The French government confirmed yesterday that it would proceed with the proposed sale of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to Russia. The announcement was made during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Bill Gates. Nothing like French hospitality to set the tone for an official visit with an ally.
This deal has been in the works for some time, making it the first sale by a NATO power of a major defense system to Russia since the end of World War II. Russia has done absolutely nothing to earn this trust – quite the opposite. Starting in Georgia, the parade of political imponderables adds up to a huge diplomatic negative. Expect the vessel to find a home port at the proposed naval base in the Georgian region of Abkhazia.
As far as export controls, if there is any U.S. technology used in the manufacture of these vessels Congress should step in an advise that French that it can do what it wants with French technology, so long as they do not use U.S. defense articles or services in the manufacture of the ship.