France is preparing to train hundreds of Russian seamen to operate a powerful French made warship this month, defying calls from the U.S. and other Western allies to keep the vessels out of Kremlin hands. (The Wall Street Journal – 6/4/14)
Russia has purchased four Mistral class amphibious assault helicopter carrier warships. The ships are near the top of their class of weapons. They can deploy 800 fully equipped combat troops (about the size of a reinforced battalion), 13 main tanks or 70 assault vehicles, 16 heavy helicopters, two hovercraft, four large landing crafts and have a command and communications center for a staff of 150 persons. They are armed with anti-aircraft weapons systems and rapid firing artillery. Mistral class warships are a powerful force for amphibious landings, anti-submarine warfare and helicopter operations. Mistral warships can perform multiple tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land helicopters, land troops, act as a command post and a floating hospital. The Mistrals will give Russian military forces unprecedented mobility and maneuverability. They are built for power projection from the sea and air. President Putin stated that: “We will reserve the right to use them where and when we consider necessary.”
The first ship will be completed and turned over to Russia in October. The second Mistral class ship is still being built and will be completed and delivered in 2015. The other two Mistral ships will be built in Russia with assistance from French technicians. The total cost for the four ships is $1.6 billion.
In addition to the warships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems.
The Mistral warships present a serious danger to the security and stability of Russia’s maritime neighbors who have strenuously opposed the sale without any success. The French government, however, declines, to cancel the sale.
The main reason not to cancel the sale is economic. France has high unemployment, especially in the ship building industry. There are 400 jobs directly at stake at the shipyard and another 1400 jobs depend on the contract. In addition the French government has a 33 percent share in the shipyard which means 33 percent of the profits go to the French government.
Government officials in Paris suggest that the only circumstances in which France might reconsider the sale would be an agreement with its NATO allies to move to deeper “third stage sanctions” against Russia, in such sectors as energy, defense and finance. The French resist any idea that they take a unilateral hit. The French view is that all members of the Alliance should share in the hardships resulting from sanctions. The French government will make a final decision on the sale in October, when the first vessel is ready for delivery.
BALTIC AMERICAN FREEDOM LEAGUE ACTIONS
Ever since the French intention to sell Mistral warships to Russia became known in 2011, the Baltic American Freedom League has consistently opposed the sale. The League has written letters to the President of the United States of America, the Department of State, the Department of Defense and has contacted congresspersons urging them to have the French government cancel the sale. Recently, I spent several days in Washington meeting with some 20 Congresspersons and/or their staff members urging them to pressure France to cancel the contract with Russia.
BAFL recommends that the United States or NATO purchase or lease the warships from France. Other actions that the United States could take are: 1) recall home the Ambassador to France for consultation and urge other NATO countries to do the same; 2) urge our government officials, congresspersons, members and delegates to international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to more vigorously raise the issue in the respective organizations; and 3) call an emergency session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to discuss this issue.
It seems that everyone in the government and congress is following and monitoring the situation, but that no one, except for a handful of congress persons is working on a solution.
The West has consistently underestimated the extent to which President Putin means what he says. They fail to grasp Russia’s threat to its neighbors and the world.
CALL TO ACTION
AS IT STANDS NOW, THE SITUATION LOOKS BLEAK. THE CHANCE THAT THE SHIPS WILL NOT BE DELIVERED ARE WELL BELOW FIFTY-FIFTY. BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE SHOULD NOT TRY TO CHANGE THE ODDS. BAFL HOPES THAT YOU WILL JOIN THE EFFORT AND DO YOUR PART TO STOP RUSSIAN WARSHIPS FROM PATROLLING THE BALTIC SEA.
Please call the President and contact your senators and representative to ask them to stop the delivery of the warships to Russia.
President Barack Obama: Telephone (202) 456-1414
Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Congresspersons on Internet: Thomas.LibraryofCongress
Secretary of State John Kerry: Tel (202) 647-5291
National Security Advisor Susan Rice: Tel (202) 456-9491, Fx (202) 456-9150
Chairman Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Robert Mendez (D-NJ):Tel (202) 224-4744, Fx (202) 228-2197
Ranking Member Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Bob Corker (R-TN): Tel (202) 224-4944, Fx (202) 228-0566
Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee: Ed Royce (R-CA): Tel (202) 225-4111, Fx (202) 226-0335
Ranking.Member Foreign Affairs.Committee: Elliot Engel (D-NY):Tel (202) 225-2464, Fx (202) 225-5531
REASONS FOR STOPPING THE SALE
*** If delivered, the Mistral warships will augment the Russian military’s capabilities against the very nations that now appear to be the most vulnerable to the Kremlin’s pressure–namely Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic countries.
