Mistral Deal - 2010
Lithuania's NATO PermRep Linkevicius raised France's potential sale to Russia of a Mistral class ship during a 09 February 2010 PermReps' lunch, noting that the sale was not simply a national issue but a subject for discussion within the Alliance. French PermRep Andreani did not respond. However, the following day, the February 10 NAC meeting, Andreani made a point of highlighting France's commitment to Baltic security by reporting that France had been participating since January 4 in Baltic air policing. She cited this as evidence of France's commitment to the collective defense of the Baltics.
The Mistral sale had not been a topic of debate at NATO prior to the Lithuanian-French exchange. Several Allies have been reluctant to raise an Ally's bilateral arms sales at NATO, even if they preferred that France not sell the ship to Russia. In the past, discussion of bilateral arms sales have traditionally not been seen as an appropriate topic at NATO. Given the significance of the potential Mistral sale and broader discussions on reassurance and NATO's relations with Russia, the Mistral may be viewed as an exception in light of some Allies' concerns regarding Russia's military capabilities and intentions, and possible third party transfer rules.
On 24 December 2010 RIA Novosti reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy over the phone that France had won a tender to build amphibious assault ships for Russia. The winner was a consortium comprised of French DCNS and Russia's OSK (United Shipbuilding Corporation), the Kremlin press service said. At the initial stage, two Mistral-class helicopter carriers will be built jointly by France and Russia with another two to be constructed subsequently.
These 19,500 ton ships would represent a major increase in Russian force projection capabilities. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union never developed such large amphibious assault ships. The largest amphbious ships available to Soviet Naval Infantry units were the three 14,080 ton Ivan Rogov Class Bolshoi Desantny Korabl [BDK - Large Landing Ships, a Landing Ship, Dock - LPD - in American parlance], which provided sea-lift and landing of one battalion of 520 marines and 25 tanks. The first of these ships was commissioned in 1978, and two were stricken in the 1990s, leaving Russian Naval Infantry with a single Ivan Rogov class BDK [the Mitrofan Moskalenko], and Landing Ship, Tank [LST] of modest capabilities. Procurement of the Mistral, a power-projection capability by definition, would significantly increase Russia's offensive options and vulnerability of states such as Georgia or the Baltic countries to attack.
Rasa Jukneviciene, the Lithuanian Minister of Defense, speaking of the Russia's acquisition of four Mistral-class helicopter-carrier ships, defined the provision by France as a serious mistake. "I think this is a mistake. I assess [the fact] mainly from the political point of view, not from the military one. It's clear that two ships are unable to cause a serious shift in the balance of forces in this region, but it sets up a precedent when a member state of NATO and the EU sells offensive weapons to a third Country, where democracy has not reached a level that allows us to feel safe", the woman said, adding that "For Countries around Russia, this is not pleasant news. It's definitely not the Christmas gift we would have liked to receive..."
Mistral Deal - 2011
On June 17, 2011, Russia and France signed in St. Petersburg a contract for two French-built Mistral class amphibious assault ships for delivery to the Russian Navy. The contract, signed by Rosoboronexport state-controlled arms exporter and France's DCNS shipbuilder, calls for the first Mistral warship to be delivered in 2014 and the second in 2015. Russia will pay France $1.7 billion for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, Anatoly Isaikin, director of Russia's Rosoboronexport state-controlled arms exporter, said on 17 June 2011. The deal was signed in St. Petersburg in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by Isaikin and Patrick Boissier, president and CEO of France's DCNS shipbuilder, who are contracted to build the warships.
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