The End of NATO: France proceeds with plans to deliver the first of two Mistral-class warships to Russia

Treachery Most Foul: François Hollande and France, in an appalling betrayal of NATO and NATO countries, plan to deliver a Mistral-class high-tech helicopter carrier and attack warship to Russia


(1) L’Obs avec AFP, “Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Un ministre russe annonce la livraison pour cette date. Jean-Yves Le Drian, lui, affirme que François Hollande rendra sa décision “courant novembre”. Le porte-hélicoptère Mistral sera-t-il livré à la Russie le 14 novembre ? Le Nouvel Observateur, 29 Octobre 2014 (Mis à jour à 18h57).

(2) Sascha Lehnartz, “Frankreich liefert nun doch Kriegsschiffe an Russland; Wegen der Ukraine-Krise hatte Präsident Hollande einen umstrittenen Rüstungsdeal ausgesetzt. Aber nun will Frankreich die Helikopterträger offenbar doch ausliefern. Sie sind optimal für Invasionen,” Die Welt, 29. Oktober 2014.

(3) “Official document of the delivery of the Mistral to Russia on 14th of November,, October 29, 2014.

(4) Le Nouvel Observateur: The scandalous history and details of the sale of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, The Trenchant Observer, August 16, 2014.

(5) Vincent Jauvert, “Mistral: enquête sur un contrat qui dérange, Le Nouvel Observateur, 10 août 2014.

We commented at the time the “Stage 3” economic sanctions against Russia were under consideration, when France “suspended” its delivery of the first of two Mistral-class attack warships to Russia, that the move may have been aimed at avoiding inclusion of the delivery contracts on the sanctions list, and that Hollande could well proceed with their delivery at a later date.

This now appears to be imminent.

François Hollande’s last-minute “suspension” of the delivery of the warships is no reason not to include an absolute ban on the making or performance of any and all defense contracts, past and future, with Russia.

Otherwise, Hollande is fully capable of weaseling his way out of the present “suspension” and proceeding with actual delivery the ships. The delivery was suspended before, it should be recalled. Hollande lifted that suspension in June, when he invited Putin to visit him for dinner at the Elysee Palace after the D-Day celebrations at Normandy.

–“Western leaders, claiming there is no military solution in the Ukraine, prepare weak sanctions that will give Putin a military victory by Russian tanks,” Updated September 4, 2014.

Appeasement Triumphs over the Goals and Aims of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

There are no words that can fully express the dismay and outrage that the latest announcements regarding the delivery of the Mistral-class warship named the Vladilovstok evoke.

The fact that Hollande is even considering delivering these advanced weapons systems, that are fully a decade more advanced than those in Russia, to the principal antagonist to the member countries of NATO, to the one country which now poses the greatest threat toward their peace and security since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, speaks volumes about the craven moral character of the French President, and indeed all of the major French political parties which at one time or another have been involved in this scandalous deal.

Contrast Hollande’s attitude toward the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to the eloquent words he spoke at Liège on August 4, 2014, at a conmemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I:

(Use Google Translate for text in other languages)

J’ai évoqué la neutralité, deux fois bafouée, de la Belgique. Mais aujourd’hui, la neutralité n’est plus de mise. Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un peuple, non loin d’Europe, se bat pour ses droits et pour son intégrité territoriale? Comment rester neutre lorsqu’un avion civil est abattu en Ukraine? Comment rester neutre devant des massacres de populations civiles, comme en Irak, comme en Syrie, où les minorités sont persécutées ? Comment rester neutre quand un pays ami comme le Liban voit son intégrité territoriale menacée ? Comment rester neutre quand à Gaza, un conflit meurtrier dure depuis près d’un mois ?

Nous ne pouvons pas rester neutres. Il y a une obligation d’agir. C’est l’Europe qui doit en prendre les responsabilités avec les Nations Unies. C’est le message que nous devons retenir aussi de cette journée. Nous ne pouvons pas être simplement des gardiens de la paix, des évocateurs du souvenir. Nous ne pouvons pas simplement évoquer le culte de la mémoire. Nous sommes aussi devant nos responsabilités. Ici, à Liège, au mois d’août 1914, il y a exactement un siècle, des hommes ordinaires sont devenus illustres par leur courage et leur vaillance. Aujourd’hui le temps est aussi à être illustre, par les actions que nous sommes capables de mener. Ces hommes, il y a un siècle, au fond de leur cœur, espéraient qu’un jour tous les pays d’Europe seraient rassemblés. Cent ans après, cette utopie est réalité. L’Europe est là, mais l’Europe doit faire encore davantage car la paix n’est jamais sûre. Elle exige une vigilance, un combat, une organisation, une défense de son propre continent.

