An interesting follow up to a story this blog ran in January last year, when France confirmed it had done a deal to sell the Mistral class amphibious warship to Russia, along with advanced military technology.
The ¡No Pasarán! blog makes us aware that in an interview about the trouble in Tunisia, France’s new foreign minister, Alain Juppé, justified France’s sale of Mistral warships to Russia thus:
In Lisbon, I heard Barack Obama tell Dmitry Medvedev: “You’re not just a partner but a friend.” You can not blame France for delivering boats to a friend.
These are not merely ‘boats’. These are command and control centres providing a helicopter borne and landing craft based amphibious assault function that fills a large gap in Russia’s military capability, enabling troops and tanks to be deployed from the sea. The original deal was for one vessel, but now it seems to have grown to four.
As far as friend goes, what kind of friend feels the need to regularly probe our airspace with long range bomber and reconnaisance aircraft? What kind of friend prevents suspects in the case of poisoning a dissident with radioactive material in this country from being brought to justice? What kind of friend makes nuclear threats towards a peaceful European country?
Presumably France does not see Georgia as being as valuable a ‘friend’ as Moscow. Having been invaded by Russia, which contrived a crisis in two breakaway regions in Georgian territory, Mamuka Kudava, Georgia’s ambassador to France, said last March that it would be “incomprehensible” if France were to sell the Mistral to Russia. It is an understandable view given that Russia’s senior naval officer Vladimir Vyssotski said last year that the Georgia conflict could have been resolved in ’40 minutes and not 26 hours’ if his forces had had the ships at the time.
Perhaps for the likes of Sarkozy and Juppé friends are determined by the size of their wallet and willingness to buy French equipment. One wonders how long it will be before Barack Obama revises his assessment that France is the US’ strongest ally as it helps re-arm the Russian military.