crude oil projects,  financial institutions, corruption,  human rights abuses etc
  3. North Korea and weapons of mass destruction: North Korea has a nuclear weapons military program and as of 2020 it’s estimated missile arsenal includes 30-40 warheads with enough fissile materials to produce 6-7 missiles per year. North Korea has made repeated threats against its South Korea repeatedly and also against the United States.

Previous administrations before had put sanctions against the North Korean dictatorship. But what makes the CAATSA different is that the bill modifies and increases the President’s authority to impose sanctions on persons in violation of certain United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea along with a wide range of other economic sanctions that can cripple the already fledgeling North Korean economy.

To know the difference between North Korea and South Korea, visit the linked article

Implications for India regarding CAATSA

The India-United States relations, especially when it comes to the defence aspect, has grown exponentially since 2008. At least by 2019, about $15 billion worth of weapons has been purchased by India. Historically, India also purchased its weapons and the subsequent comments from Russia since the days of the Cold War. Keeping this in mind United States lawmakers had specifically told the senate that the sanctions should not affect major defence partners such as India

A waiver of such CAATSA for India has been under consideration since the law had come into force but little headway has been made in that regard. In fact, India was threatened with sanctions when it decided to buy the S-400 missile launchers from Russia and buy crude oil from Iran. What is also worrying for India is the example of Turkey who, despite being a key NATO ally, was expelled from the US F-35 fighter jet programme when it purchased S-400 missile systems from Russia.

Yet India went ahead with the S-400 deal in 2018 with no negative reaction from the United States government. The delivery of the S-400s is expected to finish by 2025. Lately, the United States Government has stated that although a waiver is not possible at this time, a blanket application of sanctions against India for its defence contracts with Russia is also not being considered.

CAATS: UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

For topics of national and international importance, visit the current affairs page.

Criticism against CAATSA

Needless to say, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act has been met with derisions from North Korea, Russia and Iran. But the negative feeling has not only been restricted to the United State’s adversaries, but key partners such as the European Union have felt that the CAATSA sheds a negative light on United States-European relations as many of them have gas line projects signed with Russia.

Geopolitical think-tanks have argued that the CAATSA will hamper the United States Asian allies in resisting a rising Chinese influence. Another implication is that this would also discourage other nations from building a defensive relationship with the United States with a view to avoid any future compromises regarding strategic autonomy. These experts believe that if the CAATSA is implemented haphazardly, it could eventually backfire on United States policy in the near future.

To find complete information about Government Exams visit the linked article. More exam-related preparation materials will be found through the links given below

Frequently Asked Questions about CAATSA

Has India been threatened under CAATSA?

In October 2018, India inked an agreement worth US.43 billion with Russia to procure four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defence system, a missile defence system while ignoring the CAATSA act. The U.S. threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

What is the legislative history of CAATSA?

On 15 June 2017, the United States Senate voted 98 to 2 for the bill (an amendment to the underlying Iran sanctions bill), which was rooted in a bill introduced in January that year by a bipartisan group of senators over Russia’s continued involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria and its interference in the 2016 election; with regard to Russia, the bill was designed to expand the punitive measures previously imposed by executive orders and convert them into law. The bill in the Senate incorporated the provisions of the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act that was introduced in May 2017 by Senator Ben Cardin

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