France-Russia warship deal troubling: US

WASHINGTON: Senior Republican US Senator John McCain yesterday sharply condemned France’s sale of four advanced warships to Russia, calling it “a threat to some of America’s friends and Nato allies.” “I strongly oppose France’s sale of the Mistral to Russia,” McCain said of the deal, which drew fierce opposition from ex-Soviet Baltic states as well as expressions of deep concern in Washington.

“This ship is a threat to some of America’s friends and Nato allies, and I worry that this decision could set a troubling precedent within Nato of advanced weapons sales to the Russian government,” said McCain. France said yesterday it had signed a deal to sell four Mistral warships to Moscow, including two to be built in Russia.

“The governments of the two countries agree to give their full support to the construction of two (warships) in France and two in Russia,” said a joint French-Russian statement released by the French presidency. The deal will be the first sale to Russia of such technology by a Nato country and France’s Nato allies – in particular Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – have expressed concern about arming Russia with modern Western weaponry. The deal was announced while French President Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the STX naval shipyards in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire where the vessels will be built.