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France Advanced Tech And Retarded Diplomacy

Politics / France Mar 23, 2014 - 10:51 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Sell Russia Weapons – Then Apply Sanctions

France's sale to Russia of two high tech Mistral-class military ships, described as helicopter assault, electronic warfare support, and local area missile capable “invasion platform” fighting ships, for a total of about 1.4 billion euros enabling more than one thousand jobs at French shipyards in a region of high unemployment, has become collateral damage in Europe's sanctions war against Putin. Russian military and diplomatic officials are openly mocking European sanctions imposed on them over Crimea. They point out that the Mistral-class ship sales were officially hailed, previously by the French, as a signal for the complete and final end to the Cold War.

A Russian military specialist cited by 'New York Times' and other US media claimed that if Russia had possessed these ships in 2008, the Russian military invasion of northern Georgia and total defeat of Georgia's ragtag armed forces “would have taken 40 minutes not 40 hours”.

The first carrier, "Vladivostok," has this week finished its sea trials and is berthed at the north western French port of Saint-Nazaire. Russian crew-members are already being trained by French specialists, according to Russia's Itar-Tass agency.

French officials have tried to ignore the problem and do not want to talk about the carriers. Earlier this month, François Hollande himself told a news conference: "We keep to the terms of the signed contracts. Right now we have no plans to cancel them and we hope to avoid this", but by week ending 21 March, in a televised interview carried by BFM TV, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was forced to adopt a grave tone saying "If Vladimir Putin carries on like this, we could consider canceling these sales". He hastily added that any such freeze on construction of the second fighting ship – ironically called the 'Sebastopol' – would only happen if there is what he termed “a third round of European sanctions against Moscow”.

The Return of Seapower

One sure and certain strategic military reason why Russia intends hanging on to its Crimean naval bases is that naval power, after a major decline during the Cold War, is returning to prominence for war analysts and Think Tank strategists.  One former French military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the US 'Wall Street Journal', this week, that the credibility of Western foreign policy is destroyed or at least heavily compromised by the proliferation of high-tech naval weapons “platforms” for onshore strike capability. He said: “How can anyone treat France with respect if we talk tough and then deliver advanced-technology weapons to Russia?"

Newswires such as Reuters regularly reported in 2010-2011 that French-Russian negotiation and finalization of the Mistral-class fighting ships sale hinged on whether Russia will get full and total access to the technology used in the French ships. This advanced maritime offensive technology includes software programming for “fire and forget” invasion and overthrow of local defensive military forces in the straight majority of potential target nations. This week, Anatoly Isaikin, the head of Russia's arms monopoly, assured Reuters that Russia would indeed be buying fully equipped vessels. Including both the hardware and the software.

Among the “new tech and tactics” embarked with Mistral-class fighting ships, the concept of very rapid, and massive military invasion and overthrow of local armed forces is dominant. Typical penetration and overthrow areas swept by first-strike capability are typically up to 100 kilometres from the point of landing. Missile and helicopter launch support for sweeping a larger area behind the point of landing is critical to the concept.

The US Strategic Studies Institute, an arm of the US Army War College, in 2011 issued a report on Russia's 2008 war with Georgia, which noted that Russia frequently inserted elite special-forces commandos in black uniforms without identifying symbols behind Georgian lines, to conduct subversion and espionage. The same tactics were used in Crimea, this month.

The SSI report also concluded that Russia's experience in Georgia "highlighted the need for improvements in the area of amphibious landing platforms”. The limitations in this capability exposed by the Georgia war were certainly part of the reason for Russia's decision to buy ready made invasion platform Mistral-class ships from France, which according to their published design specifications are each capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, 70 armored vehicles, and up to 450 personnel, as well as all needed command, control, communications and subversion capabilities in the target area.

Go Anywhere

The US SSI 2011 report on the Georgia war concludes that "Russian ship-based attack helicopters are particularly important for naval reach and punch. Vladimir Putin has made no secret that he would deploy the Mistral-class ships wherever he wants”

The claimed dangers of the French commercial strategy “weakening Western military strategy” were summarized by the US SSI as Europe “acquiescing” in the face of the Russia's economic and military power projection. With no surprise, the US war strategists warned that what Russia does today, China will do tomorrow, and India the day after.

Western military strategists continue their claims by affirming that the West must act decisively if it hopes to deter future aggression by non-Western powers, including China, notably, which has made territorial claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea and has sometimes used, and will likely continue using military force to back up the claims. The former U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton was quoted by 'Wall Street Journal', this week saying: "You can bet [Chinese officials] are watching the West's response to Crimea" also hinting that Tehran has understood the sea change in global power relations and is working toward a nuclear bomb.

What will such countries conclude if the West fails not only to effectively sanction Russia, but allows France to deliver sophisticated helicopter carriers that can ferry elite commando forces to the next target of Russia's choosing?  For hardliners seeking confrontation with Putin there is only one answer. Military sales to Purin's Russia are appeasement which contrary to received wisdom “Was not buried in the ashes of the 1938 Munich Agreement”, but is alive and well in the 21st century.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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