Voilà pourquoi l’Europe doit toujours être en mouvement, ne doit jamais être lasse et ne doit surtout jamais être fatiguée de la paix.

–Président Franois Hollande, “Allocution au Mémorial de Cointe” (Liège, Belgique), Èlysée, Présidence de la Républicque, Publié le 04 Août 2014

Reproduced in “Remembering World War I: European leaders should spend one week in simulated trench warfare, instead of going to banquets and giving noble speeches filled with hyprocrisy,” The Trenchant Observer, August 5, 2014.

From Putin’s point of view, this is just one more step in Russia’s relentless campaign to use threats, invasions, and military force to break NATO and to undermine the leadership of the West.

The Russian vision is one of a world ruled by the kind of Machtpolitik (the politics of military power) that characterized international relations in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and which after the departure in 1890 of the great German statesman, Otto von Bismarck, characterized the rivalries and alliances in Europe that led to World War I in 1914. Bismarck, like his predecessor the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich, successfully managed the European balance of power system following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the peace treaties that ensued. The one major exception was, ironically, the Crimean War (1853-1856), in which Russia was defeated by a coalition of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. There were also short wars in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and in 1870-71 (German-French War).

Machtpolitik or Rechtstaat–Europe’s choice–now stands before Europe, NATO and the EU as a real and urgent choice.

To deliver your best technology and most advanced assault warships to your principal enemy–and let there be no illusions about whether Russia is now the enemy of NATO including in particular those countries lying within the borders of the former Soviet Empire—is a historic betrayal of the values and interests that have undergirded the strongest and most successful defense alliance in history since its founding in 1949.

The delivery of the Mistral-class warship, scheduled for November 14 according to a letter to the Russians dated October 8, 2014 and made public recently, will sound the death knell of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Inevitable Break-up or Neutering of NATO?

The fact that the United States lacks effective foreign policy leadership, and that European and American pacifists and appeasers have succeeded in blocking more forceful actions in response to the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and the invasion and seizure of large sections of the Donbas region in the Ukraine including Donetsk and Luhansk, points to the inevitable breakup of NATO or its neutering.

Only if very drastic changes are made immediately, under new or reinvigorated leadership in NATO countries including the U.S., can this catastrophic scenario be averted. Signs that such leadership will emerge and that effective actions will be taken are not promising.

Even if the Mistral delivery is suspended again, NATO countries and particularly those in the East, will always know that they have enemies within the Alliance, enemies who would sell them down the river whenever they could if they could do so without incurring a significant cost.

The essential trust upon which the NATO alliance is built is now shattered.

What should be done?

The often apparently clueless U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and publicly declared that Russia and the U.S. will work closely together in the future on intelligence matters, particularly in regard to the war on the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

President Barack Obama has been unable to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria and the Islamic State group, despite the fact that U.S. military forces are engaged in bombing (and probably other activities) in Syria.

At the same time, he appears not to understand the threat represented by Putin’s Russia, and seems singularly ill-equipped to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to military aggression by that country.

David Cameron of the U.K. is small-minded politician, currently demonstrating that he is a purely domestic Prime Minister by wrecklessly poisoning relations with the EU and Angela Merkel for short-sighted perceived political advantage.

In a world with real leaders, the President of the U.S. would tell France that it will cease future military and intellligence cooperation with that country if it proceeds to deliver the Vladilovstok to Russia, in November or at any other time.

In a world with real leaders, NATO would immediately convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers (if not heads of state) to make it clear to the French that they must desist from the delivery of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

And while the European Union is now under the leadership of a new Commission and Council which appear to be decidedly more appeasement-oriented than their predecessors, European foreign ministers if not heads of stage should immediately convene to consider the adoption of mandatory sanctions against Russia which would prohibit the execution of the Mistral-class warship contracts and their delivery.

But alas! we live in a world with pacifists and appeasers leading Europe and the United States, in “the great unraveling” in the memorable words of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, in a world where as in 1914 and 1938-1939, things are spinning out of control.

The French decision, or the mere fact that François Hollande is considering delivery of the Mistral-class warship, when Russia still illegally occupies the Crimea following a military invasion and conquest and its purported “annexation”, demonstrates the chaotic nature of international politics in the absence of U.S. leadership.

Whereas 20 years ago a telephone call from the U.S. President to the President of France might have forestalled the disastrous decision that Hollande is about to take, Obama and the U.S. have lost the respect and authority which they once commanded.

As a result, now no country can lead the Atlantic Alliance. And with leaders like Hollande, NATO will surely collapse or become irrelevant. Vladimir Putin is relentlessly determined to destroy it.

In fact, NATO may already be irrelevant.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

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.