*** By proceeding with the delivery of the Mistral warships to Russia, France is turning a blind eye to Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008, the war against Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea. These wars, the political statements and threats by President Putin to Russia’s neighbors are convincing evidence of his intentions to reconstruct the borders of the late Soviet Union.
*** It is intolerable for a NATO ally to sell major hi-tech weapons to a potential adversary, a country that views NATO as a principal threat. Russia has repeatedly demonstrated its intentions and capacity to threaten America’s interests in Europe by providing cover for Iran’s nuclear weapons program; by selling high-end conventional weapons to Iran, Syria and others; using Russia’s oil and gas to intimidate Europe; by launching war on Georgia and Ukraine; and the occupation of Crimea.
*** Warships on the periphery of the Baltic countries, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria will provide Russia with means to bully, terrify and intimidate its seacoast neighbors. It is not hard to imagine the impact that an amphibious landing task force patrolling or anchored off shore will have on a country’s political process and economic development.
*** The state-of-the-art warships will give Russia a significant, unprecedented offensive capability to project its power and will seriously upset the balance of military capabilities in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea regions.
*** According to senior Baltic defense officials, the presence of the warships in the Baltic Sea would seriously impact the balance of military capabilities in the Baltic Sea countries, with Russian forces clearly gaining additional strength in terms of numbers, speed and range. This would necessitate building coastal defense capabilities.
*** The Russian naval forces are not capable of global action against the U.S. Navy or combined western navies. Therefore, Mistral class amphibious landing warships are considered regional ships meant for regional operations.
*** The two other Mistral warships will be built in Russia with the help from French technicians. The Mistral class warship is not just a modern ship. It also utilizes very high-tech sensitive communications systems, and ship manufacturing and naval architecture. In addition to security questions, building the ships in Russia will rejuvenate Russia’s crashed and wrecked warship building industry.
*** The technology and capability represented by the Mistral warships should not be passed to a country that has recently attacked two of its neighbors and continues to bully and threaten its other neighbors.
*** If NATO tolerates the Mistral sale and delivery, then other member countries may scramble for bilateral weapon deals with Russia. NATO needs to deal with the Mistral case pro-actively, before any fait accompli precedent is set. If NATO fails on this, then the entire issue of arms sales to Russia and other potential adversaries will spin out of the Alliance’s control.
*** The limited measures taken by NATO allies in Russia’s war against Ukraine might lead President Putin to think that the West will, in the long run, tolerate hostile action against the Baltic countries, Poland and the Black Sea countries.
*** United States should seek international organizations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and European Union to take strong action against nations who violate the borders of sovereign nations.
*** An agreement by NATO or the United Sates to buy or lease the warships would send a strong signal to President Putin that the NATO allies will not tolerate or enable reckless moves and violations of the rights of sovereign nations.
*** Buying or leasing the four ships to NATO or the U.S. is a clear solution to the problem.
A bipartisan letter was recently sent to President Barack Obama by Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Bill Keating (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). The letter urged the President to oppose the sale of the Mistral warships to Russia. The Congressmen wrote that “Members of the NATO Alliance cannot continue to arm Russia — let alone to arm her with hi-tech military equipment that will only abet its efforts to undermine Eastern European governments that aspire to be modern European democracies”, and called on the President to “demand” that France suspend the sale of these two Mistral ships.
Another bipartisan letter was sent to the Secretary General of NATO, Andera Fock Rassmussen, by Representative Elliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was joined by Representatives Michael Turner (R-OH), Chairman of U.S. delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly and William Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on European Affairs. The letter called on the Secretary to stop the sale of the Mistral ships to Russia. The legislators urged NATO to purchase or lease the Mistral warships as common NATO naval assets for the Alliance. “NATO should seize this opportunity to strengthen its own assets while at the same time denying Russia this additional capability,” the legislators wrote.
The sale of the Mistral warships to Russia presents a threatening and dangerous situation to the Baltic countries and Russia’s other maritime neighbors. I hope that you will recognize this and join us in our effort to stop the sale. Time is of essence. PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY!