France is preparing to train hundreds of Russian naval crew to operate a powerful French-made warship this month, defying calls from the U.S. and other Western allies to keep the vessel out of the Kremlin’s hands, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
A group of 400 Russian sailors are scheduled to arrive on June 22 in the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire to undergo months of instruction aboard two Mistral-class warships, which will significantly enhance Russian naval power at a time of tensions over Ukraine and concerns about President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in the Baltic.
The Russian crew are scheduled to sail the high tech helicopter carriers back to Russia in the autumn: “The training is a pivotal step that deepens France’s commitment to fulfilling the €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) contract to supply Russia with the carriers, which are built to launch amphibious attacks with landing craft, helicopters and tanks.”
As Breitbart News reported last month, despite pressure from the US and some NATO allies, Hollande has refused to cancel the deal because he says it would harm Paris more than Moscow. The contract has resulted in more than 1,000 jobs being created in a country with unemployment stalled at more than 10 per cent.
According to WSJ: “Under that pressure, Paris insists the training doesn’t tie its hands and that it won’t make a final decision on the delivery until October. But Mr Hollande’s government also has said France intends to honour the contract, and privately officials give no indication they will renege.”
The deal with Russia was done in 2011 by former President Sarkozy who hailed it as evidence that the Cold War was over.