"For example, the Defense Department presented a civilian aircraft that was modified with armament," says the Pentagon official. "It was returned by the overhaul facility in the approved civilian configuration along with loose, removed parts from the [military] modification."
Non-Russian firms that have agreements with Rosobornexport would risk losing their business with the state-run company, which is a major arms player in that region. The Pentagon official says that's a risk few want to take.
This kind of scenario could invite "Russian interference," the Pentagon official says, adding U.S. officials have discussed allowing licensed firms to do more overhaul work on Rosobornexport choppers for the Afghan air force with their Russian counterparts.
The situation has created a political headache for the Obama administration, which has so far has resisted becoming directly involved in Syria's civil war—even while Moscow supplies Bashir al-Assad's military with sophisticated weapons.
"The administration got through a similar thing last year in Libya," Aboulafia says. "They'll get through this."
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.
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