BACKGROUND AND TALKING POINTS
France is about to sell two Mistral class assault aircraft carriers to Russia, a country that will not hesitate to use these powerful ships to intimidate and impose her will on her neighbors or to forcefully occupy them. Georgia, Ukraine and the persistent threatening of her neighbors, confirms President Putin’s intent to recover former Soviet territories and bring them back under Russian rule.
President Putin claims to abide by notions of stability, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of international disputes, yet he has violated the sovereignty of two of his neighbors, committed war crimes, broken treaties and international law, including the U.N. Charter and the NATO-Russia Founding Act. He is also waging a propaganda war, much of it directed at the west, not seen since the Cold War. Arming an amoral, anarchistic and brutish geopolitical foe with major weapons that may be used against NATO allies is not suitable nor wise. Having this done by a member of NATO is outrageous.
The two warships are offensive weapons, specifically built for invasions. They are the length of more than two football fields. They can carry 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters, landing crafts, 40 to 60 armored personnel carriers, 13 tanks and about 800 troops. The deck can also be used by vertical takeoff jets. This means that high performance fighters could support the invading forces. The ships have an advanced, sensitive, high tech communications system that can serve as a mobile command center. The ships are capable of performing all these function simultaneously. With two Mistral carriers in its arsenal, the Russian navy will be able to drop a reinforced regiment of marines, tanks and armored vehicles on any coastline within 6000 miles of its home port without refueling, provide helicopter support for the landing forces, and orchestrate the entire operations from the ship’s advanced command center.
WHEN THE POTENT HELICOPTER PUNCH IS COMBINED WITH THE SHIP’S TROOP LANDING CAPABILITIES, THE MATRIAL CLASS ASSAULT SHIPS OFFER RUSSIA A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION OF OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS. THEY ARE PERFECT WEAPONS TO SUPPORT PUTIN’S EXPANSION POLICIES.
James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as the NATO top commander from 2009 to 2013 stated: “The technology and capability represented by the Mistral [ships] should NOT be passed to a Russian Federation that continues to threaten its neighbors.”
Since June, 400 Russian sailors have been training in France to learn to run the assault warships. The ships are to be delivered to Russia in October of this year.
The delivery will open the door to other NATO allies such as Spain, Italy and Germany to make arms deals with Russia and other unfriendly powers.
President Putin argues that he has a signed contract with the French government; therefore, France cannot break it. However, the sanctity of contracts on which he now insists, did not bother him when he maliciously violated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and borders.
Western officials have pressured France not to deliver the ships to Russia. But despite protests from the Baltic countries, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine and the President of the United States, France has held firm, claiming that breaking the contract would lead to serious financial loss and endanger jobs of several thousands of workers. The price for the two warships is $1.6 billion dollars of which Russia has already paid more than half. Should the sale be canceled, the French government would have to return the deposit, with additional penalty charges for breaking the contract.
The British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that “such a sale would be unthinkable in Britain” after the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane.
The President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, declared that “Values and security are undermined for the sake of business, when ‘buy and rule’ policy is being applied,'” suggesting that Moscow is using its purchasing power to insure the sale.
The Baltic countries, Poland, Georgia and Ukraine, likely targets of President Putin’s empire building scheme, are outraged and strenuously object to enhancing Russia’s offensive and bullying capabilities. None of the countries trust Russia. Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorsi said in an interview with La Monde: “We [Western governments] have determined Russia to be the aggressor in Crimea and I do not think France would want to be in the position of supplying efficient weapons to an aggressor.”
According to Baltic defense officials, the presence of the warships in the Baltic Sea will seriously impact the balance of military capabilities of the Baltic countries and Poland, with Russian naval forces clearly gaining additional strength in terms of speed, range, maneuverability and fire power. This will necessitate additional assets and coastal defenses by NATO allies which may exceed easily the cost of the two Mistral ships.
The U.S. Congress has generally opposed the sale of the warships to Russia. The House of Representatives in the current session passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 that expresses the Sense of Congress in opposition to the sale. In introducing the amendment, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) stated: “These warships would allow the Russian navy to expand its naval presence in the region thereby aiming its capabilities against Ukraine, Georgia and Baltic countries.”
In the Senate, a bipartisan letter by six Senators appealed to the President of France, Francois Hollande, to cancel the delivery of the ships and urged him to take a unified stand against Moscow’s aggression. The group wrote that new weapon sales to Moscow by Paris would only bolster Russian military capabilities, especially its ability to project power. The letter was signed by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Co-chairman of the Baltic Caucus, Christopher Murphy (D-CT), a member of the Baltic Caucus, Ron Johnson (R-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Recently, a bipartisan letter was sent to President Barack Obama by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and William Keating (D-MA). In the letter the Congresspersons urged the President to “strongly oppose’ the sale of the warships to Russia and to use the facilities of his office to convince Paris and our NATO allies to STOP ALL military sales to Russia, including the French Mistral warships. The President and the Secretary of State have expressed clear and unequivocal opposition to the sale.
As wrong as it is for France to be arming Russians with major weapons that could one day be used against NATO allies, it is short sighted to dismiss France’s concern about the impact that loss of the sale– $1.6 Billion–will have on its economy, especially the labor market. NATO should be working with France to find ways of mitigating the loss of the deal.
Recently, several Congresspersons have suggested that NATO purchase the two Mistral warships as an collective asset for NATO use. Representative Eliot, L. Engel (D-Mt. Vernon, Bronx, NY). Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined by Representatives Michael Turner (R-Dayton, OH), the Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and William Keating (D-New Bedford, Plymouth, MA), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, in a letter to the Secretary General of NATO called on NATO allies to work with France to stop the sale of the warships and urged NATO to purchase or lease the ships as common naval assets for the alliance.
They wrote “…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. In addition, such a purchase would rapidly enhance NATO capabilities at a moment when many Allies have been cutting defense expenditures and greatly reassure Alliance members and partners in Central and Eastern Europe who feel most vulnerable…” (The letter is posted on BAFL’s website.)
A NATO buy is logical and precisely the kind of unified political response that Europe needs. Not only could it be a way of providing a financial and political exit strategy for Paris, but it would also give Europe, most notably NATO Europe, a tremendous boost to solidarity and at the same time show COLLECTIVE STRENGTH TOWARDS RUSSIA. It would kill two birds with one stone. Furthermore, Washington has been urging NATO allies to spend more on their own defense. This would be a good place to start.
It is a workable solution. Already NATO naval personnel regularly cross train on allied ships. NATO airborne AWAC, early warning aircraft, fly in consortium. It is the Alliances largest collaborative venture and is an excellent example of what NATO achieves by pooling resources and working together. The European Union is currently discussing obtaining and operating C-17 aircraft.
BAFL has actively and vigorously participated in this important endeavor to stop the sale of the ships and to solicit support for the sale of the ships to NATO. During the month of June, we met with staff members of twenty key Congresspersons to discuss this matter, sent letters to our President, the President of France, the French Ambassador to America and faxed over 70 letters to key Congressperson. This is our third “Call of Action” letter to our members and friends. OUR EFFORTS ARE CONTINUING, BUT WE DESPERATLY NEED YOUR HELP. PLEASE JOIN US.
CALL TO ACTION
BAFL supports the SALE of the Mistral ships to NATO. But what is MOST IMPORTANT AND CRITICAL IS THAT THE SALE TO RUSSIA IS STOPED.AND THAT THE SHIIPS DO NOT FALL INTO RUSSAN HANDS.
I AND THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS URGE YOU TO CONTACT THE PRESIDENT AND OTHERS LISTED BELOW TO CONVINCE OUR NATO ALLIES, INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES, TO PURCHASE OR LEASE THE TWO WARSHIPS FROM FRANCE.
Really Now! How much time would it take for you to make a phone call of to send a few e-mails or to fax a few letters? Not much! But the results might be tremendous. So again, please contact the President and as many of the key persons listed below as possible.
If the United States does not initiate the sale to Allies, then no one else will. This is why you need to contact the President. He is our TOP PRIORITY. He has to start the ball rolling. Remember, we do not have much time, the French government will make the final decision whether to go ahead or to cancel the sale early in October. The first warship is scheduled to sail for Russia in November.
It might help you to check BAFL’s website for instructions on how to communicate with Congress and view sample letters. WE SUGGEST THAT YOU FAX YOUR LETTERS.
Order of Priority on Who to Contact:
President Barack Obama: Telephone Comment and Message Center:(202) 456-1111. Postal mail is too slow. Because of security measures, it will take about a month for the letter to be delivered to the White House and the same goes for Congress.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tel(202)224-4744, Fax(202) 228-2197
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Bob Corker (R-TN), Tel. (202)224-4944,Fax (202)228-0566
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: Ed Royce (R-CA), Tel.(202)225-4111, Fax.(202)226-0335
Ranking Member House Foreign Affairs Committee: Elliot Engel (D-NY), Tel.(202)225-2464,Fax(202)225-5531
Chairwoman of Senate Appropriations Committee: Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Tel:(202)224-4654,Fax(202)334-8858,
Co-chairman of Senate Baltic Caucus: Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tel.(202)224-2152,Fax228-0400,
Chairman of U.S, Delegation to NATO Parliamentary Association: Michael Turner (R-OH), Tel.(202)225-6465, Fax(202)225-6754,
Co-chairman of the House Baltic Caucus: John Shimkus (R-IL), Tel.(202)225-5271,Fax(202)225-5880
Co-chairman of House Baltic Caucus:Adam Schiff (D-CA), Tel.(202)225-4176,Fax(202)225-5828
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: Carl Levin (D-MI), Tel.(202)224-6221,Fax(202)228-0036
Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Tel.(202)224-4721, Fax(202)228-0380
Your Congressperson: Capitol Switchboard (202)224-3121, Internet: Thomas Library of Congress
Secretary of Defense: Chuck Hagel, Tel.(703)692-7100
Secretary of State: John Kerry, Tel: (202)647-5291, Fax(202)647-3344
After you have done your part, please pass the letter to others. Thank you.
Valdis V. Pavlovskis – Acting President
July 12, 2014