Everyone is angry with France for building Russian warships

France can't really afford not to deliver the warships, but after MH17 was brought down it's now everyone's least favourite country bar Russia.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 05 Aug 2014

With 298 people dead after the suspected shooting down of MH17 by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, any company or country that has dealings with Russia is undergoing a renewed round of disapproving scrutiny.

France is coming under fire for two warships due for delivery to Russia (makes a change from the UK being lambasted for selling arms to dodgy dictators). As European countries debate how much to increase sanctions on the Kremlin, the issue for France is, with its economy in such a parlous state, it can’t really afford not to the honour the €1.2bn (£950m) contract.

Around 400 Russian sailors have already been in France for three weeks, training on the Vladivostok, a 200-metre long Mistral-class assault ship which is due to be delivered in October. The sale was agreed in 2008 after Russia’s war with Georgia and President Francois Hollande has been quoted in the French media as saying ‘we would have to repay €1.1bn’ if the ship isn’t delivered.

Hardline European countries, including the UK and former Soviet states, aren’t impressed. ‘To deliver arms in this situation is somewhat difficult to defend, to put it mildly,’ Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said today, according to the FT.

‘It is very difficult to explain… that we [the EU] are selling ships… [and] also other kinds of military technology, to the country that has been behind . . . providing anti-aircraft missiles to terrorists and separatists. That has to stop,’ Latvian minister Edgars Rinkevics said.
Hollande has now said the delivery of the second Mistral, the Sevastopol, ‘depends on the attitude of Russia’, but it’s fair to say he’s caught between a rock and a hard place. The contract supports 1,000 French shipbuilding and defence jobs, according to the FT, which are much needed with unemployment still stubbornly above 10% and GDP expected to grow by less than 1% this year.

And, as a French official pointed out anonymously, the EU might do better going after London’s oligarchs. ‘If Mr Cameron wants to sanction Russia, he would do better to sanction Chelsea and support Paris Saint-Germain instead.’

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