Tuesday, January 4, 2011

France's decision to sell two warships to Russia has sparked controversy

France's decision to sell two warships to Russia has sparked controversy, with Russia's neighbors, mainly, suggesting that Paris may have forged the way for other Western countries to deal with the Kremlin in trade ranging from high-tech military equipment to oil rights.
The deal, negotiated for months, marks the first major defense sale between a NATO member state and Russia.

"I think this is a mistake," Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene told reporters as the Paris government trumpeted its success, writing "France wins" on the presidential palace Web site.
"This is a precedent, when a NATO and EU member sells offensive weaponry to a country whose democracy is not at a level that would make us feel calm."
Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia -- which were ruled by Moscow until 1991 -- have been the most vocal critics of the deal since talks began between France and Russia in 2009. Washington, at the time, also expressed reservations about the sale.

Designed to attack the shore from the sea, the French Mistral class is viewed as an ideal weapon for Russia against possible uprising by nearby countries.
The price tag for each vessel is estimated at around $380 million and the building venture will be a 50-50 project.
The boxy Mistral amphibious assault ship can carry 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters, dozens of tanks, 450 personnel and up to 70 armored vehicles, including 13 battle tanks.
Military experts have been less apprehensive about the deal.
Paris defense expert Pierre Conesa told Voice of America that the Baltic states should potentially readdress their relations with Russia.
"Their past and ours are quite different. They have been occupied by the Soviet Union, or in the case of Georgia, in conflicts with Russia. But the best way to stabilize and establish peaceful relations with Russia is probably to treat Moscow as a partner," Conesa said.
He said the context of the sale was important and indicative of NATO's improved relations with Russia. So much, in fact, that during the alliance's summit in Lisbon in November, NATO invited Russia to collaborate on a missile defense shield.
"You must pay attention to the fact that on an anti-missile defense system, the cooperation will be deeper and probably more sensitive technologically than on a Mistral system," he said.
Details of their deployment have yet to be divulged by Russian military officials but it has been publicly suggested that use of the Mistral ships will be made in the Northern and Pacific fleets.
The first Mistral-class ship is to be completed within 36 months once Russia makes an advance payment scheduled for January. Related tags .....


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