The Appeasement of Paris
Paris — As Russia absorbs Crimea and masses 60,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, is the West serious about sanctions against Moscow?
The best test could come this Tuesday, when the defense and foreign ministers of Russia and France are scheduled to meet for long-planned talks on relations between the two countries. French president François Hollande has already announced that “there will be sanctions Monday on visas and assets of a certain number of [Russian] individuals if there is no de-escalation.” But he absolutely must go further.
Three years ago, France signed a military contract worth $1.7 billion to build two advanced-technology Mistral-class helicopter carriers for Russia, with an option to build two more. The first carrier, Vladivostok, conducted its sea trials earlier this month and is set to arrive in Moscow later this year. A Russian crew is already being trained on the ship, currently berthed in the French port of Saint-Nazaire. A sister ship, Sebastopol — ironically named after the chief port of Crimea — is set for delivery to the Russian navy late in 2015.
Then–French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed the deal for the carriers in 2011, hailing the agreement as evidence that the Cold War had indeed ended. But the contract alarmed several of France’s NATO allies, especially because Russia had employed helicopter gunships in its brief war against Georgia in 2008.
In light of Russia’s latest aggression, defense and foreign-policy experts, gathered in Paris for a Gatestone Institute conference, agree that it would be impossible to take the West seriously if it turned over a weapon uniquely suited for close-in military commando operations such as the ones that Russia used to occupy Crimea. Stopping delivery of the carrier isn’t a private-property issue, either, given that the French government owns 75 percent of DCNS, the French shipbuilder.