US Congressmen have urged France to cancel the sale of two advanced helicopter carrier ships to Russia and suggested that NATO buy or lease them instead.
“The purchase would send a strong signal to President Putin that the NATO allies will not tolerate or in any way enable his reckless moves,” three members of the House of Representatives said in a letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen obtained by Reuters.
As Breitbart London reported on May 13th, France has said it intends to press ahead with a €1.2bn contract to sell the Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia, despite Russia’s re-annexation of Crimea.
In what marked a stunning split with official European Union policy on the Ukraine crisis, France said the deal would go ahead because cancelling it would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow.
Washington and some NATO partners have been urging France to reconsider, but France has refused because the contract is worth $1.66 billion, has created about 1,000 jobs in an economy where unemployment is over 10 per cent and includes the option for two more of the advanced vessels.
Now Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Representative Michael Turner, chairman of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Representative William Keating, top Democrat on the House Europe subcommittee, have written to Rasmussen urging NATO buy the ships instead.
According to Reuters, the Congressmen said that purchasing the ships would also enhance NATO’s capabilities at a time when many members have been cutting defence expenditures, and reassure NATO partners in Central and Eastern Europe.
They said: “It is critical that NATO countries no longer provide powerful weapons to enhance Russia’s ability to intimidate or even invade its neighbours.”
However, when Rasmussen was asked about the sale, he said: “It’s for France to decide,” according a report in the Local.
“As regards NATO, we’re now reviewing our future relations with Russia,” he added. “We’ve already suspended practical cooperation and NATO foreign ministers will discuss our relations in June.”
A NATO diplomatic source said it was “not very realistic” that the purchase could be made by the alliance, whose major shared military assets are currently limited to AWACS early warning aircraft.