News / Europe

Russia Confident Warship Deal With France Will Proceed

Under NATO Pressure, France Puts Freeze on Russia Warship Deali
September 04, 2014 9:47 PM
France has postponed a deal to deliver two advanced warships to Russia. French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that Russia's intervention in eastern Ukraine meant conditions were not right to complete the delivery. France faces a huge bill for halting the contract. And as Henry Ridgwell reports from the Saint-Nazaire shipyard, where the vessels are under construction, there is local anger at the potential fallout.
Related report: "Under NATO Pressure, France Puts Freeze on Russia Warship Deal"
Henry Ridgwell

Russian authorities say they expect their deal to buy two warships from France will go through, despite the announcement in Paris that delivery of the first vessel has been suspended.

That statement Thursday follows comments by French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday that Russia's intervention in eastern Ukraine meant conditions were not right to complete the delivery.

Russia's industry minister Denis Manturov said Thursday the Kremlin “assumes the $1.6 billion contract will be fulfilled according to the agreements” with France. Neither side has indicated when the warships might be transferred to Russian control.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked France for halting its Mistral delivery to Russia during a meeting with French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of Thursday's NATO summit in Wales.

Saint-Nazaire shipyard

The first two Mistral helicopter assault ships destined for Russia are near completion, and 400 Russian sailors have been in France since June, training in shipyards at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Atlantic coast. A Russian crew already is aboard the Vladivostok warship as construction continues.

The second assault vessel is to be named Sevastopol, after the port in Crimea that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in March.

Meanwhile, France faces a huge bill if it does halt the contract, and at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard where the vessels are under construction, there is local anger at the potential fallout.

Towering above the Saint-Nazaire shipyard, the sleek matte-gray lines of the Vladivostok conceal a wealth of cutting-edge technology. The ship is designed to carry helicopters and tanks for amphibious assault, and was due to be delivered to Russia next month. The deal was worth over $1.5 billion; Paris now faces paying the money back.

With Russia accused of sending troops into eastern Ukraine, France had little choice, according to Ian Bond, director of Foreign Policy at the Center for European Reform in London.

“I’m sure that pressure from other NATO members will have had some influence on the French, but I think also that domestically there had been stories that, even among the people who were building these ships, there was some concern about what they were really doing and why they were supplying ships to Russia in these circumstances,” he said.

Financial fallout

But on the dockside in Saint-Nazaire, there also is fear over the consequences of freezing the deal. Jean-Claude Blanchard is the local leader of the far-right National Front party, which is staunchly defending the deal.

Blanchard said that if Russia wishes to start a war with anyone, they would not need these ships.

“I think that the Russian navy is already well-equipped,” he said, adding that the ships directly support 800 jobs, and thousands more through suppliers and subsidiary contracts.

Docked nearby and ringed by a high fence, the Russian frigate Smolny is home to 400 Russian sailors who were sent here to train on the new Mistral-type warships. Their fate remains unclear.

The Russian visitors -- and the warships -- have become a tourist attraction.

Joel Lauvaux, who is on vacation in the area, said, “It’s delicate, in the sense that the ships were already commissioned, already built, already paid for. Some say canceling the contract will provoke even more tensions. But that’s not evident. So I think on balance it’s better to cancel, than give them to Russia.”

A march is planned for Sunday in Saint-Nazaire to protest against the postponement of the contract. Paris and its NATO allies say they have sympathy for local workers, but Europe’s security must come first.

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Comment Sorting
by: Greg from: US
September 05, 2014 4:02 PM
Why doesn't NATO buy them from France for a Quick Reaction Force in the Crimea?

by: Mike Dvorzak
September 05, 2014 1:37 PM
If France transfers these ships to Russia, blow them out of the water after the wire transfer is confirmed.

by: OnioWoess from: Hamburg
September 05, 2014 9:25 AM
The value and necessity of these tubs are very controversial even in Russia itself since 2011. Because Russia is a continetal power, unlike imperially pointed USA (whose 800 military bases were placed all over the world). Therefore Russia doesn't have any need in these type of warships. So, France would make a good favor if refused the contract and will return the money and the penalties. Then Russia could build her own ships more suitable for the purposes.

by: Igor from: Russia
September 05, 2014 4:53 AM
There are countless stupid actions from the West including Mr. Obama alone to try to freeze the delivery of the warship to Russia despite the consequences from their stupid actions on French economy. It is high time for France not to obey the US's and UK's orders.
In Response

by: Ron from: US
September 05, 2014 1:59 PM
Actually they look like fantastic ships. Russia and France have done a great job. I am sure Russia knows what it is doing in ordering these ships. It seems Obama is also doing what he needs to do to try and keep all the participants in this 'party' happy which cannot be easy to do. Russia is in reality a natural partner of the US in many things and it is by far in Russia's best interest to be so as it already knows. I hope that the partnership in science and energy is 'recovered'. There are many real dangers and situations to deal with. Not the imaginary cold war threats which should be seen by now for what they are which is a tempest in a teapot.
In Response

by: Mike Dvorzak
September 05, 2014 1:41 PM
Igor, you're on the wrong side. In fifteen years you will be trying to find a way to defect.

by: Mindy from: US
September 05, 2014 2:24 AM
And the French are NATO allies? To build a warship for the country which forms the basis for NATO's very existence, whether during good relations or strained, is disgusting. There is absolutely no rationale for "honoring" this contract, jobs, economy, fulfilling contract. None. The Russians would build it themselves if they could. Once they have the technology, it's too late. Some alternative must be found.

If not, global boycott of Paris tourism, products, etc
In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
September 05, 2014 6:26 AM
Stop threatening France with boycotting or sactioning. Because France will soon leave NATO for good.

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