French ships for Russia? Why?

France is reluctant even to postpone the sale of Mistral warships to Russia amid Ukraine conflict.

Benoît Gomis, Associate Faculty, Royal Roads University, Associate Editor of European Geostrategy

The French decision to sell two Mistral warships to Russia already caused concerns amongst NATO allies when the deal was signed in 2011 – even more so as the then Russian Navy chief declared that with these warships, it would have won the war against Georgia in “40 minutes instead of 26 hours”. France, like many other countries in Europe and the world, see trade, including of arms, as a driver of peace, not war. More specifically, the decision not to postpone or cancel the sale of these two warships can be explained in economic terms: France is concerned of the impact a U-turn would have on domestic industry and jobs. France will wait until October to make a decision, hoping that the situation in Ukraine will have improved by then. It is worth noting that France is not the only European country vulnerable to criticism in its dealings with Russia. The UK’s economy benefits greatly from Russian investment in London; and Germany might be the country in Europe with the most leverage, given the extent of its strategic and economic partnership with Russia.

Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, King’s College London

I think the simple answer is economics. It is a big deal, and Paris sees it as the start of a long relationship in defence acquisition as the Russians are spending heavily on defence. The French argument is that if they don’t sell, someone else will.


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