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Russia to France: Give Us the Mistrals or a Refund

Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok via Reuters

Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok via Reuters

Russia has given the French government a choice, either deliver the two promised Mistral-class amphibious warships to the Russian Navy or refund the purchase price of the $1.53 billion program, a Russian foreign policy official told reporters on Monday.

“Both options will suit us — either the ships or the money. The money spent must be recovered,” Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Monday, following a quickly organized Saturday meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande in the Moscow airport.

Delivery of the two custom built variants of the 21,000-ton French Mistral amphibious warships to Russia has been stalled by the Hollande government since September over concerns of the ongoing fighting between Russian backed separatists and the Ukrainian government.

Hollande said the delivery of the two ships would be tied to the implementation of the so-called Minsk Protocol — a September ceasefire agreement between separatists, Russia and Ukraine.

“The delivery of the helicopter carriers to Russia is connected with implementation of the Minsk accords,” Hollande said according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

In comments to reporters after the Saturday meeting with Putin Hollande said, “in the Ukrainian issue, we have already got used to moving forward and then moving backwards again. It is therefore entirely possible that we will soon be disappointed about what is happening, as we have already been earlier,” according to Russian news agency TASS.

In a separate presser following the Saturday meeting, Putin said the issue of the Mistrals hadn’t come up but he’d like to see either the money or the ships come to Russia.

The tone from the Kremlin is more measured than late last month after the Hollande government announced it would continue suspending delivery of the two planned ships — Vladivostok and Sevastopol.

“The behavior of the Russian side is strictly regulated by the signed contract,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said, reported TASS.
If [France] won’t deliver [Mistral], we’ll sue and impose penalties.”

The most recent comments do not indicate if the Kremlin will be satisfied with just the money back or impose contract penalties as well.

Suggestions have been floated for the ships to be used as a mobile base for NATO’s emerging rapid reaction force or as a replacement for the Canadian Navy’s 1960s vintage fleet oilers if France backs out of the deal with the Russians.

  • Tony

    Here’s a thought: USN buys them and uses them to replace the LCC’s (BLUE RIDGE and MOUNT WHITNEY), whose maintenance is becoming HUGELY expensive.

    • Chris Altvater

      No, we really don’t want these ships. Large sections of the hulls were built in Russian shipyards and French probably had to do a lot of rework. Also there were many modifications made for Russian equipment. The cost to bring the ships to our standards would be huge.

      • Ctrot

        The original plan was for Russian shipyards to complete much of the construction of the Mistrals, as it turns out they were not capable of meeting French construction standards and thus did little if any of the work. Or so I’ve heard.

        • Chris Altvater

          There are the videos of the stern sections being launched from the Russian shipyards and so we know that they built those sections with Russian steel.

          If the ships were exact duplicates of the other Mistral ships, then France would have a much better chance of finding another buyer.

          • Ctrot

            Yes, I found that. “Sevastopol” stern was built in Russia, but “Vladivostok” was built 100% in France. Again, or so I’ve heard. There is a lot of contradictory information online about these ships.

          • Chris Altvater

            I agree with you on that. Russia lags behind in the construction of surface ships and this has been a benefit to them even if the ships are not delivered. Not only was a technology transfer made, they got trained crews too. We know that they will eventually build their own ships and now they have much of what they need.

  • Secundius

    I’m just surprised that the Russian’s, haven’t tried a “cutting-out” expedition by now.

    • OleSalt_1

      France must refund Russia. Don’t ever let Russia have the Mistral. Putin wants Russia to be like the former USSR. Wake up EU and don’t be like the Europe of WW II where the countries were afraid of Hitler. Also during the post war where the Europeans & the US were fooled and lulled into peace by the hypocrite Stalin. Both dictators took advantage to commit atrocities, & in Eastern Europe where Stalin’s USSR was concerned. Looks like with Putin wants glorious USSR history to be repeated.

      • MethylX5

        Russia will never become the USSR, the most it can achieve is some semblance of economic stability. I must, however, praise it’s attempts to achieve stability, as well as forge and maintain economic alliances.

      • Secundius

        @ OleSalt_1.

        Putin’s popularity is so far in the “crapper” amongst his people, that he has to “Invent” an incident too get back popular support.

        • joshuaalayon .

          thats bs, average russians agree with putin and love the way he’s trying to bring back russia’s glory days. where do you get your “facts”

  • omegatalon

    The two French Mistrals were essentially prototypes as French engineers had been assisting Russian shipyards on how to build the ships themselves as France could consider selling the ships to Singapore since Australia and Japan have each already designed and built their first mini-carriers as the only country who may be interested is Singapore or Taiwan unless Germany is interested.

    • OleSalt_1

      I have my doubts that Taiwan & Singapore want those ships. They have their own specific defense requirements to meet their strategic objectives. Might as well buy from Japan who is currently promoting their sales of defense equipment in the region including current offer of Japanese-built subs to Australia.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    Single minded narrative.. and no place for discussion and only single “minded” propaganda? First indication of loss of voice is the sure indication that the loss of life will follow. It is truly sad US had the choice..

  • Secundius

    Putin doesn’t want a Refund, he want’s BLOOD MONEY. At exchange rates favorable to him, and him alone. Not from just France, but from the entire WORLD…