To Russia with love, warships from France

Another suitable title for this post would be ‘While Europe slept’.

In August 2008 France’s President Sarkozy packaged up and delivered to Russia an EU peace plan to bring an end to the short, one-sided conflict with Georgia.  A quick scan showed the plan had more holes than a sieve and favoured Russia disproportionately.  Eyebrows were raised.  It was no surprise though that Russia flouted its terms brazenly and the EU offered nothing more than a few limp words of disappointment.

Then in November 2008 Sarkozy energetically encouraged his EU colleagues to back Russian proposals for a Pan-European security pact that had previously been ignored by western European countries.  At the same time, despite France being aspiring to rejoin NATO as a full member within months having withdrawn from the alliance in 1966, Sarkozy publicly broke ranks over the proposed US Missile Shield in Europe.  Acting like Medvedev and Putin’s personal ventriloquist dummy, Sarkozy parroted Russia’s well rehearsed position, arguing that:

“Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe … it would complicate things, and would make them move backward,”

Russia was delighted that the Élysée was on board, on message and sowing disunity around western Europe.  Sarkozy’s hyperactivity had seen to it that EU backed down from their previously stated position regarding Russia’s aggression in Georgia and agreed to EU-Russian talks on trade and energy before troops had even left Georgian soil.  The obvious conclusion to draw was that French had identified in Russia an opportunity for an advantage and vested self interest was at play

But it is only in the last couple of weeks that the terms of the trade off have become clear.  The Georgian Daily reported on 9th January that Moscow was seeking to modernise its military capability by buying advanced technology in the shape of at least one Mistral-class amphibious assault ship (below), built and sold to the Russian Navy – by France.

It has taken fully 11 days for anyone in the western media to wake up to what’s going on, with the Washington Times finally going to print with a story on Wednesday titled ‘France likely to sell warship to Moscow -Deal raises concerns in NATO pact’.  A Google News search reveals that throughout the collective news media of the European Union nations, there is not a single word on this subject.  This despite the Georgian Daily’s observation that:

Russian officials currently emphasize the value of advanced technology transfers to Russia that would accompany the possible acquisition of Mistral-class ships. According to Pukhov, Russia is interested in the Mistral not only or primarily for its amphibious assault capabilities, but for its value as a command platform with advanced electronics for battle management and network-centric military operations at sea, as well as its hydroacoustics.

It would represent a significant enhancement of Russian offensive military capability that could have been put to devastating effect in Georgia had the vessel been part of the Russian Naval fleet.  No wonder small voices are trying to make themselves heard in an attempt to stop France assisting the military rearmament of the greatest risk to stability facing Europe.  Just ask Poland.

As for the rest of the EU, they are as usual snoozing comfortably at the wheel of the juggernaut, wilfully oblivious to the bigger one coming straight at them from the east.  Those people who keep saying Russia is not the military might it once was and using that as justification to reduce defence spending might want to reconsider in light of France’s traditionally self serving actions.

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9 Responses to “To Russia with love, warships from France”

  1. 1 subrosa 21/01/2010 at 2:19 am

    Isn’t Europe always asleep? Excellent scoop.

    What is they the rest of the world says? “Invade Britain anytime with the exception of 9 – 5 Monday to Fridays.”

  2. 2 Mike Spilligan 21/01/2010 at 8:43 am

    It’s not only the potential enemy in the east; why the hell haven’t we been keeping a watch on the pathologically treacherous France?
    France never makes friendly gestures without a generous measure of self-interest behind them.

  3. 3 Steve Green 21/01/2010 at 2:37 pm

    That is not the normal shape for an assault ship, it looks very much like a small aircraft carrier with the ramp missing – to be added later?

  4. 4 IanPJ 22/01/2010 at 2:58 am


    It would be the right shape for a helicopter assault ship, and roughly the right size.

    Russian military thinking is not centred around aircraft carriers, with few sea borders the facilities to support and repair are very limited, and the only active carrier being the Admiral Kuznetsov, also called he Nikolai Kuznetsov, which because of ongoing problems with Ukraine over the future of the Crimea, still does not carry an air wing, only assault and anti submarine helicopters.

    The former Soviet carriers of the Kiev class were all scrapped in the mid nineties, and the sale to India in June 2009 of the mothballed Admiral Gorshkov reinforces the position that Russia is not interested in carriers as aircraft platforms. Production of Su-33 naval fighters is not planned for the same reason.

    We have to remember that Russia no longer has the facilities it did during the soviet era, and before any aircraft carriers are built or purchased, Russian shipyards will have to build enough support ships to go with them: missile cruisers, several destroyers, frigates, submarines, and maintenance ships, but the shipyard in Nikolayev, Ukraine that built the Soviet Union’s five aircraft carriers is politically unavailable to them. Russia does not have an existing shipyard with a dock that can construct or maintain anything the size of an aircraft carrier.

    Nah, it has to be a helicopter assault vessel.

  5. 5 IanPJ 22/01/2010 at 3:10 am

    For Information, here is the deck layout for the Mistral

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