DeLauro blasts U.S. purchase of Russian helicopters

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes part of Shelton, has criticized the U.S. Defense Department for purchasing helicopters from a Russian government-run supplier.

DeLauro called the purchase of Russian helicopters for the Afghan National Security Forces by the U.S. government “outrageous,” especially while the Russian government is providing weapons to the current regime in Syria.

DeLauro also represents Stratford, home of Sikorsky Aircraft, a large manufacturer of helicopters primarily used for military purposes. Sikorsky Aircraft is a division of United Technologies Corp. and  one of the state’s largest employers.

Thirty Russian-made helicopters being bought

According to a release from DeLauro’s office, the Defense Department has purchased 30 Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms dealer.

DeLauro recently pushed for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting contracts with Rosoboronexport. The amendment passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an unanimous vote.

Sale is ‘deeply troubling’

In March, DeLauro led a group of representatives in writing a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that urged him not to make this purchase.

The Pentagon announcement on the Mi-17 purchase, DeLauro said June 17, “flies in the face of last week’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives. Particularly coming so soon on the heels a 423-0 vote, it is deeply troubling to see reports that the contract with the Russian state arms dealer is moving forward.

“I will continue to lead bipartisan efforts to end this relationship, as Congress has made clear it does not believe U.S. taxpayers should continue to subsidize a company providing weapons the Syrian regime is using to fuel the tragic war in that country,” she said.

No more U.S. subsidies to Russians

The Russian-made helicopters will be used by the Afghan National Security Forces. The United States is the main backer of the current Afghan government, which is fighting the Taliban and elements of al-Qeada with the assistance of U.S. troops and supplies.

DeLauro, a Democrat in her 12th term, said it’s disappointing that “U.S. taxpayers continue to provide subsidies to Russia's arms dealer Rosoboronexport through no-bid Pentagon purchases of Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan National Security Forces even as the firm continues to serve as the top supplier of the weapons the Syrian regime is using to fuel the tragic war.

“If we are going to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars to provide helicopters to the Afghan National Security Forces,” she continued, “we should be spending those dollars for the purchase of U.S.-made helicopters. This is simply outrageous and it must stop.”

Shelton has two members of Congress

The city of Shelton is divided between the Third District, represented by DeLauro, and the Fourth District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

DeLauro lives in New Haven and was first elected to Congress in 1990.