Russia’s S-400
Pic Credit : Sputnik / Ruslan Krivobok

A top American diplomat on Wednesday described the Russian-made S-400 air defence system as “dangerous” but said the US is hopeful of resolving problems with India on the issue through discussions.

US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman told a small group of reporters after her meetings with foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that a final decision on possible sanctions on the S-400 deal will be made by President Joe Biden and secretary of state Antony Blinken.

“We’ve been quite public about any country that decides to use the S-400. We think that is dangerous and not in anybody’s security interest,” she said.

“That said, we have a strong partnership with India. We want to be very thoughtful about the ways ahead, and discussions between our countries try to solve problems and I hope we will be able to in this instance as well,” Sherman added.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the US side raised the S-400 deal during the discussions on Wednesday and there was a feeling on both sides that there was a need for further talks on the issue to reach some sort of common ground.

Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev had said last month that his country is expected to deliver the first batch of S-400 air defence systems under a $5.4-billion deal by October. There were no issues with the timeline for delivery of the systems, he had said.

The Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhry, also told reporters on Tuesday that the first batch of S-400 systems is expected to arrive within this year.

Sherman’s remarks about resolving differences over the S-400 deal reflected a softening of the US position.

The previous Trump administration had threatened to slap sanctions on the deal under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The US has already imposed secondary sanctions under CAATSA on China and Turkey for military deals with Russia.

The Indian side has said it is determined to go ahead with the S-400 deal in view of its national security interests and plans to create an air defence shield for key cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai.