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Between Obama and Holland, an air of Mistral...

The BPC Diksmuide in Toulon - Mistral type - the equivalent of which will be delivered to Russia... maybe (© NGV / B2)
The BPC Diksmuide in Toulon - Mistral type - the equivalent of which will be delivered to Russia... maybe (© NGV / B2)

(BRUSSELS2) The sale of the two modern Mistral-type BPC command ships is currently disturbing Franco-American friendship. And if the Russian-Ukranian reconciliation is important for the security and stability of the continent, it would also remove a beautiful thorn from the side of the Europeans. It would thus avoid them a very delicate discussion on the transition to sanctions - called level 3 (economic) vis-à-vis Moscow.

A big deal, certainly, but which could have been postponed

During the G7, Thursday (June 5) in Brussels, Barack Obama was particularly clear. " I have expressed some concerns, and I don't think I am the only one, about the continuation of a defense agreement with Russia in a context where it has violated international law and the sovereignty of its neighbors said the American president during his press conference, which B2 followed closely. “I recognized that it was a “big deal”. I recognize that French jobs are important” he insisted. But for the American official “It would have been better to postpone it. President Hollande has so far taken another decision” he concluded with regret.

A contract is a contract

On the French side, François Hollande repeated it during this same meeting. " Signed in 2011, the contract is running, it is coming to an end. (If it) were to be interrupted, there would be a forfeiture, there would be a reimbursement which would involve several billion euros. There's no reason to go through this process. And to add: “No level three sanction has been pronounced, or which could concern such and such a delivery. This contract ends in October, at which time we will see where we are »

A position that has not really changed.

Jean-Yves Le Drian had already affirmed this in Malbork in Poland a few weeks ago, during the installation of the Rafales as part of the Baltic Air Policyread :4 French Rafale present in Malbork. More than a symbol...). " There is a commercial agreement between a Russian company and a French company under private law for the construction of two BPCs in Saint-Nazaire. This is currently a private agreement. The question will arise, at the end of October at the beginning of November, when it comes to delivering the first ship to Russia. And to add more clearly than the president did (the context being different, it was easier): The United States have taken positions, Europe will take its own. France is part of the European sanctions. »

Cautious silence on the European side

European leaders have remained very discreet on the issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been particularly cautious. “There are no sectoral sanctions. This will play a role when we move to phase 3 of the sanctions, but we are not there yet”. Caution is entirely justified... Because all the Europeans have delivered (or hoped to deliver) to the Russians. We cannot forget that the Spaniards or the Dutch were in competition with the French for the delivery of these ships at the time. 

A few comments

It can also be observed that attention is currently focused on the supply of two vessels Mistral built by the shipyards of Saint Nazaire. More important, no doubt for the Russian maritime industry, is the transfer of technology necessary for Russian shipyards to build the next two ships. A point that remains very discreet.

But we must also be right. This projection building and command, very modern, and multi-role will bring an incredible asset to the Russian Navy. But the tools currently used - and which could be used by the Russians in Ukraine - are totally different.

It's over there ground route that forces were infiltrated into eastern Ukraine and at the start of the operation in Crimea. And it is by using quite classic means (buses and vehicles, special forces and snipers, radio and telecommunications means, machine guns and rocket launchers, etc.) that the Russian forces and their local support carry out these operations. .

L'contribution of a Mistral type vessel wouldn't have changed much. On the contrary, with its mass and its easily recognizable silhouette, it would rather have attracted attention and complicated the conduct of this operation - which was based above all on the effect of surprise and the absence of any sign of recognition (at least departure). On the other hand, for an external operation (in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East or in Africa), this type of ship has all its usefulness and can deploy all its power. Read my report on board: BPC a formidable “Swiss army knife”

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with Loreline Merelle who followed Barack and Angela)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).