The infinite uncertainty with the delivery or non-delivery of a universal Mistral-class amphibious assault ship (UDC) built for the Russian Navy to Moscow began to turn into an unpredictable political thriller with serious image losses for the international reputation of Paris.
Judge for yourself. A few days ago, the leadership of Rosoboronexport, the same organization that on behalf of our country signed a contract with the French state corporation DCNS for production for the domestic Naval fleet two ships of the Mistral type, was officially invited on November 14 to the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. For the solemn transfer to the customer of the first ship "Vladivostok" and presence at the launching events of the second hull with the name "Sevastopol". A photograph of this invitation with a list of events to be held on the occasion at the company was posted on Twitter by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
But then, apparently after a call from the Elysée Palace, a representative of DCNS Corporation stated that no delivery date for Russia of these ships was “currently determined”, and official information can only follow from the leadership of France.
At the same time, the French shipbuilding corporation DCNS dismissed Yves Destephanis, responsible for the Mistral supply project for Russia, who, on behalf of the company, sent an invitation to Moscow to the transfer ceremony of the first UDC. It allegedly happened “because of a violation of corporate ethics by an official”. They say that an employee of the corporation acted on his own, without having received from the company's management a clear reference to sending such an invitation (a strange explanation: how can an invitation be printed in a printing house, without having received management approval for this?! - V.L.). In the French media in those days, there were quite a few messages in which it was noted that the DCNS invitation sent to Moscow “complicated the already difficult problem of supplying Russia with Mistral to France and“ clearly caused great irritation at the Elysee Palace ”.
In the palace, they are in no way determined with the decision whether to transfer the Russian helicopter carrier or not to transfer. Even 1 of September, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed "the immutability of its position regarding the supply of dock ships of the Mistral type." Yes, and President Hollande on the eve of this date, told reporters that "the delivery could not be disrupted by this ship": "Russia paid."
Then, literally three days after the Fifth Republic’s Foreign Ministry report on the fate of the Mistrals, on the eve of the NATO summit in Wells, the same Hollande first stated that his country “at the moment” is not ready to hand over the first of the ships to Russia in the south-east of Ukraine. Experts say that he did this only in order not to spoil relations with NATO allies and not to be criticized at a meeting with colleagues from the United States, Great Britain, Poland and the Baltic countries for their willingness to fulfill the contract with Russia. It is known that a group of American Democratic congressmen have repeatedly appealed to the NATO Secretary General, first to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and now to Jens Stoltenberg, with a proposal to convince Paris of the need to abandon the deal with Moscow and acquire warships for the needs of the alliance itself. The purchase of Mistrals, they argued in a letter, would send Russia a "strong signal" that "the NATO allies would not tolerate its irresponsible behavior" towards Ukraine.
It is interesting to note that the NATO press service stated that the alliance did not put pressure on France when deciding on the Mistrals. And the well-known US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki even welcomed the statement by French President Francois Hollande to suspend the contract for the supply of helicopter carriers to Russia. “We think this is a wise decision ... We support this decision,” she said.
Understanding the leadership of France, or rather its president Francois Hollande is easy. On the one hand, the trade unions of the shipbuilders and the contractor company STX itself, which is engaged in the DCNS corporation, including the production of ship docks, put pressure on it - the work is finished, you need to free up space on the stocks for new orders, if they appear. In addition, there is a threat to run into penalties for a broken contract for the supply of helicopter carriers to Moscow. Plus, you will need to return the payment for the outstanding order, and this is 1,2 billion euros, which have already been spent on other orders. And it’s also realistic to lose the image of a country capable of fulfilling its obligations under an agreement on military-technical cooperation with foreign countries. On the other hand, there are repeatedly voiced demands of Washington and the US allies in NATO, especially from the Baltic countries, to deny Russia, as a “direct participant and responsible for the events in Ukraine,” to transfer helicopter carriers and even sell these ships to some other country.
FALSE OF POLICY
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the contract for the construction of two Mistral-type dockships for Russia plus an offset for another two such UDCs was signed on the initiative and with the direct participation of the previous French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He then sought orders for shipbuilders who were threatened with unemployment, and now he is back in the political struggle and wants to replace Hollande in the Elysian Palace. At the first opportunity, he publicly criticizes his rival, calls him a liar. Recently, for example, as the Parisien newspaper writes, speaking at a rally in the city of Nancy as part of the campaign for the post of head of the Union for a Popular Movement party, Sarkozy said before two thousand people gathered that for two and a half years the lie in the country was erected in political principle. Which, in his opinion, led to a weakening of the Republic and democracy. “Francois Hollande is deceiving in the morning, in the afternoon and even in the evening,” said Sarkozy under the approving shouts of those present. In his opinion, the current French president suffered defeat after defeat since taking office.
