A couple of years ago, France agreed to build two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships for the Russians. The Russians have already paid a large part of the 1.2 billion euro (US $1.8 billion) price tag, but the French government put the plan on hold right before Christmas. The Russian sailors who were training on the ships went home and the world turned to other news. It left a big question, though. What, exactly, will happen to the two modern assault ships, one complete and one still undergoing sea trials, if France decides not to sell them to the Russians?
Russia has agreed to wait until February for a final decision on the disposition of the two ships, but there is a lot at stake with this unfinished deal. If the deal is concluded, as agreed, Russia will become the proud owner of two large amphibious assault ships that are both modern and powerful.
Russia has already said that the warships will be sent to the Far East with the homeports of Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Although they will not be in a position to threaten Russia’s European neighbors, they will upset the balance of power in the Western Pacific. Of course, there is no guarantee that the two warships would ever actually be sent to the Pacific, especially with the provocative actions occurring on the eastern edge of Russia.
Even before Russia invaded the Ukraine, the country’s neighbors had filed protests against the sale of the ships. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (all members of NATO) expressed concerns about Russia buying the ships. Although some politicians in the United States saw the warship sale as problematic, there was no official response. Privately, officials did not see the sale as a major concern.
Cancelling the agreement with Russia could also hurt the French reputation for arms dealing. France is the fifth-largest arms dealer in the world. Additionally, France would have to return the money they have already accepted from Russia.
“If we don’t deliver them, it’s the entire French defense industry on the hot seat,” said Christophe Morel of STX, the builders of the ships.
Although there has been no official word about the consequences of France defaulting on the deal, the money they have already received from Russia would most assuredly need to be returned, which could cause a great degree of hardship for the French government as well as STX.
President Francois Hollande has said he would take action on the contract, but he has bound the delivery of the ships to the situation in the Ukraine. The Russians have until February to pull out of the Ukraine, if they want their new warships, or, perhaps, watch the deal go quietly down the drain.
For now, the Vladivostok and Sevastopol sit quietly in the French harbor of Saint-Nazaire.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.