Le Nouvel Observateur: The scandalous history and details of the sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia

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.

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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.