Mistral: file of a problem contract
The pride of the French shipbuilding is the two Mistral-type DKVDs ordered by Russia during the Sarkozy presidency today more than ever put the current French President Francois Hollande in the awkward position.
5 July this year, Francois Hollande invited Barack Obama to the famous Parisian restaurant "Chiberta", located near the Champs Elysees. The meeting was held in a warm and friendly atmosphere at one of the best tables in the city. The next day, both presidents went to celebrations to mark the Allied landings in Normandy - to celebrate and consolidate the US-French friendship. However, a small mess smeared the festive picture a bit. "These damn Mistrali," as one of the representatives of the Elysian Palace put it. The two Mistral-type DKVDs, the contract for which was signed with Moscow under Sarkozy, and which, as the current President of France, Mr. Hollande hopes, will be fully implemented by next spring.
“This question is bothering me,” Obama begins pursing his lips. “After the annexation of the Crimea, this would be a bad signal. Why not give up on this deal? ”
“Because I don’t want to doubt the signature of the French state,” Hollande obviously tensely retorted.
On Monday, July 28, in the Elysee Palace again there was a stir. And again about the two helicopter carriers. 11 days after the crash of the Malaysian Boeing in the skies over the South-East of Ukraine, the Europeans tried to agree on new sanctions against Russia. Throwing lightning, the representatives of Germany demanded that Brussels completely ban the supply of military goods to Russia, including already existing contracts. Including two notorious "Mistral".
However, Laurent Fabius (Loran Fabius) did not yield to his German counterpart Steinmeier during the diplomatic squabble: “We will not change our decision,” the Frenchman snapped.
“You still have to, not today is tomorrow,” said Steinmeier, also not wanting to give in. As a result, the commission banned only the conclusion of new contracts, leaving the existing ones in force. “Damn Mistrali” saved. At least for a while.
The French victory in this matter is rather fragile. The point is not only in the USA and Germany. All, or almost all the allies of France, demanded to put an end to the supply of Mistral in the Russian Federation. According to a source close to the administration of Hollande: "We treat this transaction as a burden." France has not experienced such international pressure since the renewal of the nuclear program in 1995. As a high-ranking French official noted: “On this issue we are constantly on the alert. They attack us from everywhere. ”
3 June, the Polish Foreign Minister, said sharply: “When one country seizes the territory of a neighboring country by force, this is clearly not the best time to supply such complex weapons systems to it.”
July 21, British Prime Minister David Cameron (David Cameron) expressed the opinion that today the supply of "Mistral" to Russia is simply "unthinkable."
29 July, the Minister of Defense of Japan expressed doubt that Russia will not use the new DKVD in the Kuril Islands. “Stop this deal,” he demanded from his French colleague, Jean-Yves Le Drian.
31 July, the most influential publication in the world - The New York Times has published killer material. According to the publication, in the question of the postaka "Mistral" in the Russian Federation is at stake "the honor of France."
Weak consolation: the opposition in Paris is silent. And for good reason! The helicopter carrier contract was concluded between 2008 and 2011 for years when she was in power. Three comrades from the Union for the Popular Movement Party (UMP) - Sarkozy, Fillon and Juppe (Sarkozy, Fillon et Juppé) - gave the deal a green light. Even the Union of Democrats and Independent (UDI) is associated with the Russian contract, because the initiator of the process was none other than Herve Morin (Hervé Morin) - the then Minister of Defense. “Yes, I initiated this deal, and I have no regrets,” he says today. Only Bernard Kouchner (Bernard Kouchner), who at that time served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, now seems to be experiencing remorse. In Nouvel Observateur, he put it in his typical manner: “We made a mistake, but with the best of intentions.”
"I am interested in this ship!"
"French doctor" is right. History This extremely controversial deal boils down to the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy made erroneous strategic stakes, or even made criminal short-sightedness.
It all started almost 6 years ago, at the end of October 2008, at Euronaval in Le Bourget. Admiral V.S. Vysotsky, who was then commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, approached the DCNS stand, pointed to the layout of a Mistral-type DKVD and told a company representative: “I am interested in this ship!”.
It was a stupor. Since 1945, Moscow has not bought warships abroad, and even more so from a NATO country, a potential enemy. Why would such a sudden and surprising interest?
-In connection with the war in Georgia, which took place three months earlier, explained in Moscow one of the most authoritative independent experts on the Russian army, a former Soviet officer, Alexander Golts.
“At the beginning of the conflict, the Russian command ordered an landing operation on the Georgian coast. However, the operation took ... five days, and they arrived when it was all over. So the idea arose to acquire a faster landing ship, similar to the Mistral, which our shipyards unfortunately were not able to build. ”
In fact, the Mistral type DKVD is an excellent tool for modern wars. Its characteristics make it the most impressive French vessel. fleet after the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. At 199 meters in length, it can transport (relatively quickly and hundreds of kilometers) 450 foot soldiers, 16 helicopters, 70 armored vehicles, two operational units and a full headquarters. At the same time, managing a fleet of several ships, using electronic means of the latest generation. As one of the senior officers of the French Navy put it: "This is the pearl of French military technology."