Now it turns out that, by deciding to transfer Mistral to Russia, Francois Hollande will play into the hands of Nicolas Sarkozy - willy-nilly he will support his decision to conclude a contract with Moscow for the construction of warships for her. But he will refuse to transfer - it turns out that, among other things, he is petty for his predecessor, causing financial and image damage to both France and its shipbuilding corporation DCNS. And this fact, replicated by all the media in the country and the European Community, will be an additional argument for Sarkozy in the political struggle for the presidency of the Fifth Republic. Here you will inevitably break your head from solving this problem.
At the same time, which is striking, Russia in no way demonstrates its concern over the delay in the transfer of the first of the two UDC to it. No political statements addressed to France and its leadership are heard either from the Kremlin, or from the Ministry of Defense, or from the General Staff of the Navy. Russian sailors, numbering 360 people plus 70 instructors, are in Saint-Nazaire on the Smolny training ship. Every morning they climb aboard the Vladivostok and, according to the previously adopted and approved regulations, are engaged in their professional training at the combat posts determined by them. At the end of the day, after the end of the training, they come back or remain on duty, or a combat watch, as the sailors call it, on the bridge or in the engine compartment of the helicopter carrier. Nobody gave the teams to go home to St. Petersburg.
In the Ministry of Defense of Russia, acting as a helicopter carrier customer, Mr. Hollande’s statements are calm. “We do not see this tragedy, because this contract is beneficial primarily for the French themselves,” said Deputy Minister of Arms Yuri Borisov. “We considered them reliable partners, and this situation is unpleasant and imposes a certain amount of tension in interaction with them.” He added that in the event of failure to supply ships, the Russian military will act in strict accordance with international law and the terms of the contract. “In case of refusal to supply ships, France risks losing not only money, but also the face,” said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry complex of the Russian Federation.
In the independent Russian press (including the “NVO”) it was repeatedly asserted that the “Mistral” had nothing to do with the Russian Navy. For these ships, which are intended for expeditionary operations in warm seas, no such tasks are written in the domestic military doctrine. Russia, unlike France and its other allies in the North Atlantic Alliance, does not intend to land on foreign shores to establish its own rules there under the flag of the struggle for democracy and human rights. Moreover, the UDC, built in Saint-Nazaire, is only a semi-finished product - there are no serious anti-aircraft or anti-ship weapons on it that will need to be installed at the shipyards in St. Petersburg ...
But official Moscow keeps endurance and patience.
MONEY APPLICATION WILL BE
Viktor Ozerov, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, believes that if we talk about the possibility of contract breakdown, the money returned for Mistral, including penalties, Russia will direct to the implementation of a number of positions within the state defense program. He stressed that there is no accurate expert opinion on whether the Russian Armed Forces really need these helicopter carriers. To some extent, this suggests problems with determining the long-term needs of the Navy and the parameters of shipbuilding programs.
“Even before the conclusion of this contract, there was a wide discussion among the Russian military about whether Russia needed such ships,” says the senator. “It is possible that the top leadership of the Ministry of Defense, which was focused on the purchase of foreign military equipment, simply succumbed to the persuasion of the French side.”
The 36 months during which the first Vladivostok building was to be built under the contract ended this November. There is still play in two months. And after the New Year holidays it will be possible to put the question squarely - yes or no. Fulfills Paris its obligations or refuses them.
Talking about the fact that in connection with the events in Ukraine for the transfer of the ship "no favorable circumstances have developed" or a reference to the sanctions adopted against Moscow by the European Union will not be taken into account. The civil war in the Square, to which Russia, unlike the United States and the same European Union, has no direct relationship, is not a natural disaster and, in the form of force majeure, cannot be taken as an argument by any independent international court. Moreover, such circumstances were not provided for in the contract. And France will have to pay the bills. And not only currency.
The most important thing is that Paris and the President of the Fifth Republic, Francois Hollande, will demonstrate to the whole world that they are not masters in their own country. Their sovereignty and independence today is only a slogan, a fiction, loud words recorded in the Constitution and stamped on the Arc de Triomphe in the Place Charles de Gaulle. There is nothing behind them - one air. Decisive for France decisions are made not in the Elysée Palace, but in Washington and Brussels, where everyone, roughly speaking, on the drum, is beneficial to France, its producers and its people, whether it corresponds to its national interests or not. In the first place for the United States and NATO are their own ambitions - the desire to assert itself as the only world center of power and the desire of those who disagree with such an approach to the issue to punish one way or another. And for this, such “sacrifices”, as the authority of one of the largest European powers, mean nothing.
Events around the Mistral-type UDC contract willy-nilly went beyond Russian-French relations. For some reason, it didn’t matter whether Moscow received the order it had paid for or not, demanded a fine and a penalty from Paris, or only returned its money. The helicopter carrier built for the Russian Navy suddenly became a test for French sovereignty and independence. It seems that the founder of the Fifth Republic, the great son of France, General Charles de Gaulle, who, by the way, refused to participate in the military organization of the North Atlantic Alliance, so that under no circumstances would he sacrifice his country's freedom of choice and independence, he is now turning in his grave , in which the current head of the Elysian Palace has driven his country.
But there's nothing you can do. Not every French president can reach the level of General de Gaulle.