As the end of November deadline inches closer for the mistral helicopter carrier deliver to Russia, French President François Hollande still does not have the balls to just admit to the French public that he is about to destroy an entire defence and shipbuilding industry so as to avoid whatever “embarrassing” leverage the State Department/NSA has on him.
Sputnik News Agency reported last week…
The Russian crew of the French-built, Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok, currently undergoing training in France, have been denied access to the ship, Ouest-France newspaper reported, citing a defense source.
According to the newspaper’s article published on Monday, the decision was made by French authorities, while the French Ministry of Defense has denied being aware of the situation. Ouest-France added that no special security measures were taken on the site.
A total of 550 Russian sailors, with 400 of them the future crew of the Vladivostok helicopter carrier and 150 crewmembers of the Smolny training ship, arrived in the French port town of Saint-Nazaire in June. The first sea trials of the Vladivostok with a Russian crew aboard took place on September 13.
In June 2011, Russia signed a 1.2 billion euro ($1.5 billion) contract for two Mistral-class helicopter carrier ships with France. French President Francois Hollande has threatened to suspend the deliveries of the ships to Russia over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
The handover ceremony of the first ship, the Vladivostok, was scheduled for November 14. The event has not taken place. A high-ranking defense source told RIA Novosti last week that Russia will wait until the end of November for Paris to hand over the ship before making “serious claims.”
And because no nation in the world wants to buy ships or weapons from a supplier that is so easily persuaded to break legally binding contracts without notice or clarification…
The alarming question now has to be asked whether this is just a commercial breach of contract or a hostile act, because the French government has not just “failed” to deliver the first of the two Mistral ships contracted and paid for as the press reports state, it has refused to deliver them and will not unless certain conditions are met, political conditions, which have strategic importance for Russia and conditions that can never be met unless Russia surrenders its strategic position and its defence of the Ukrainians of the Donbass.
Since France, as a member of Nato, has to act in the interests of its master, it should come as no surprise that the French have taken another hostile action against Russia by taking part in the illegal economic embargo instituted by the Americans. France has taken actions against Russian interests for years.
The French support for the overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine, its support for the Kiev regime’s attacks on the civilian population of the Donbass and French participation in the economic warfare against Russia being conducted by the Nato allies, taken in the historical context, means that the refusal to hand over the ships due under the contracts is meant to weaken Russia militarily and politically.
The military effects are several. One of the ships was to be stationed on the Pacific Coast for operations to protect the Kuril Islands in particular, and one of them was to be used as the flagship of the Russian navy in the Mediterranean. Their ability to move a reinforced battalion of troops along with the capacity to launch multiple helicopters, transport landing craft and act as a command and control centre had both strategic and tactical importance. Further, Russia hoped to obtain advanced technology and the ability to build other Mistrals in Russia.
Politically the French refusal is meant to humiliate Russia on the world stage in order to weaken its prestige and support in the world, a refusal compounded by the insulting cat and mouse game being played by the French, first promising to deliver the ships, then hesitating, then promising again, but in the end never delivering. A cynical person could even wonder whether Russia was tricked all along and paid almost 1.2 billion euros in advance in early 2011 for ships it was never intended to get and was lured into wasting three years that could have been spent on developing similar vessels to be built in Russia.
The simple fact is Russia has handed over the money but France now has the ships and the money. Even if the French repaid the money plus penalties Russia’s interests will have been damaged but the idea that France will willingly give back the money already paid plus penalties is naïve. France wants to hurt Russia and France cannot hurt Russia and then cover Russia’s losses and any talk of France honouring the penalty clauses in the contract for failure to deliver when it has refused to honour the contract in the first place is just whistling in the dark.
Already there is talk in the French press about relying on the force majeure clauses in the contracts to avoid any Russian legal action to recover the money. President Putin reacted by stating that the French cannot rely on force majeure, as the contracts are very specific and not in favour of France. The positions of the parties are already being drawn and long years of arguing before courts and trade tribunals will not change the situation.
It is not just Russia that will suffer a loss. The repercussions are very serious for both countries. In France the union that represents the workers at St. Nazaire where the ships are built expressed “shock and outrage” Le Figaro reported, after Paris delayed delivery due to pressure from the US and EU and stated that the decision risked the loss of 2500 jobs in a country on the verge of recession or worse. It has given the far right party ammunition to attack President Hollande. Marie LePen demanded the ships be delivered or else risk undermining French credibility, its reliability in arms sales and its national honour.
Hollande’s response is to play the game of denying the contract has been rescinded or breached by stating that it is still in effect and delivery will be made but then contradicts himself and states that “I will take my decision without any pressure, wherever it may come from, and based on two criteria; the interests of France and the appreciation I have of the situation.” He also stated that the delivery of the ships is contingent on two conditions being met: a ceasefire in Ukraine and a peace deal between the Kiev regime and Moscow.
He said this when he knew that the Kiev regime is deliberately breaking the ceasefire on a daily basis and has no intention of abiding by it and that Poroshenko and the Americans have no intention of allowing peace in Ukraine. The fact is that France is locked into the American war logic and Hollande’s statement that he is subject to no pressure is as laughable as his popularity ratings in France. The statements by President Obama at the G20 meeting Australia that Russia will be economically “isolated” unless it bows to US diktats and the deliberately insulting behaviour towards the Russian head of state by Nato leaders at the meeting and the current oil price war are glaring evidence that Nato’s hostile intentions against Russia are becoming more acute with every day.
The fact is that France has acted to wound Russia and is acting in accord with the United States and its other Nato allies and is willing to do so because it has greater interests in mind which pale beside the predictable job losses, lawsuits and loss of reputation. Those interests are the interests of the Nato alliance as a whole that is preparing for war against Russia.
Russia has stated it will respond to the French refusal to deliver the Russian ships at the end of November. The Russian Upper House has suggested cancelling the contract. But this also has serious implications and will not make Russia whole as the French are unlikely to pay back the money. Poroshenko has threatened all out war against the Donbas and the fact that Ukraine cannot obtain coal supplies for the winter from other sources at a price it can afford suggests that an offensive to seize the Donbas coal mines is being considered and this will once again bring Nato and Russia in direct confrontation.
The countries of Nato and its allies in Japan and Australia are suffering serious problems as their economies sink into recession and fade into the shadows of the BRIC economies that are shaking off US dollar hegemony. Their leaders are mediocrities who think like gangsters. Their democracies have ceased to function in any real sense. They have painted themselves into a corner and see war as the only way out. Russia’s response to the Mistral Affair will be interesting to see but whatever the response is it will be made in a world context and in the search for a peaceful resolution of the war that threatens us all.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.