Blog AnalysisDefense industry

Sell ​​the Russian “Mistral” to the European Union. Hey... How much does it cost?

The Mistral is perfectly equipped for humanitarian missions, here in Tunisia in 2001 (credit: Min.Fr Défense /DICOD)
The Mistral is perfectly equipped for humanitarian missions, here in Tunisia in 2001 (credit: Min.Fr Défense /DICOD)

(BRUSSELS2) The idea is often mentioned in certain circles and brought back into the saddle by François Hollande's decision not to deliver the first ship built in St Nazaire. Since it is morally impossible to sell two BPC ships of type Mistral (The Vladivostok and Sevastopol) to Russia, why not have them bought by the European Union? This is what several MEPs proposed in particular in a letter published in early September. The idea is attractive. And the proposal deserves to be formulated. With these two ships, Europe would have an estimable strike force in terms of civil protection, humanitarian aid, etc. But this proposal faces some (small) difficulties…

First difficulty: budgetary. It must be admitted. Europe does not have 1 or 2 billion euros available to spend at the snap of a finger, even if we wanted to. We would have to scrape through certain budgets to find this money. The budget for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is already almost 90% used. And the remaining available amounts to a few million euros! And member states don't really seem willing to do more. The failure of the Union's 2015 general budget attests to this. The very difficult discussion underway among financial experts of the Athena mechanism proves this. The only possible collective consideration of certain expenditure carried out within a European framework, with dedicated resources from Member States for European tasks, gives rise to rag-tag fights (the clan of stingy people – led by Germany – allying in occurrence with the British hostile to anything that could remotely or closely resemble any solidarity in matters of defense).

Second difficulty : policy. There was a plan for Europe to equip itself with equipment, even for civilian purposes. The issue was discussed at the highest level last year. It was a question of inserting into the conclusions of the European Summit the possibility of studying a common “procurement mechanism” so that the European Union acquires European capabilities, particularly for civil protection (Canadairs for forest fires). , humanitarian aid, etc.). This proposal appeared in black and white in the Communication presented last year. And it was included in the draft conclusions of the European Council in December 2013. It aroused British fury, with a cuckoo-like David Cameron denouncing a “European army” in the making (read: David Cameron sounds the (heroic) charge...). As a result, she was withdrawn (Read about the Club: The findings tracklist. Acquisition mechanism and strategic autonomy by the wayside). Of course, nothing prevents us from revisiting this “political ban”. But it is a very serious obstacle.

Third difficulty: institutional. Who will buy? And by what device could this purchase be made? It's a mystery. The European Defense Agency, often cited, is not normally intended to purchase equipment. And does not have a kopeck unless it requires a special contribution from member states. Even the simple taking into account of inflation (less than 1 million euros) for its annual budget was refused at the last meeting!

Fourth difficulty: operational. How will this ship be managed? Who will maintain it and ensure it remains in operational condition? Who will pay the crew? Who will assume the risk and liability in the event of a problem? Etc. There are a large number of practical, technical questions which find no answer among those who defend the idea. To this must be added the time required for a multinational project. A project like the joint purchase of C-17 aircraft at the Papa base in Hungary, carried out at NATO level, required several long years of work.

Fifth difficulty: the principles. This is not the least. Why would the European Union cover purchasing costs from France, and not other contracts which had to be interrupted or replaced due to the implementation of various embargoes in Syria for example or in Libya? The purchase of the Mistral would serve as a precedent that should be repeated. Why buy a “humanitarian” ship from France and not call for competition (*) which is normally the rule in the case of public purchase?

In the end, there is a reality, the European defense policy is not (yet) “common” as indicated by the European treaties concluded 10 years ago. And each Member State does with its contracts as it sees fit…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Also read about the Mistral affair:



To go further (club): The Vladivostok (aka the Russian Mistral) will not join its client. Warsaw satisfied?

(*) Other European shipyards would be interested… For example the Spanish and Dutch shipyards (which were competitors of the St Nazaire shipyards) to manufacture Russian ships may be interested) 😉

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).

2 thoughts on “Sell ​​the Russian “Mistral” to the European Union. Hey... How much does it cost?"

  • France must respect its word and deliver the buildings that have no connection with Ukraine.

  • Geo Strat

    Very nice institutional, legal and political analysis.
    Europe is first and foremost a political impetus. So there are only political solutions to our problems.
    The UK has been a problem ever since it entered Europe. This country's double game has never stopped and the SNOWDEN and subsequent revelations have only pushed the plug a little deeper (which doesn't even stick out of the bottle anymore).
    Nevertheless, the problem of the absence of a military counterpart to the world's leading economic force has been, remains and will be a problem in the years to come.
    The reduction in the American manpower of their armies throughout the world which is looming following their self-sufficiency in energy, a consequence of heavy investments in the very controversial shale gas, will have strong geopolitical consequences, in the Middle East and in the Far East. East.
    Russia's stonewalling game at the UN does not bode well (not to mention Ukraine).
    The Chinese technique of salami with its neighbors is there to add a layer.
    “Preparing for war to better guarantee peace” is a saying as old as the world.
    The advantage of the MISTRALs is their ambivalence and it is PRECISELY here that lies all the difference compared to the obstacles mentioned in your article..
    It is because these are means that we can implement for humanitarian or relief purposes wherever we see fit that we will uphold our values ​​loud and clear. But it is also because in one week these same means are convertible into powerful military tools that we will be able to put “a velvet glove” at the service of our economic strength.
    That Germany continues to take refuge behind a ban on arming itself is a reflex from another time, at odds with its economic and financial power today.
    At a time when France is forced to opt for Goldman & Sachs solutions to find the financial means to meet the needs of its armies; when at the same time Europe still calls on French resources when it comes to projecting itself abroad; it seems all the less acceptable to appear as the black sheep of the herd as soon as one approaches the control of public expenditure!

    Not seizing this opportunity to show that we are capable of emerging from the shadow of the Americans will be all the more serious than the previous ones as the Europe of 12 was already treading water before becoming 27, 28...
    It's time to restart the march because without direction, a world collapses on itself.
    History bears witness to this century after century.

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