Russia Tells France It Gives Up On Mistral Ship Deal
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/26/2015 13:55 -0400
With French ministers crowing about their better-than-expected GDP data (+0.7%) as some trend reversal that heralds a revolution, it appears Vladimir Putin is about to put a dent in their hopes and dreams. As Sputnik News reports, Moscow has finally given up on the $1.3 billion deal for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers and plans to build its own. Even worse for France, now Russia will discuss only the sum that Paris should pay Russia for the failed contract. However, as with everything in the world, there may be aulterior motive, as China comes sniffing as a white knight for the amphibious vessels (at a reduced price) and then sells to its 'ally' Russia (who has already pocketed the contract cancellation fees).
During the negotiations on the Mistral deal Russia and France have discussed only one question - the sum of the compensation."We switch the conversation to business - give us our money back... We're now discussing just one thing - the exact sum of money France owes Russia," Oleg Bochkaryov, a deputy chairman of the Russian Military Industrial Complex said.Russia and France signed a $1.3-billion deal for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers in 2011. The handover of the first ship to Russia was scheduled for November 2014, but never happened. French President Francois Hollande put the delivery on hold due to Moscow's alleged interference in the Ukrainian crisis.Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations, and urged Paris to deliver on its contractual obligations.Earlier today Oleg Bochkaryov told journalists that Russia plans to build its own Mistral-class helicopter carriers to replace the ones not delivered by France.“We have these types of ships planned... but we will build them a bit differently. We’re not going to blatantly copy the [French] Mistral [design] right out,” Bochkaryov said.
click image below for interactive detail on the Mistral-class warship
However, while that may be immediate bad news for France, it appears there may be a silver lining. As The Diplomat's Ankit Panda wonders...
Is China Eyeing These Advanced French Amphibious Assault Ships?China could be looking to purchase the two French Mistral ships that were originally built for Russia.In 2014, France determined that it would avert plans to sell two of its Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that were originally bound for sale to Russia. The decision was spurred, in part, by pressure from French allies, including the United States, who saw a sale of a complex naval asset to Russia in the wake of its support of anti-government Ukrainian rebels as inappropriate. The deal between France and Russia had originally been concluded in 2011, and was canceled last year, leaving the French with two Mistrals in hand, miffed at the lack of an eager customer. The Franco-Russian agreement for the Mistral sale reached a final price of $1.37 billion euros for the two ships.Two weeks ago, reports emerged in the Taiwan-based China Times, citing Duowei News, that China may be the latest customer for the French Mistral vessels. The report further noted that China’s People’s Liberation Army’s microblog noted a French task force visit to France. The French had sent two warships, including the Dixmude, the final Mistral-class ship built for the French navy. The French naval task force also comprised the Aconit, a La Fayette-class frigate. The report further noted that this visit marked the first time that a French Mistral docked at a Chinese port. All of this activity takes place amid the political difficulty of putting together a sale given the European Union’s still-in-place arms embargo against China–a retaliatory move for Beijing’s suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.The Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, named for the frigid, northwesterly wind that sweeps out from the French coast into northern Mediterranean waters, is well-equipped for island warfare, and littoral projection and command. For China, an investment in an advanced off-the-shelf amphibious assault vessel would be sensible given current tensions over disputed islands and sea features in the East and South China Seas. The Mistral is also capable of assisting in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) scenarios, with extensive hospital facilities on board.The French had further modified the Mistrals that were Russia-bound to accommodate the Russian Navy’s Ka-27 Helix helicopters. China also operates the Ka-27, and the more advanced Ka-28. China has both the use scenarios and the military infrastructure necessary to make effective use of the ships. China could additionally apply its own domestic know-how in modifying the Mistral to serve as a potent anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform. The Mistral‘s hangar deck would let the PLA-N conduct considerably less constrained helicopter surveillance operations than its own Jiangdao-class Type 056A frigates.Of course, none of this, including the tenuous rumors picked up by some sources, mean that China is anywhere near finalizing a purchase of the two Mistrals that never made it into the Russian navy. The possibility of China snapping up the Mistrals on the open market will surely spark the same sort of concern in the United States as the prospect of the Russian sale did in early 2014. Already, commentators are making the case that it might make sense for the United States to pluck these ships off the market, lest China add two capable ships to its growing and increasingly modern navy.As unlikely as a sale might be, watch this space. The fate of these two free-floating French Mistrals could end up further tilting the balance in Asia should China purchase them.* * *
To sum up: Russia ends deal, China steps in, France sells to China, then Russia buys from China