French defence sales: Mistral blows

EVEN before France signed a deal in 2011 to build two Mistral-class assault ships for Russia, the idea prompted widespread unease. Had Russia possessed such warships in 2008, boasted its naval chief, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, it would have won its war against Georgia in “40 minutes instead of 26 hours”. Russia’s neighbours were accordingly troubled, but so were France’s closest allies. In Paris before the deal, Robert Gates, then America’s defence secretary, had what he called a “thorough exchange of views” with the French: code for a serious disagreement.Now, as the Ukraine crisis lurches on, the Mistral sale is creating fresh ructions. At a meeting in Washington with John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, this week, Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, found himself forced to defend it. Earlier this month, Victoria Nuland, Mr Kerry’s assistant secretary, said she had “regularly and consistently expressed our concerns” about the sale. But Mr Fabius was having none of it. France, he said on May 13th, would take firmness lessons from nobody: “the rule with contracts is that contracts which have been signed are honoured.”At a moment when Europe and…

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/europe/21602291-why-france-insists-going-ahead-selling-warships-russia-mistral-blows?fsrc=rss|eur

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