France will press ahead with a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) contract to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow, French diplomatic sources said on Monday.
France has come under pressure from Washington and some European partners to reconsider its supply of high-tech military hardware to Moscow. It had said it would review the deal in October – but not before.
However, French diplomatic sources said on Monday the 2011 contract with Russia for two Mistral helicopter carriers, with an option for two more, would not be part of a third round of sanctions against Moscow.
“The Mistrals are not part of the third level of sanctions. They will be delivered. The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it.
“It would be France that is penalized. It’s too easy to say France has to give up on the sale of the ships. We have done our part.”
And, we can’t have the sanctions hurt France, can we?
One of the attack helicopter carriers will be deployed in the Black Sea, where all the trouble began:
The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by the last quarter of 2014. The second, named Sebastopol after the Crimean seaport, is supposed to be delivered by 2016.
How does France justify its intention to provide the ships?
“We are not delivering armed warships, but only the frame of the ship,” the source said.
That, of course, misses the entire point of sanctions. It is a punishment for wrong behavior. It is supposed to be a way one side teaches the other not to do what it has done. And the Western powers agreed that “strong sanctions” be imposed because of Russia’s unacceptable behavior. Now we see the exceptions being made – exceptions that Russia will, rightfully, view as weakness.
Additionally, that “frame” the French are dismissing as inconsequential will give Russia access to advanced technology. Additionally, these “frames” have quite a potent capability. The Mistral can carry up to 16 attack helicopters, such as Russia’s Kamov Ka-50/52; more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles; and up to 700 soldiers.
As for leadership from the US insisting that the French not provide the Russians with advanced weaponry?
A French government source said at no point had the U.S. officially expressed any concern over the sale …
Another example of why “strong sanctions” is, in reality, an oxymoron, especially when the Western powers are concerned.