Early draft – developing
There is no domestic opposition to the French sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia because all leading politicians, from Nicholas Sarkozy to Francois Hollande, are deep in the scandal up to their eyeballs.
The Russians showed interest in the “jewel” of the French defense industry shortly after their invasion of Georgia in 2008, where they encountered force coordination problems that the Mistral would have solved.
A Russian military leader explained how useful the warship could be in the event the Russian-speaking population of Estonia was threatened by mob actions, as it would allow Russian military forces to quickly intervene with soldiers on the ground in time to protect the Russian minority.
Top admirals in the French Navy opposed the deal.
President Francois Hollande, while speaking beautiful words at ceremonies this summer commemorating the outbreak of World War I, has been craven in putting French commercial interests ahead of the security interests of NATO member states, even after the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its invasion by irregular forces of the eastern Ukraine. He was responsible for the EU “stage 3” sanctions of July 31 not banning existing defense contracts, due to his tenacity in defending the sale of the Mistral warships. Other NATO countries, and Japan, strongly oppose their delivery.
In addition to the sale of the first two Mistral-class amphibious warships, the agreement between France and Russia envisions the construction of a third and a fourth warship in St. Petersburg, Russia. The deal will, in effect, include technology transfer that will allow Russia to make advances in naval warfare technology that otherwise would have taken 10 years to achieve.
It is clear that France is setting its own barrowly-conceived commercial interests above the collective security requirements of the NATO alliance, in a manner which will damage the defense posture of all members of the alliance.
If the EU and NATO cannot prevent a perfidious France from giving away the “crown jewels” of French defense technology to Russia, a nation which has invaded and currently occupies part of the territory of an important European state in open defiance of bedrock principles of the United Nations Charter, it is hard to see much utility in or future for the Atlantic Alliance.
For the shocking details, see:
Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 aout 2014.
The Trenchant Observer