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France Puts Off Delivery of Mistral to Russia “Indefinitely“

The first helicopter carrier, which was initially to be turned over to the Russians in October, will remain at quay for the time being.

The first helicopter carrier, which was initially to be turned over to the Russians in October, will remain at quay for the time being.

The decision, which is in accordance with recommendations made to François Hollande by the Americans during the G20 summit, is justified by the “situation in the eastern Ukraine” according to a press statement by the French president’s office.

France announced on Nov. 25 that she would put off “for the time being” delivery to Russia of the first Mistral helicopter carrier due to the situation in the eastern Ukraine. “The French president considers that the present situation in the eastern Ukraine still does not allow delivery of the first Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD),” reads the press statement by the president’s office. “He has therefore felt it proper to postpone, for the time being, consideration of the request for authorization to export, which is necessary for exporting the first LHD” to Russia.

Under pressure from her partners, notably the Americans, who are opposed to delivery of the two LHDs amid the Ukrainian crisis, François Hollande announced on Sept. 3 that conditions were not suitable for delivering the first ship, and that the French authorities would make a decision before the end of November. On Oct. 16, François Hollande stated that respecting the cease-fire in Ukraine remained one of the conditions for France agreeing to deliver the Mistrals.

Hence the Nov. 25 decision is the logical continuation of the previous announcements. However, it does not shut the door on a future delivery, even though delivery is not yet on the agenda.

Manifestly, this is what the Russians want to understand. Vice Defense Minister Yuri Borissov’s reaction is testimony to this: He declared that Russia would not begin legal proceedings against France following this postponement, but still hoped that the contract would be honored.

The Vladivostok, the first LHD, was initially to have been delivered in October, and since June 30, 400 Russian sailors have been trained to maneuver it in the port of Saint Nazaire in western France. According to the Russian vice prime minister, the second helicopter carrier ordered by Russia, the Sebastopol, whose delivery is scheduled for late 2015, was to be launched in mid-November. Refusal to deliver the two Mistral ships ordered by Russia, valued at 1.2 billion euros, might force France to compensate Moscow after a deadline which, for the moment, is being kept secret.

The order, which is being handled by the STX France company, a subcontractor of DCNS, created a thousand jobs over a four-year period. These jobs will be directly jeopardized if delivery of the second ship is cancelled.