US hawks weapons at huge airshow in England

US hawks weapons at huge airshow in England

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Farnborough International Airshow visitors observe U.S. military aircraft on display Monday. Held every two years, the airshow typically has approximately 200,000 visitors and exhibitors from more than 35 countries. (Master Sgt. Eric Burks/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are using one of the premier international air shows to bolster American-made weapon sales as well as send messages to nations thinking of buying from traditional opponents, a top U.S. diplomat told reporters Monday.

Tina Kaidanow, acting assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters in a conference call that “we are looking to develop these strategic relationships in a way that makes sense for us and for our partners for what is not just a year or six months or  these are long-term relationships.

“That really doesn’t change,” she said.

Kaidanow is one of several U.S. officials attending the weeklong Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, England. The airshow is expected to attract about 100,000 visitors from 100 countries. In 2016, the airshow at Farnborough resulted in $124 billion of orders and commitments placed, according to news reports.

Farnborough is the second largest airshow held and alternates years with the Paris air show.

Ahead of the show, some foreign buyers expressed concerns about purchasing U.S. systems because of the Trump administration’s threats of trade wars.

In April, the Trump administration announced a new arms export effort to sell U.S. weapons abroad.

Kaidanow said officials at the airshow are trying to “further flush out some of the basic premises” from that April order and are trying an integrated approach in making pitches for U.S. companies and their products. “What we want to do is intensify that effort,” she said.

She said there has not been any noticeable change in the questions other nations asked about U.S. weapons or the general interest in obtaining them.

“There’s still an intense degree of interest in acquiring U.S. systems. It’s clear that our partners understand the value of interoperability with the United States and our military,” Kaidanow said. “They know the strategic value of those relationships and that these purchases and procurements help to underscore that and to support them.”

Kaidanow also warned Turkey — and by extension other nations — of the “serious downside” to buying Russian-made military systems that jeopardize U.S. and NATO joint security.

“We want to make sure the systems acquired by our allies remain supportive of our … allies,” Kaidanow said on the conference call. “We want them to understand the real, serious downsides of making this acquisition from the Russians.”

She strongly rejected reports in Russian media that the U.S. sold defective anti-tanks weapons to Ukraine, calling the assertions “propaganda of the worst kind.” The U.S. has recently sent a large number of FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukraine.

“We do not provide anyone with defective Javelins, frankly,” Kaidanow said on the conference call. “That is outrageous and certainly not the case.”

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