Despite cries for more U.S. jobs, one of the strangest deals has American taxpayers footing the bill for almost two dozen Russian-built helicopters for use by the Afghanistan air force, notes Grumpy Editor.
Other than Bloomberg News three months ago and this week’s issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, little has been reported by U.S. media about the unusual transaction.
Newspaper editorial page writers should get somewhat excited over this, especially during the summer doldrums.
Bloomberg Businessweek writers Danielle Ivory and Kathleen Miller point out, “Since May 2011, the Pentagon has paid Rosoboronexport $411 million for 21 Mi-17 helicopters.”
Rosoboronexport is the state-run arms trader that Congress says is arming Syria.
Kazan Helicopter manufactures the medium twin-turbine transport at two Russian plants.
The Bloomberg Businessweek writers also reveal the “Pentagon didn’t solicit bids from any other company for the helicopters.” They add that Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) --- leading 17 U.S. senators seeking to cancel the deal --- says the no-bid order “seems just plain stupid.”
Back on May 8, Bloomberg News writers Tony Capaccio and David Lerman reported, "The Pentagon says it’s in a bind, with nowhere to turn for helicopters needed by Afghanistan’s air force except Russia."
The Mi-17 choppers, they added, "include full Western avionics, navigation, communications and situation-awareness capability.”
Cost of the 21 helicopters three months ago was pegged at $375 million. That’s $36 million below the price tag noted this month.
What’s noteworthy about this close to half a billion dollar Pentagon-spurred deal that benefits Russia is that talk in Washington includes deep cuts in the defense budget --- for the U.S.