“Imagine the outbreak of brutal violence against the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia. Thanks to the Mistral, our Navy will be able to deliver a sufficient number of infantrymen or helicopters in a matter of hours in order to protect the Russian people there. ”
Scenario, strangely reminiscent of very recent events in Ukraine. “Yes, we could use Mistrals in the Crimea,” says AST Center Director, Ruslan Pukhov. In the year 2008, when the Russian admiral expressed interest in acquiring the DKVD, the French authorities either could not or did not want to imagine such prospects.
"Despite the war in Georgia, Sarkozy decided to concentrate fully on building relations with Moscow," believes France's former Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche. “He believed that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was a kind of new Gorbachev.” Sarkozy took on too much, telling his associates that “Russian civilizes”. He wanted to attract them, he wanted to start a friendship.
At a conference in Munich in February 2009, the head struck everyone even more when, just a few months after the “invasion of Russian troops in Georgia,” he said: “A country with so many demographic problems [like Russia] is not capable of spontaneous military aggression in respect of their neighbors. "
Naivety, cynicism or blindness? Meanwhile, Sarkozy is not the only representative of the French authorities who wanted to move closer to Moscow with leaps and bounds. The Prime Minister of his government, François Fillon, in November 2008 of the year stated that “Russia is now a democratic state.” Among his closest associates are also two serious Russian-speaking figures: Jean de Boishue and Igor Mitrofanov - very active backstage figures in relations with Moscow.
“They all wanted to revive the spirit of the Russian-French alliance of the 1892 model of the year,” recalls Pierre Lellouche. "Especially since he [Sarkozy] had to catch up on the Russian market, where the Germans and Italians were far ahead." The geostrategic bid was made and justified by a large commercial appetite.
Discussions about the supply of “Mistral” to Russia have been going on since the summer of 2009. However, it is only now that strong opposition from opponents of this deal appears in the corridors of power in Paris. One of them is Admiral Javier Petard (Xavier Païtard), who headed the defense cabinet Hervé Morin. “I agreed to take a step towards Russia, but why start with military cooperation, and also so sensitive technologies?” He recalls today. Is it even possible to offer such "toys" to Moscow?
The catastrophic situation at the shipyard STX
At the end of September, 2009, disagreements within the government forced Sarkozy to convene a narrow council to make a decision. In the green hall of the Elysian Palace gathered the main actors of this project. Two of them entered the heated debate: the Minister of Defense and the presidential adviser on defense - Admiral Edouard Guillaud.
“Let's move away from the thinking of the times of the Cold War. We cannot want to get close to Russia without giving it confidence. In any case, the Russian Navy is today in such a state that if they have one ship more or less it will not change the strategic balance of power. ”, Recalls Evre Morin (Hervé Morin). In addition, he added, the catastrophic situation at the San Nazaire shipyard. The shipyard's order book is desperately empty. Morin also noted that the refusal to supply Russia with the Mistrali would have been even more unfair compared to other countries, in particular Spain and the Netherlands, which were offered to purchase the same ships.
Admiral Gillot’s turn came, who, like many senior officers, especially naval officers, was strongly opposed to this contract. “Yes, Russia plays a significant role in the fate of Europe,” he said. “But what do we know about the future of this country? How will she change in four years when we will have to give her the "pearl" of French military equipment? Is it not irresponsible to take such a risk for a permanent member of the UN Security Council? The question that today, after years of 5, resonates strangely ...
And then, continued Guyot, what kind of signal will we send to our Eastern partners, with whom we want to create a truly safe Europe and who always see Russia as their main enemy? “In the end, since San Nazaire is experiencing enormous difficulties, then why don't we place an order for the Mistral for the French Navy before it is planned in the military spending program?”
Then Francois Fillon joined: "This is impossible because it will cost too much for the country." And the president decided in favor of the Morin-Fillon line.
Put, without technology transfer?
France will agree to sell the ships, but legally promised not to transfer sensitive technologies. This is a fundamentally unchanged position. Since the announcement of plans to sell Mistral, many countries have been among the opponents of this deal, and now they are actively trying to convince Paris to cancel the contract. The United States acts as the press secretary of Poland and the Baltic countries. In November 2009, Senator McCain and five of his colleagues wrote to the French ambassador in Washington: “We fear that agreeing to such a deal would give Russia reason to believe that France supports its increasingly militant and criminal actions.”
