February 9, 2016 – Fort Russ News –
– BFMTV, translated from French by Tom Winter –
|Original headline: “The Mistral ships: How Moscow gained from Hollande’s volte-face“|
Even though Russia never received the two helicopter carriers ordered from France, the country is preparing to build its own ships thanks to tricolor know-how.
The operation was a complete fiasco. Even though in 2015 France finally decided not to hand over to Russia the two Mistral ships that it had ordered, it would seem that Moscow has taken all the benefits of this breach of contract.
This is in any case what Alexey Rakhmanov’s words suggest. The president of the Russian Shipyards (OSK) is indeed quite pleased to have acquired French “know-how.” As quoted in the Le Canard Enchaîné: “If we take into account the fact that France has returned to Russia the money paid for the construction of the ships, this know-how was transmitted to us for nothing,” he said ironically at year-end.
Result: OSK is preparing to build its own helicopter carriers, which should resemble Mistrals like two drops of water.
Poland contradicts government plans
Recall that the two ships, commissioned in 2010, were built on the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire, in collaboration with their Russian counterparts of OSK. The Ukrainian conflict, in which Paris had taken a stand against Russia, subsequently pushed Francois Hollande to suspend – and finally cancel – the delivery of the two ships to Moscow.*
According to Le Canard Enchaîné, this decision should have permitted selling Poland – also on the outs with Russia – several Airbus Caracal helicopters, for about 3 billion euros. Except that the new Conservative government, to general surprise, decided to break the negotiations, preferring American Lockheed-Martin and the Italian-British Agusta-Westland to the Airbus machines. With, at key, a mini diplomatic crisis between Paris and Warsaw.
Although France finally found a buyer for its two Mistral ships, in this case Egypt, the government could surely have done without this episode of which it seems to be the big loser.
*I recall reading an interview in Le Figaro that summer in which Philippe de Villiers said the US Embassy was telephoning every day telling Hollande not to deliver the Mistrals. –Tr.