Four hundred Russian sailors have arrived at the port of Saint-Nazaire in northwest France to begin training for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, part of a €1.2bn (£9,600m/$1.6bn) military contract the French government intends to complete with Moscow despite pressure from the United States and NATO because of Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine.
The contract for the two ships was signed in June 2011 by the government of former centre-right President Nicholas Sarkozy, who hailed it as evidence the Cold War was over.
As Breitbart reported last month, ministers under socialist President François Hollande said France will go ahead with the sale despite the pressure from the US because, “The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it. It would be France that is penalised.”
The contract has created about 1,000 jobs in a country where growth has stagnated and unemployment is stuck at over 10 per cent.
However, according to a report today in the Local, France is now willing to re-examine the contract in October, when the first Mistral is due to be delivered to the Russian fleet.
Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), a former US Navy aviator, described the Mistral amphibious warship in an article written for Breitbart earlier this month: “Amphibs have one purpose: support large-scale combined arms invasions by moving infantry, armour, helicopters, and equipment from ‘ship-to-shore.’ Each Mistral-class ship can carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 60 armoured vehicles, 13 tanks, and 700 soldiers.”
In May, four senior congressmen, led by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), wrote to NATO’s secretary general urging NATO to consider purchasing or leasing the ships to relieve the French of losing the sale.”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen has indicated: “It’s for France to decide.”
During their training in France, the 400 sailors will stay on board the Russian training vessel Smolny. The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered in October this year. The second, to be delivered by 2016, is named Sebastopol, after the Crimean seaport.