Later, several State Department emissaries secretly came to Paris. In February 2010, Erve Morin received Secretary of State for Defense Robert Gates. The American repeated: “Such a deal can send the wrong signals to Russia and our allies in central and eastern Europe.” Especially when France is the guarantor of the agreement between Moscow and Tbilisi, which Russia does not respect, it does not fulfill its obligations. During a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister, Fillon said that the possible refusal to sell Mistral "is based on reflexes that no longer have anything to do with reality."
In March, 2010, at the opening ceremony of the Russia-France year, Nicolas Sarkozy said that “exclusive negotiations” would soon begin on the sale of Mistral to Russia.
“Mistral” is a symbol of trust between our countries, Dmitry Medvedev said during the ceremony.
But behind the scenes, the French military diplomatic apparatus continued to resist. Let's put the ships, well, but naked, that is, without armament (there are not so many of them on the Mistral,) and, most importantly, without electronic equipment.
Russia raises the stakes
Obviously to convince Moscow the French did not work. In July, 2010, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Army General Nikolai Makarov, said that Russia agreed to acquire “only ships fully equipped,” or would refuse the deal. Negotiations were frozen. To renew them, Nicolas Sarkozy hastily and secretly sent his new military adviser, General Puga, to Kaliningrad, to meet with real Russian negotiator Igor Sechin, Putin’s close friend. The French agreed to supply sophisticated equipment, including the Senit 9 combat control system with radars and communication systems developed by Thales. And that is not all.
As one of the best experts of the question stated: “Since the Russians understand that we absolutely want to sell these ships, they will continue to raise the rates.” They demanded that the stern of the hull of the first ship be built in St. Petersburg, and not in Saint-Nazaire. And again the French made concessions.
However, the Russians again wanted more. They demanded the transfer of technology, not only technical information on the construction of the DKVD, but also the technologies of sensitive electronic systems, which is contrary to the decision of the aforementioned council adopted in September 2009. Nicolas Sarkozy, who dreamed of announcing agreement until the end of the year Russia-France, hastily conceded. He also needed a positive decision from the interdepartmental committee that consents to export sales of weapons (CIEEMG). Getting this approval could take some time. Especially when you consider that it included many opponents of the sale of “Mistral”.
Agreement of 25 January 2011 of the year
In the Elysee Palace came up with a trick to speed up the process. An ad hoc committee was created that was to prepare and obtain consent from the CIEEMG in a very short time. In addition to this document, it was also necessary to obtain approval from the board of directors of DCNS, which was assembled at the December 13 special meeting of December 2010. Then an extremely rare occurrence occurred - union representatives (from CFDT) stated that of course this contract is vital for the shipyard, but they are worried about the “risks associated with technology transfer” and intend to refrain from supporting it.
However, the new proposal was accepted, and December 24 Dmitry Medvedev called Nicolas Sarkozy to announce that since the conditions of Russia were accepted, Russia agrees to buy two Mistrals made in France, and is also ready to buy 2 as part of the option the same ship, despite the fact that the last two will be built at Russian shipyards. Next, on January 25, 2011, an intergovernmental agreement was signed, signed by Igor Sechin and Alain Juppé, who took office as Minister of Defense after Herve Moreno. At the ceremony in San Nazaire, the creator of the UMP proudly stated:
Mistral is the most important project in this area ever implemented by Russia or another Eastern European country. ”
The commercial contract was pompously ratified by 17 June 2011 of the year in Moscow. The cost of two DKVD type "Mistral" amounted to 1,2 billion euros. Delivery of the first DKVD "Vladivostok" was scheduled for October 2014.
At the foot of the wall
That's all. Everything for this conflicting delivery is ready. Even last fall, the ship was quietly consecrated by an Orthodox priest in Saint Nazaire. In February, work was carried out on the basis of the Russian Navy in Vladivostok to prepare the location of the DKVD. At the end of June - four hundred Russian sailors arrived in Saint-Nazaire to learn how to operate a ship.
What will Francois Hollande do in September when it comes to making a decision on issuing a final export license and allowing him to sail to Russia? For some time, the position of France on this issue "swam". 18 March, the day Moscow officially annexed the Crimea, Laurent Fabius announced that France "plans" to suspend the supply. But the Ministries of Defense and Finance immediately fought, as did the Prime Minister. And this is not surprising because Saint-Nazaire is a stronghold of Jean-Marc Ayrault.
"Reputation of France"
The process cannot be reversed, they assure in chorus, putting forward two main arguments. First, the French side, in case of refusal to fulfill the contract, will have to pay Moscow a fortune. The amount already announced by the Russians amounts to 800 million euros, plus a penalty in the amount of 251 million euros.
Second, France will lose its reputation as a reliable partner in the arms market.
According to a high-ranking French official: “There is no good way out of the situation. Either we supply the Mistrals to Russia and we are accused of aiding Putin, or we do not supply ships and then they will say that France has caved in under the Americans. ”It remains only to decide which of the two evils is still the least.
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